Since Spring 2010, tv production center zurich ag (tpc) in Switzerland has been offering high-end editing of 3D productions with its Quantel Pablo system to broadcasters, production companies and agencies. The mobile Pablo system, equipped with the Quantel Stereo3D toolset, is available for use anywhere in Europe and can be integrated into the customer’s existing infrastructure. In addition, tpc is offering its 3D expertise on a consultancy basis, providing support throughout the whole workflow of a 3D production from planning and realization up to the final product for cinema, broadcast or video. In August 2010, tpc organized a hands-on Stereo3D workshop for EBU members who are working on a definition of the 3D standard within the 3D Study Group.
With this bold move, the Swiss 3D pioneer has opened up uncharted territory in Europe. “We consider ourselves as a competence centre for 3D,” says Donovan Courtney, 3D Consultant at tpc. “Our approach is to offer our know-how and technical equipment to enable the production of high-quality 3D programs.”
If for example a 3D movie has to be edited in Germany or Austria, the production company or the film studio can book the tpc team including the complete 3D editing suite. “For this reason it is very important for us to have a mobile Pablo system,” underlines Courtney. “We are able to install our edit suite wherever it is needed for a 3D project.”
tpc plans both to co-produce 3D projects with partners as well as undertaking complete 3D productions. “This may also include showroom projects or advertising productions in 3D,” explains Sascha Klement, Head of Business Development at tpc. “We offer the customer a complete business model which makes economic sense. It is important to integrate 3D into a complete business proposition alongside conventional production.”
The fastest system on the market
tpc chose Quantel technology to develop its new 3D venture after having thoroughly evaluated several high-end systems. Quantel’s grading and finishing system won out. ”With its extremely fast workflow, the Pablo is unbeatable,” says Donovan Courtney. “This is the fastest and most efficient machine available on the market.” Further speeding workflow, Pablo’s Resolution Co-existence eliminates the need to convert formats before work can start. “The footage is ingested, edited and finally played out. This is a very user-friendly workflow for 3D productions.” Another important criterion for selecting the Pablo was its ability to edit in real-time at full-resolution with instant playback; Quantel’s Stereo3D tools permit interactive handling of both eyes simultaneously.
tpc has been using Quantel eQ and iQ systems for color grading and finishing for many years. “The Pablo 3D tools are not difficult to learn, but a lot of experience is required to achieve a good result in 3D,” Klement explains. “The Pablo supports this learning process, helping the skilled operator to acquire the necessary knowledge in the most efficient way.”
The 3D-equipped Pablo also makes 3D experimentation and trials accessible to broadcasters. “tpc in Zurich is the pioneer for all SRG SSR broadcasters, as far as development and the use of new technologies are concerned,” emphasizes Klement. With HD Suisse, the SRG SSR has already had its own HD channel for test programs since 2008. “At present all the big broadcasters are busy with converting their old SD highways to HD, which costs a lot of money and resources,” Klement continues. This means that broadcasters are lacking the resources to introduce 3D at present. “For this reason we try to show how 3D might be used with our concepts and business plans. This is real pioneering work,” Klement adds.
The first 3D project for Red Bull Media House
The Red Bull Media House in Austria placed the first order with tpc for a 3D post production project in spring 2010. Their requirement was to perform the complete post-production of a five-minute Stereo3D film within 36 hours. This Stereo3D live action film was shot just before the start of the 70th Hahnenkamm race in Kitzbuhel, which is considered to be the most difficult ski downhill run of the world. “It was a great challenge for us to carry out the complete Stereo3D post-production within such a tight schedule,” Sascha Klement recalls. “But thanks to Quantel’s Pablo system and to the training our operators had received in Stereo3D post-production on this system, everything worked out really well.”
The spectacular Stereo3D production was realized in just five days start to finish. On the Monday, the Pablo was installed in Kitzbuhel at the foot of the steep ski slope under the direction of the tpc project manager. After the first camera tests with the downhill racers on Tuesday, the crew shot the race on Wednesday with several 3D camera systems. To film the run at breakneck speed from the downhill skier’s perspective, a mini 3D camera rig with gyroscopic stabilization had been developed. Alongside this spectacular subjective footage, a helicopter supplied panoramic Stereo3D air views of the magnificent mountain scenery. The gyro-stabilized camera system consisted of a 3D camera rig supplied by P+S-Technik and two RED cameras.
