ESPN 3D presented boxing for the first time in the U.S. Feb. 18 with ESPN’s Friday Night Fights telecast from Salisbury, Md.
The show made it the first live ESPN telecast to be produced only in 3D, airing in 3D and 2D simultaneously. Friday’s show will be the first of five additional telecasts added to the network this summer.
I recently caught up with Phil Orlins, coordinating producer for ESPN 3D and Matt Sandulli, senior coordinating producer for ESPN’s Friday Night Fights and asked them what makes boxing in 3D so unique.
FR: What makes boxing unlike any other sport to watch in 3D?
Phil Orlins: 3D is most impactful when you have close proximity to the subject. Nothing offers closer proximity than boxing. It truly makes you feel like you have a ringside seat.
FR: Why would a viewer want to experience boxing this way?
Phil Orlins: TV is all about access and bringing the viewer close to the game. 3D is arguably the biggest step closer to the ultimate real life experience that TV has ever been able to take. Nothing makes you feel closer to the action than watching boxing in 3D.
FR: What are some of the biggest challenges you face when televising an event such as boxing in 3D?
Phil Orlins: You can actually be too close. Because 3D relies on side-by-side cameras you have to be careful about having something extremely close to the cameras, so the shot is too different for each camera. Because of that we have to use a mirror (beam splitter) to get the interacular distance between the lenses to under 1 inch so that the ropes are not too close to the cameras for comfort. For the most part boxing is relatively easy to shoot in 3D because the movement is very predictable compared to most sports.
Phil Orlins: The dashboard with the clock, names and trunk colors moves to the top of the screen so that the depth does not clash with foreground objects in the lower part of the screen.
FR: Where are the cameras situated and how many do you use?
Phil Orlins: 6 cameras. 2 ringside hand helds and another hand held. A jib that emphasizes the scene and can hover near the ring. 2 cameras including a 3D ultra Slo-Mo on a platform about 40’ away.
FR: Boxing’s first ever 3D telecast was back on February 18, what were some of the things that you learned from that show that will help prepare for upcoming 3D boxing shows?
Phil Orlins: 3D Ultra Slo-Mo on boxing is an absolutely sick and incredibly impactful shot. This was also the first event we did as a 3D production, instead of having separate 3D and 2D crew’s side-by-side. Frankly we learned we could do this with no meaningful compromises to the 2D telecast.
Matt Sandulli: 3D slightly changed the way we presented our show from a live cutting perspective. We found that covering action off the Jib-camera provided a great shot in the 3D world because the fighters were literally popping off the ring mat and it was a tremendous experience following the action that way. We would cut in the jib shot more than we normally had in traditional coverage.
FR: What makes 3D cameras different than shooting with 2D cameras?
Phil Orlins: They are pairs of cameras in reality so they are typically heavier and tougher to balance. This has made it very important for us to find the smallest possible high quality cameras and lenses in order to make the 3D cameras small and light enough to meet our needs. In addition 3D shots, depending on the camera setup work effectively at a certain range of distance. Say 5-20 feet or 30-100 feet. You can’t just use a telephoto lens to get whatever shot you need from any spot. You have to really think about what shots each camera can manage effectively.
FR: Has boxing in 3D been well received by fans?
Phil Orlins: There was quite a bit of anticipation about 3D boxing as those who understand 3D had high expectations that it would be an exciting 3D experience. The reaction to the coverage was positive.
Matt Sandulli: We had known all along that boxing would be a home run in 3D and the 2/18 show proved that. I would say there may be no sport that could benefit more from 3D coverage then boxing because the wow moment can happen at any moment there is action in the ring.
Read more about Friday’s 3D telecast. For more information follow @ESPN3D and @insideESPN3D on Twitter.