Tennis Channel To Serve Up 3D and More at French Open

The French Open 3D production is finally making the leap across the pond. Tennis Channel will broadcast more than 20 hours of 3D action from Roland Garros on the weekend of May 28. But 3D is only part of the story for the network’s French Open coverage, which will feature an Inertia Unlimited xMo super-slo-mo system under its full control and a new telestrator, the Point System, to enhance analysis.

“Clay is such a visceral and tangible surface, and the new xMo will be fantastic,” says Larry Meyers, executive producer/SVP of production for Tennis Channel. “We will also use it to break down the players’ games, getting in tight and showing how their grips change, where they make contact with the ball, and their footwork and movement along the courts.”

While xMo and the Point System will enhance the broadcasts technically, the biggest change for viewers may be on the talent side. Mary Carillo will host the network’s coverage and work alongside John McEnroe for some play-by-play. She will also be on hand for the US Open in New York in August.

“It’s very exciting because Mary transcends tennis, and it wouldn’t surprise me if research found her to be the most recognizable woman broadcaster, given the work she does for NBC Olympics and HBO Sports,” says Meyers. “She is truly iconic and also is a great writer and has a great head for the story.”

Seven Live Hours a Day in 2D
Tennis Channel will serve up plenty of 2D action, broadcasting more than 75 hours of live or first-run matches, including at least seven live hours a day for the first nine days. At night, French Open Tonight, hosted by Bill Macatee, will take to the air at 6:30-10:30 p.m. ET, and the show’s set will again be perched above the French Open’s Musketeer Plaza, right in the heart of the crowd.

During the first week, seven courts will be covered, and Tennis Channel has access to all of the camera feeds in its three-story broadcast cabin, outfitted by Presteigne Charter.

“We will also have four full-time cameras [for ourselves on center court] and two more cameras [on court two],”says Meyers. “A full-time RF camera will also roam the grounds.”

He notes that each tennis major has its own personality within a compound. The French Open, he points out, is a great experience because it is the only tournament that is not natively English-speaking.

On the 3D side of things, Tennis Channel will have its own 3D control room, where it will augment the feeds with graphics and its own commentary. The world 3D feed provides the actual coverage.

“The world 3D feed is going to be the real model for 3D going forward, and, even in 2D, it can be difficult to craft a world feed,” says Meyers. But the nature of 3D technology makes a world feed a must.

New Camera Angles
The French Open has been produced in 3D for the past two years, but this year’s coverage adds some new camera positions, making it much more attractive for the Tennis Channel to carry.

“Tennis brings a lot to 3D, and it is the perfect 3D sport,” adds Meyers. “It has two things: one is, the cameras can get close and low, and the other is, the playing field has [objects] located near, middle, and far [away from the camera].”

The network will drop in its 2D graphics package, with some enhancements to create spatial presence.

Although Tennis Channel will carry the 3D action only during the weekend of May 28, the production, put together by Eurosport, Panasonic, and the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT), will actually have 3D coverage of center court every day from May 22 to June 5.

Into the Mainstream
“In the past year, a wide range of 3D technology has become available, an increasing amount of content has been created, and new broadcast 3D channels have been launched,” says Laurent Abadie, chairman/chief executive, Panasonic Europe. “It is clear that 2011 is the year this revolutionary technology will become mainstream.”

Eurosport Chairman/Chief Executive Laurent-Eric Le Lay considers running a live 3D broadcast from Roland Garros “the best way to demonstrate how the combination of compelling content and new technology greatly enhances sports viewing.”

He adds that the partnership with Panasonic and FFT will help “make 3D sports viewing across Europe a mainstream reality.”

Laurent Abadie, chairman/chief executive of Panasonic Europe, believes that 2011 will be the year the “revolutionary” 3D technology goes mass market.

“To make sure there is sufficient content available to meet consumers’ demands for high-quality 3D programming, Panasonic is working in close partnership with Eurosport and broadcasters across the world,” he adds in a statement. “The French Tennis Open is a perfect example of how these partnerships can work to deliver exceptional content. We are the official suppliers for the tournament, and our end-to-end 3D-product suite will be showcased, from our 3D broadcast products to our state-of-the-art 3D Viera screens, which will be on display across the site so visitors to the tournament can try out the 3D tennis experience.”

The combination of 3D, Carillo, and compelling storylines has the 2011 French Open shaping up to be one of the best in years.

“Everyone is familiar with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and now here comes Novak Djokovic, and he hasn’t lost a match since late last year,” says Meyers. “So the news is hitting everywhere, and, on top of that, the sport is fortunate because all three of them are fine people and great ambassadors and role models. They transcend international boundaries.”