In the fall of 2009, NEP Broadcasting released a grand experiment, SS3D, one of the first mobile production trucks geared toward live 3-D events. But, with the buzz around 3-D growing and productions moving from simple tests to large-scale, multicamera affairs that could rival the coverage of the largest 2-D productions, a highly sophisticated solution that could take live 3-D TV to the next level was becoming a necessity. As ESPN was gearing up to launch its own 3-D channel, the network approached NEP to develop what would become SS32, a new 3-D mobile production truck with the firepower to cover the largest events and the grace of integration to handle two discrete video feeds (left and right eye) seamlessly.
Building on its experience at some of the largest live 3-D events to date, NEP set to work building a new solution at its integration facility. Up to this point, 3-D shows were science projects — grand experiments with huge budgets. But, there was a need to make 3-D productions fit within 2-D schedules, including fast setup and teardown as well as reduced costs. Here, the design process focused on how to keep a 2-D workflow in a 3-D environment to accommodate for two distinct video signals while not disrupting the flow of production. So, NEP looked where this was already working: stereo audio. Using dual DAs, with left and right eye for each 3-D rig on the same card, left- and right-eye signals were positioned adjacent to each other in the patch fields and processors were paired, just like in stereo audio.
NEP designed the truck with a complete 3G 1080p infrastructure to take advantage of multiplexing left- and right-eye signals on one cable when equipment becomes available in the future. The Sony MVS8000X switcher was chosen for its huge number of inputs and the ability to process 3G signals, and Evertz was selected for routing, with full embedded audio processing. Cobalt Digital Fusion series up/down/crossconverters and color correctors were used for their features and 3G capability, and the truck carries EVS XT+ servers with 3G capability as well.
One major challenge of the build was that most 3-D equipment was still in a prototype phase, and even more in the pipeline would not be available for months. This meant that the design needed to be adaptable and ready to work with the latest and greatest that was yet to come. This was accomplished by allocating as much spare space as possible in the racks for new 3-D gear to move in as it became available.
NEP also provided 42in program and preview monitors, the biggest they dared install in the monitor wall of a truck, to give the production team an experience close to the home viewer’s. This was key because 3-D shooting techniques are dependent on screen size: What may look good on a 24in display won’t always translate well to a theater-size screen.
Post & network production facilities
Submitted by NEP Broadcasting
Engineered Mobile Solutions: Bryce Johnson, principal
ESPN: Steve Raymond, proj. eng.
NEP Systems Integration: Howard Naugle, Terry Kulchar and Mike Naugle, sys. design.; Scott Chaffo and John Fortunato, super. integration and mobile unit fit up
NEP Technology Office: George Hoover, CTO/proj. mgr.; Joe Signorino, proj. mgr.
Technology at work
Calrec: Alpha with Bluefin audio console
Cobalt Digital: Fusion terminal equipment
Evertz: EQX router, sync system
EVS: XT+ servers
PACE: 3-D rig technology
RTS: ADAM intercom
Sony: 3-D monitors, HDCP1 and HDC-1500 cameras, MVS-8000X production switcher
Vizrt: Graphics systems