Plazamedia Brings 3D Hockey to Europe

3D ice hockey is about to hit Europe. Plazamedia will produce the opening game of the 2010 IIHF World Championships in Germany in 3D, HD, and SD. The Germany-USA matchup at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, on May 7 will be the first hockey game broadcast live in 3D in Europe. The production, a joint venture of German telcos Deutsche Telekom and Constantin Medien, will be broadcast in 3D exclusively on LIGA total!.

The IIHF opener follows the New York Rangers-New York Islanders game at Madison Square Garden in March as only the second hockey game ever to be broadcast to homes in 3D, but with one major difference: Plazamedia will be shooting in a soccer stadium. Veltins Arena is the home of Bundesliga football club Schalke 04, but it will be converted into a hockey arena for the event, with room for nearly 76,000 fans.

Plazamedia has experience shooting 3D at soccer stadiums, having produced a Champions League match between VfB Stuttgart and FC Barcelona in February (the first 3D sports production in Germany), but hockey is a very different animal.

“Ice hockey will be a very different production because of the speed of the game,” says Robert Adams, director of OB production for Plazamedia. “[We want] the action captured by the cameras to make viewers feel as if they are in the stadium.”

A dedicated truck, separate from the truck used for HD/SD, will be used for the 3D production. Designed by TopVision, it features a Sony switcher, four EVS XT HD live-slow-motion systems, and a Vizrt 3D HD Trio character generator.

Plazamedia will deploy nine 3D rigs fitted with Sony cameras in a side-by-side configuration around the rink. The main camera rig will be positioned at center ice above the rink, and a wireless handheld will be at center ice at rink level. A small 3D HD ChipCam, similar to those used behind the goal at soccer matches, will be placed directly behind each goal, along with two more ChipCams next to both benches. A wired handheld will be placed in the near corner at both ends of the ice, and a PoleCam will be used for beauty shots and high angles.

“With 3D, you need to use positions close to the rink. The further away the cameras are from the action, the more you lose the 3D effect,” Adams explains. “Also, the positions of the cameras should be lower, which is the reason for the higher number of cameras on the level of the rink.”

Plazamedia will also handle transmission for the event in conjunction with partner MTI. The game will be transmitted along the HD TNTV fiber network and broadcast in 1080i/50 side-by-side on LIGA total! via Deutsche Telekom’s Entertain IPTV platform.

“With Plazamedia already having successfully produced a football Champions League match in 3D in February, our next step is now in another sport,” says Plazamedia CEO Florian Nowosad. “Technically, it’s especially challenging because the play is extremely fast and the puck is difficult to make out. I’m confident we’ll be presenting world-class ice hockey in a new dimension.”

Friday’s IIHF game will be a new peak for 3D sports production in Europe, and Plazamedia is already looking toward the next one. According to Adams, the company has conducted tests for handball and basketball and plans to produce tennis and golf in the “near future.”

“The 3D tests we did [caused] the discussions to move beyond technical challenges to creative challenges,” he says. “In the long run, new concepts for the direction of 3D sports need to be developed.”