Vatican Planning Live 3D, HD and Ultra HD Broadcast

The Vatican - H 2014
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The Vatican - H 2014

The ceremony at which Pope Francis will raise predecessors Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII to sainthood will be transmitted live in 3D and in Ultra HD.

Centro Televisivo Vaticano (Vatican Television Center; CTV), with facilities partner Sony, will produce the April 27 broadcast from St. Peter's Square, Rome in 3D, HD and 4K (Ultra HD) in what Sony claims to be a first-of-its-kind parallel production.

The HD production will use 15 HD cameras and will be carried by a hundred broadcasters and viewed by an estimated audience of 200 million worldwide.

The 3D production will be produced by Sky Italia and U.K. facility company Telegenic. Six stereo pairs of HD cameras and three additional HDCam cameras converted on the fly will be deployed.

Sky Italia, Sky Deutchland and BSkyB will broadcast the event — the first time a Papal event has been transmitted live in stereo 3D. A number of cinemas in Europe will also take the live 3D feed in conjunction with Italian live to cinema company Nexo Digital, with some North American cinemas taking a delayed 3D recorded feed.

There will be an additional 3D viewing on a giant screen at the Basillica in Sotto il Monte, the birth place of Pope John XXIII.

The 4K production will be another test run for the Ultra HD format. Feeds from six Sony F55 4K-capable cameras (which have been used on several Sony Pictures Television series such as The Blacklist and are planned for use to cover the FIFA World Cup final this summer) will be uplinked from CTV's outside broadcast truck to a Globecast satellite and sent back for live replay in the Vatican on a 4K screen. The cameras, which will mounted with a variety of Canon and Fujinon lenses, will be in largely static positions.

There are also unconfirmed plans to route the 4K signal for projection on Sony's 4K R515 projector at Czestochowa, in Poland, a place synonymous with Pope John Paul II.

CTV will archive the event in 4K on Sony's optical disc archive system. 4K will be recorded on SR at 880Mbps at 422 10 bits and encoded in Sony's production format XAVC. The signal will be routed as four 3G HD DSI signals to Globecast's satellite and encoded into a single MPEG4 transport stream at 110Mbps.

“Ultra HD gives incredible detail and a real emotive quality,” said Stefano D’Agostini, CTV, technical director. “It is probably more natural than 3D because there is no artificial tool in front of the eyes.”

According to David Bush, Sony Europe's director of marketing: “This is one a number of tests on live events Sony is carrying out to explore different production workflows for 4K. The scale of this event represents a particularly important one because of the integration of different formats which we believe to be unique. Each of the three directors will have access to feeds from each production. We are learning each time about what works best for 4K in this and other 4K live events this year.”

The company is also testing a new Sony 4K production server (the PWS-4400) and Media Gateway software.

This will not be the first time a Pontiff has been recorded in Ultra HD. The last General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 27, 2013 was captured using Sony 4K equipment, as was the first mass of Pope Francis, celebrated on March 19, 2013.

In 2011, tests were made with Sony to record a ceremony led by Pope Benedict in stereo 3D.

CTV was established by Pope John Paul II in 1983. It films the activities of the Holy Father and Holy See – the central government of the Roman Catholic Church -- and produces its own programs, provides footage for other broadcasters and keeps an extensive archive for future use.