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ESPN Announces Results of Comprehensive 3D Study (Updated)

(Press Conf. notes at bottom)

Continuing to innovate in the 3D television space, ESPN Research + Analytics unveiled today one of the most in-depth studies on 3D TV to date.  Compiling results from more than 1,000 testing sessions and 2,700 lab hours, ESPN has concluded that fans are comfortable with the medium and even enjoy it more than programming in HD.  The research was conducted by Dr. Duane Varan, professor of New Media at Murdoch University, during ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup at the Disney Media and Ad Lab in Austin, Texas.

The research employed an experimental design approach including the use of perception analyzers, eye gaze and electrodermal activity.  The study focused on a multitude of topics including overall viewing enjoyment, fatigue and novelty effects, technology differences, production issues and advertising impact.  In all over 700 measures were processed during the testing.  The Ad Lab used five different 3D manufacturers in its testing.

“The results from this comprehensive research project support what we have said time and time again – fans have a higher level of enjoyment when viewing 3D. Plus, for advertisers, this study provides good news on the level of fan engagement when viewing 3D ads,” said Artie Bulgrin, senior vice president of ESPN Research + Analytics.  “This study will help us continue to develop ESPN 3D as an industry leader for event-based 3D viewing.”

Key Findings:

3D TV ads can be more effective

In testing the Ad Lab showed viewers the same ads in 2D and 3D.  3D ads produced significantly higher scores across all ad performance metrics – generally maintaining a higher level of arousal than the 2D counterpart.

Participants showed better recall of the ad in 3D:

Cued recall went from 68% to 83%

On average, purchase intent increased from 49% to 83%

Ad liking went from 67% to 84

Fans enjoy 3D

The results showed a higher level of viewer enjoyment, engagement with the telecast and a stronger sense of presence with the 3D telecasts.

Enjoyment increased from 65% to 70% in 3D while presence went from 42% to 69%

Passive vs. Active

With all things equal, there were no major differences between passive and active 3D TV sets for overall impact however, passive glasses were rated as more comfortable and less distracting by participants.

Depth Perception

The study found that there were no adverse effects on depth perception (stereopsis).

It appeared that there is an acclimation effect whereby participants adjust to 3D over time under normal use.

True 3D vs. 2D

Participants showed much more favorable responses to true 3D images than to 2D.

About the ESPN 3D Research Study

Conducted over the course of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, this is one of the most ambitious studies of 3D viewing to date.  Participants were tested prior to 3D viewing, in test and post test to garner a wide range of information.  Testing was completed at the Disney Media & Advertising Lab which was developed to better understand the emotional drivers of audience behavior and physiological reactions to advertising.  The facility conducts year-round tests using the most advanced research techniques including biometric measurement tolls to evaluate engagement and emotional responses.  This research was conducted by Professor Duane Varan, Executive Director and Chief Research Officer of the Disney Media & Advertising Lab, and his staff.  Varan is recognized as a global innovator in iTV applied research and as one of the foremost authorities on new media.  He is the Executive Director of the Interactive Television Research Institute and holds the inaugural chair in New Media at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia.



Phil Lelyveld recorded this additional information during the press conference webcast presentation of the above research findings.  Presenters were:

– Dr. Duane Varan, executive director, Interactive Television Research Institute and the inaugural chair in New Media, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia.

– Artie Bulgrin, SVP Research and Analytics, ESPN

– Bryan Burns, VP Strategic Business Development, ESPN

Test subjects: the subjects ranged from age 18-54 and were predominantly male.  No children were tested.

Eye tracking: eyes focus and track specific objects in 3D.  Gaze patterns are more scattered in 2D.  This may indicate that 3D will require new advertising and graphic design principles.

Subtle stereo: Soccer doesn’t have strong 3D relative to other sports because it is often shot from a distance, but the 3D broadcast of the World Cup games ranked higher than the 2D World Cup viewing experience.  The 3D in soccer may not be ‘in your face’ 3D, but it may subtly improve the experience.