The 3D footage of the Streif downhill run was edited on the Pablo on Thursday. “We stored the edited film as a file export on an FTP server to allow Dolby to perform the sound design during the night,” Klement reports. The result was a spectacular five minute Stereo3D film, which Red Bull Media presented to about 200 invited spectators in Kitzbuhel with a Dolby digital projection system on the Friday evening. The Stereo3D pictures for this screening were played out as .tif files from the Pablo and imported into the projection system for playout.
“As well as the speed of the Pablo, the experience that our editors Nicolas Sieber and Fabian Hochreutener had already gained on Quantel systems was instrumental in ensuring that we met the deadline,” underlines Klement. They had also been trained in Stereo3D post techniques at the Quantel headquarters in England before the start of the project.
The TV broadcast of the Stereo3D Streif downhill race was carried out by the Austrian broadcaster Servus TV in ColorCode. This Stereo3D system presents three-dimensional pictures in full colour space and depth on ordinary TV displays. To permit the TV public to view the Stereo3D clips offered by Red Bull Media – an option which had never been available before – Servus TV offered viewers the chance to obtain free-of-charge ColorCode 3D glasses, and 75,000 pairs of the blue-yellow 3D glasses were sent out.
The complete Stereo3D workflow
“We are focusing entirely upon Stereo3D post-production,” says Donovan Courtney, “so we did not buy any Stereo3D cameras, but just the Pablo which enables us to carry out the entire post production process in 3D.” Several producers have already benefited from this decision and had their 3D post-production realized by tpc. “As we found out during the job, sometimes the producers do not pay attention to parallax, because they lack the know-how for Stereo3D.” tpc therefore had to provide training to the camera crews and director of photography. A stereographer also worked alongside the DoP during the shoots. “We brought together a small team of experts who had the required Stereo3D production know-how, from shooting via editing up to the final product. These directors and stereographers know exactly which equipment we need to use and how to transfer the footage to the Pablo and finally onto Blu-ray. This means we have built a complete Stereo3D workflow that will produce excellent results on screen.”
3D documentary film on the Ju52 airplane
tpc has also made a 45 minute Stereo3D documentary film about the famous Junkers Ju52 aircraft. “In the whole world, there are only eight Ju52s which are still able to fly, and only six of these can transport passengers. Four of these airplanes are in Dubendorf in Switzerland, so this is where we went to make the film,” says Donovan Courtney. As well as Stereo3D air views showing the Ju52 shot from a helicopter, the film also includes old original footage which tpc converted from 2D to 3D. “We used 2D/3D conversion exclusively for archive material, because it is obviously not possible to re-shoot it in 3D.”
3D requires a new way of storytelling. “When producing in Stereo3D, it is important not to make too many fast cuts or these may cause discomfort for the viewer,” Courtney explains. In Stereo3D films, special attention must be given to pre-production; when deciding which camera rigs are to be used, the production format has to be taken into account. “You must plan the whole sequence of edits,” Sascha Klement explains. When producing TV films, this is not always applied. “But when producing in Stereo3D, you must take into account the depth of the picture at the storyboarding stage.”
Stereo3D shoots also require more staff on set. As well as the stereographer, a second camera assistant is also needed. “For this reason 3D productions are inevitably more expensive. However, the shooting time is only longer by about ten or twenty percent,” Klement says, adding that for the future, film academies will need to offer professional training for stereographers and camera assistants as well as corresponding workshops.
Hands-on workshop for EBU members
In August 2010, tpc held a two day hands-on workshop for EBU (European Broadcast Union) members. “In cooperation with the EBU we showed how to produce in 3D,” says Sascha Klement. In addition to hands-on training, editing of 3D productions was shown in the workshop’s technical-practical sessions. The business-related element of the workshop was designed to show to colleagues from public broadcasting all the options when moving into Stereo3D production. “People are not sure about the time and money they have to invest into Stereo3D”, Klement adds, “so it’s important to show them different business models which will permit them to refinance their investment into new technologies. We are very happy to share our know-how with our colleagues in the EBU and any other broadcasters or production houses who are interested.” tpc is also involved in the 3D Study Group of the EBU, which is currently developing 3D broadcast standards.
“There is a great opportunity for the Stereo3D format in event productions. If the producers put a working technology into the market which allows 3D to be viewed without 3D glasses, this new technology will take hold faster than anyone might think,” concluded Gregor Sonderegger, project manager in the newsroom of Swiss TV (SF).
Copyright Quantel 2010.