PACE Hits Stride at Final Four

Monday night marked a new chapter for digital-3D company PACE. Following the success of Saturday night’s 3D broadcast of the semifinal games from the Final Four, PACE CEO Vince Pace made his way to Augusta National Golf Club to prepare for his next event, the Masters in 3D. In his stead, he left the industry’s most capable 3D trio to run the show. President Patrick Campbell and Vice Presidents of Sports & Entertainment Deena Sheldon and Jeff Zachary presided over Monday night’s broadcast of the NCAA men’s basketball championship game, allowing PACE to continue to expand its reach in the world of 3D sports.

During the production, the PACE team — including Campbell, Sheldon, Zachary, and the convergence operators — was situated in the company’s Fusion 3D truck, while the CBS production team worked out of NEP’s Supershooter 9. Two cables were run from each of the six 3D cameras, with one sent to each truck. Although communication was enabled between the two mobile units, both teams shied away from the intercom.

“We try not to interrupt the director,” Campbell explains. “But if there’s something that needs to be said, we can say it. Most of the time we’re interacting with the convergence operators here, to make sure that they’re doing their job right.”

Intuitive Process
Since the camera operators are the best at their craft in 2D, Campbell tries to make the 3D production process as intuitive as possible, which includes conforming his camera rigs to 2D operating standards.

“The idea is that they are experts in getting the shot that they need to get, so, by utilizing their talents with our equipment, we get the best product possible,” Campbell says. “We look very closely at the different configurations of cameras and try to mimic that. My biggest challenge is to make sure that the controls and equipment are as user-friendly and familiar for these guys as possible. That way, they’re not concerned as much about the 3D as doing the job that they’re supposed to do, and they can go back to their instincts.”

Training the Trained
One thing that is not instinctive, however, is the wide framing that is necessary for 3D. To prepare the operators — and the producer and director — for that challenge, PACE put on a 3D 101 clinic for the entire production team.

“We take them all through a training session where we show them the cameras and controls, explain how we try to let the images breathe, and then we take them into the truck and show them footage we’ve already shot,” Sheldon says. “Then, they go out and shoot some footage, we bring them back in, and we help them correct each shot.”

Those training sessions are designed to help the team think more about composition and the elements of the image in a frame. For example, if there are two people of interest, the PACE team explains, instead of using two cameras and cutting tight to them, the 3D operator should widen out and show both individuals, which will help tell the story.

“We all learn a lot from that, even after years and years of doing it,” Zachary says. “You sometimes have to reset and see what that foreground is doing to that shot. It’s very helpful, even for us.”

A Short Wish List
Working in a football stadium like Lucas Oil Stadium has allowed the PACE team to get some lower camera positions that may not have been possible in a smaller space. The only position that would have made the Final Four shoot better, the PACE team says, is a higher angle on the slash camera overlooking the student section.

“If we could have gotten higher on the low slash, we could have gotten a little bit above the students’ heads,” Zachary says. “If the camera didn’t block those valuable seats there, that would have been ideal. But we’re certainly fortunate to be here in the building with the great positions we got.”

Sheldon says the coordination between PACE and CBS was nearly flawless. “[CBS EVP of Operations and Production Services] Ken Aagaard has really made everything very accessible for us. From fibers to positions, we’ve gotten everything we needed inside the stadium.”

Best Seat Outside the House
Fans who bought tickets to the 3D presentation in movie theaters across the country were privy to a view usually enjoyed only by a network camera operator, a referee, or a player.

“Now we’re giving that seat to the folks in theaters,” Sheldon says.

Adds Campbell, “This production basically gives you everything. It gives you the feeling that you’re there, the sense that you’re almost on the court, and the 3D playback in slo-mo so you get to see the good stuff all over again.”

Just Another Link in the Chain
With Vince Pace finalizing plans in Augusta, the PACE team is proving that 3D productions can run almost as smoothly as their 2D counterparts.

“The equipment is there, and we’ve proven the formula,” says Zachary. “We can roll in with a truck, set up shop, and shoot the event. We just want to blend in with the 2D guys now. We don’t want to come in with white lab coats anymore.”

In Indianapolis, the 3D team may still have the black glasses, but the white coats — and the uncertainty about the viability of 3D — are certainly gone.