PixelPower

Pixel Power's BrandMaster 3DS used to brand The World Cup 3D telecast by ESPN

The client

ESPN not only dominates sports broadcasting worldwide but they created the concept of a dedicated sports channel more than 30 years ago. Still based in the small town of Bristol, Connecticut they have grown from one small building to a large campus in a constant state of expansion.

The challenge

The 2010 FIFA World Cup was already shaping up to be a breakthrough event for soccer coverage in the US. ESPN, as the holder of the US broadcast rights, already had plans in place for massive HD coverage. What had not been anticipated in the early planning was Stereoscopic 3D coverage of the games. Once Host Broadcast Services confirmed that 25 games would be made available in 3D, ESPN decided to make The World Cup the launch event for its newly announced ESPN 3D channel. This meant that a separate 3D transmission chain had to be built from scratch in only a few months. Key parts of this chain would need to be 3D Master Control and Channel Branding systems, but such products were only just being designed. The ESPN team went out to NAB in April 2010 with a list of requirements and a fixed deadline in their heads dictated by the kick-off in South Africa.

The solution

ESPN were pleased with the quality of the 3D branding graphics shown by Pixel Power, the overall ease of use, and by the integration of graphics and Master Control in a single system. Shortly after NAB they ordered the first stereoscopic BrandMaster 3DS system. Upon delivery to Bristol, Pixel Power aided in its integration with the rest of the transmission chain being assembled in the live 3D Technology Lab for the World Cup broadcasts. The system was used to control breaks between commercials and program feeds as is common in Master Control, only in this case operation was done manually for the World Cup, rather than being automated.

ESPN’s operators also used a Pixel Power Management Console to edit template-based graphics within BrandMaster on the fly when necessary. Prebuilt graphics could be opened merely by double clicking on a selected graphic inside Management Console. The system allowed operators to edit any field within the displayed template, preview their changes, and automatically publish back to the system for output into the final program stream with the correct aspect ratio, 3-D image convergence, resolution and font
style.

Initial tests and all the World Cup games were carried in 1080i in a frame compatible (side by side) format. As soon as the Games were over the system was reconfigured in a 720p dual stream (separate left eye right eye streams) configuration.

The results

The system was successfully installed and commissioned, operators and engineers were trained, and everything went on air in time for the big launch of ESPN 3D. Reviews of the channel output were positive and ESPN is gaining valuable experience and market exposure as the leader in this new technological development.

Realising the benefits

Not only did the use of BrandMaster 3DS meet the 3D needs of ESPN for the World Cup, but it offers the opportunity for them to experiment with a new style of combined Master Control and Branding and the unique control options possible in BrandMaster such as the unique VSP control panel with full color TFT displays in the switches and screen-based graphical displays with gestural control. In late 2010, ESPN integrated its BrandMaster 3DS into its main Master Control facility in preparation for ESPN 3D being promoted to full-time status beginning in February 2011.

Summary

ESPN had unique challenges in timescales, budgets and new technology for an event that was one of the highest visibility launches in the company’s history. Pixel Power worked closely with them at every stage, assisting with planning, evolving the product to meet real-world needs and providing onsite support throughout the critical phases and the launch. This close partnership was an essential factor in the great success of the project.