2D-3D conversion: conversion rated better than 2D but not as well as natively shot 3D

Passive vs Active displays: Dr. Varan reported that, other things being equal, there was no difference in the overall response to passive vs active displays.  However, he went on to say that passive systems were more comfortable, less distracting in the home environment, and produced fewer reported headaches than active systems.  He said that the research did not find any advantages for active over passive.

Health impact: although a number of health-related responses to viewing the World Cup in 3D faded with time as the viewer acclimated to the experience, headaches persisted in a relatively constant percentage of test subjects.  This finding indicates the importance of taking 15 minute breaks while watching 3D TV for extended periods.  Dr. Varan did not have a recommendation for how long you should watch 3D before taking a breaking.

Residual health effects:  No lasting adverse effects from viewing 3D content were detected.  Monitoring periods were as long as one week.  Both Randot and Orthorater depth perception tests were used to test residual effects. Orthorater tests involve finding the one object within a group of objects that stands out in z-space.  Dr. Varan considered this a more meaningful tool than the Randot test.

Dr. Varan is studying vergance-accommodation conflict issues and the human visual system with his Murdock University team in Perth.  He described this as an academic investigation.  His work with ESPN is applied; focusing on identifying the parameters for the most successful 3D broadcast viewing experience on 3D TV screens for the general population.

ESPN 2010 World Cup Production Images

2010 World Cup Production Images

June 29, 2010

FIFASonyJOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA: The 2010 World Cup represents the most comprehensive laboratory for 3DTV production to date. The host broadcaster, HBS, with the support of Sony, has thus far produced 18 World Cup matches in 3D. There are seven to go.

Television Broadcast collected a few images of cameras, crews and media from the events. At left, a camera operator uses the synced Sony cameras for 3D capture.

At right is HBS commentator David Wood, calling the action with a five-member English Guide team. FIFADavidWood

“This is my fourth FIFA World Cup finals as a commentator,” begins David Woods, “and the set-up has been superb. We get the best seat in the house with top-class technical back-up. Each commentator is provided with two monitors, on which they can set up whatever feed they like, including the live match coverage with replays and the game information.”


At left, an HBS camera operator captures the action.

FIFABoomRight, an HBS operator manages a boom. Below left, a camera operator prepares to catch the action at a goal. Below at right, the FIFA 360-degree sky cam.


Image of David Wood from the host broadcaster’s daily MRL Newsletter. Images of 3DTV camera, FIFA360Studio Berlin camera operator, 360-degree overhead camera and goal camera by Darren Smith. Remaining images by Dr. ZVLV.


ESPN is Second Largest Broadcaster at 2010 World Cup

June 29, 2010

FIFAESPNPhippsJOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA: The 2010 World Cup has been a watershed for ESPN. The U.S. sports franchise launched its 3DTV network with the opening of the tournament. The U.S.-Slovenia match drew the network’s highest number of households ever for a soccer game. Before Ghana knocked Team USA out last Saturday, total viewership in the United States was up around 70 percent from 2006.

It has around 400 people working at the events in South Africa; around 350 in technical operations and production, according to the daily MRL Newsletter. The U.S. network is said to be the second largest broadcaster at the game.

ESPN’s team built a studio set for pre-game, half-time, post-game and nightly news from Soccer City. Claude Phipps, director of special projects for ESPN, and Geoffrey Mason, head of 2010 production planning, (pictured above) are among the 400. Phipps is a veteran of “Monday Night Football,” plus several other live major league sporting events. He and Mason have been traveling to South Africa for nearly three years in preparation for the event.

“This is the biggest operation that ESPN has undertaken for a World Cup,” Phipps said, “and the response has been fantastic.”

ESPN pulled out all the stops for this World Cup, distributing it in HD on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, in Portuguese on ESPN Desportes. The coverage is also at, on ESPN Mobile TV and ESPN International. All 25 games being produced in 3D by host broadcaster HBS and Sony are being carried on ESPN 3D.

“We are bringing together all facets of the company to create a uniform coverage approach,” Phipps said.

ESPN has thus far carried 18 of the soccer matches in 3D–all supported by commercials in the format. The remaining seven will conclude with the final on Sunday, July 11. (The schedule is at

Deborah D. McAdams
June 21, 2010
World Cup and NBA Boost ABC, ESPN and Univision
Soccer and basketball are fueling TV ratings this month.

