Riding the wave of 3D momentum coming out of the CES show in Las Vegas last week, New York-based mobile production vendor All Mobile Video announced Monday that it will build a new 3D-capable HD production truck that will be ready to shoot 3D sports and live events this summer. It plans to show the truck at the NAB convention in Las Vegas this April.
The move is significant, as today there are only two traditional mobile production trucks outfitted for full 3D production, one owned by 3D specialist PACE and another, Supershooter 3D, which is a joint venture between PACE and mobile vendor NEP. Most 3D television productions to date have involved setting up temporary facilities with 3D specialists, which will be a hard model to sustain as major programmers launch new 3D channels this summer.
All Mobile Video (AMV) is working with Sony Electronics to build the 3D truck, which will be incorporate a variety of Sony gear including cameras, switchers, tape decks and production monitors. While Sony is sponsoring ESPN's new 3D channel as well as 3D production at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Sony is not underwriting the new truck and AMV will be buying all of the Sony gear, said AMV president Eric Duke. But AMV will be working "in cooperation" with Sony to identify the best workflows in the nascent 3D production market
"They're helping," said Duke. "Nobody has the complete handle on what is required in terms of 3D live acquisition, so we're working with Sony, and with Fujinon on lenses, to put together the best possible configuration we can for deployment. This is hard cash, it isn't a freebie. We have to put our money where our mouth is, and we're putting out best foot forward in trying to deal with 3D acquisition."
"3D is the new technology requirement for live production," added Alec Shapiro, SVP of sales and marketing for Sony's Broadcast and Production Systems Division, in a statement. "We're proud to take our relationship with AMV to a new level, developing a cutting-edge platform that will provide the ultimate in image quality, performance and flexibility, while delivering the unique 3D viewing and entertainment experiences that consumers now expect."
The new 53-foot long double "Expando" truck, which will also be capable of conventional HD production, will be similar in design to All Mobile Video's existing Titan unit and will support 3 gigabit-per-second operation, enough to handle two uncompressed HD feeds. Duke said such a truck generally cost $8 to $10 million to build, and he wasn't sure how much of a premium 3D gear would represent.
"We're working with many manufacturers to get a formula, and it's not easy," said Duke. "It's expensive for us at the moment, and I don't know what it will cost the client yet. You have to make it economical. Otherwise, nobody will use this."
Duke, who attended his first CES last week to get a glimpse at new 3D sets, doesn't have any projects lined up for the new truck. But he already has received strong interest in 3D production from existing customers. A customer called him Monday morning about a possible 3D production in early April, but Duke doesn't think his truck will ready to hit the road until June or July. He added that he wouldn't be surprised if there is some 3D production activity around the Masters golf tournament (which runs April 8-11, just before NAB opens).
The All Mobile Video unit will incorporate 3D camera rigs from 3ality Digital, which All Mobile will either buy or rent depending on its requirements. PACE has a more hands-on approach to 3D which requires dedicated "convergence operators" for each camera to adjust the depth of field, while 3ality uses automated software processing to perform that function. Duke said the 3ality approach appears to be more cost-effective, and more important, he could buy a 3ality camera today.
"You cannot buy a PACE camera system at the moment, while with 3ality you can buy or rent," said Duke. "That gives us flexibility as we figure out what this process is going to require. We're hoping that the 3ality automated system builds in some labor savings to make the process that much more appealing."