Recognizing the need for a real-world testing ground to continue the development of ESPN 3D, ESPN has designated the ESPN Innovation Lab at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex located at the Walt Disney World resort as the hub for developing 3D technology. ESPN will invite various technology companies to utilize the site for emerging technology enhancements focused on 3D television. In addition to the resources at the Innovation Lab, ESPN will bring online a new production center that can be used for producing live sporting events for multiple ESPN platforms.
“The Innovation Lab and the new production center based at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex gives ESPN a designated testing ground to continue creating a robust ESPN 3D network,” said Chuck Pagano, executive vice president, technology, ESPN. “This complex provides ESPN access to more than 300 sporting events which means 3D production testing can occur throughout the year. The research ESPN gathers through these facilities will set the pace for innovation and provide fans the best 3D on-air coverage of sporting events.”
The new production center will also serve as a training facility for production personnel to gain experience in telecasting 3D events. This facility houses eight edit rooms which will feed highlights into the main server system based in Bristol, Conn. Also, the production center controls 42 robotic cameras scattered throughout the complex which will capture highlights from the various playing venues. The facility also has 10 ENG cameras and four EFP cameras. The production control room has 16 channels of bi-directional video along with audio ingest, play out capabilities, graphics building and more.
ESPN’s Innovation Lab opened in October 2009. It has produced two innovative production elements, Ball Track and ESPN Snap Zoom. Ball Track is a Doppler radar hit-tracking system that has the ability to track home runs showing the distance and height of the ball in-flight, updating continuously during the ball’s flight. It debuted on the 2009 MLB Home Run Derby telecast on July 13. ESPN Snap Zoom debuted on Monday Night Football on Sept. 28 and is a freeze-frame technology that brings the fan closer to the play by zooming in an area of interest and providing insight to a current action on the field thus giving the viewer a different view on a particular focus of play.
ESPN 3D, the industry’s first 3D television network, will showcase a minimum of 85 live sporting events during its first year, beginning with the first 2010 FIFA World Cup match on June 11 featuring South Africa vs. Mexico. Other events to be produced in 3D include up to 25 2010 FIFA World Cup matches, NBA, X Games 16, college basketball, and college football, which will include the BCS National Championship game in Glendale, Ariz., January 10, 2011. Additional events will be announced at a later date.