May 26,2010 ESPN Exec is Bullish on 3D Uptake
“Sports fans are early adopters of technology, and we think that the genre plays very well in terms of the technology, and we’re very optimistic about our plans.”

May 18, 2010 ESPN 3D Announces World Cup Schedule
ESPN today announced the inaugural programming schedule for its new 3D channel launching this summer.

Studio Technology Leaders Dinner 2017

The Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California held its 2017 Studio Technology Leaders Dinner at NeueHouse in Hollywood. Sponsored by Western Digital, HGST and Equinix, the event honored former Sony Pictures CTO Spencer Stephens with the Bob Lambert Technology Leadership Award. The evening featured a panel of studio execs discussing new directions in film production, and a screening of “Wonder Buffalo,” the third R&D short produced under the auspices of ETC@USC’s Project Cloud to explore and test next-generation production processes. 

“Wonder Buffalo,” a coming-of-age story, was made possible through ETC’s 2016 Technology Award to filmmaker Christine Berg, who wrote the script with Simon Shterenberg.

The duo developed the project at the Writers Guild Foundation’s Veterans Writing Project, with the support of Disney/ABC Television Group, Warner Bros., NAGRA Kudelski Group, Technicolor, 8i, Realtra, Equinix, Sony Electronics, Amazon Web Services, the Creative Visions Foundation, The World Building Institute and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. It was also executive produced by Erik Weaver, HGST global director of M&E strategy and market development and former head of ETC’s Project Cloud.

ETC executive director Ken Williams noted that the short tested not only cloud production and post production technologies, but was also processed entirely in HDR, and tested volumetric capture, photogrammetry, ambianic sound and interactivity, via a room-scale virtual reality component. “Wonder Buffalo” was shown at Sundance and invited to SXSW.

Williams (below left) presented the Bob Lambert Technology Leadership award to Spencer Stephens (below right), whose early career involved data communications and photography.
ETC_Williams_Stephens_AwardStephens joined Disney TV Animation in 1997, as the company transitioned from traditional to digital production. He later joined Chris Cookson’s Technology Operations at Warner Bros., ultimately building the 4K production capability for Warner’s Motion Picture Imaging post house, which he then ran. He followed Cookson to Sony Pictures where he became CTO. He’s left Sony, but is not retired.

Walden Pond chief executive Wendy Aylsworth, a previous Bob Lambert Technology Leadership awardee; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment senior vice president Richard Berger; and former Sony Pictures Technology president Chris Cookson all spoke about Stephens’ achievements.

“If I’m in a crisis, I want Spencer by my side,” said Berger. “The scope of his knowledge knows no bounds.”

Stephens thanked Williams, the ETC board and Dean Elizabeth Daley of the USC School of Cinematic Arts for the award, and Cookson for hiring him twice. He also recalled his close connection with Lambert, who recommended him for the Disney job and then introduced him to Cookson.

Last, ETC hosted a panel of studio executives, including 20th Century Fox CTO Hanno Basse, Sony Pictures Entertainment CTO Don Eklund, Paramount Pictures EVP Anthony Guarino, Warner Bros. Technology EVP Justin Herz, Walt Disney Studios CTO Jamie Voris and Universal Pictures CTO Michael Wise. Moderated by Williams, the panel addressed pain points in the production process, significant opportunities opened up by technology, and how studios are handling change.

Panelists described the challenges of handling thousands of VFX shots from multiple cameras with differing resolutions, color spaces and formats, and putting it all together under increasingly tight deadlines. They noted that “Wonder Buffalo” has helped to shine a light on the issues, which also include the sheer size of files and massive number of deliverables. They also identified security as a “huge issue.”

New technologies have produced automated workflows and enhanced global creative collaboration, as well as significantly accelerated real-time rendering. Panelists noted that physical media isn’t going away any time soon, and that consumers are the big winners in an era in which there are so many platforms and distribution is not getting in the way of finding and enjoying content.

They also underlined that the studios have gone through many technology changes over the decades and that their resilience in managing change bodes well for the future, even as viewers redefine entertainment.

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