ESPN the Magazine 3D Project

Stereo image shot with two Canon 1D’s, two 24-105mm’s, two pocket wizard TT5’s, with my 4 X 1200W Whitelightning strobes. (Photo by Donald Miralle for ESPN the Magazine)

I just recently got a call from Senior Photo Editor Jim Surber of ESPN the Magazine, “Have you ever done 3D photography, and are you interested in a project?” Although I had never shot in stereo before and really had no past interest in it, I knew how it worked and was always impressed (but not envious!) when I saw 3D Jedi David Klutho of Sports Illustrated at work. After we agreed to do it, we immediately began looking at local sporting events in the Western United States that could work for such a photo, and we came up with the PBR Finals in Las Vegas, and a UCLA Volleyball game.

I liked this volleyball image. One of those that looks pretty ordinary in 2D, but pops with depth in 3D. (Photo by Donald Miralle for ESPN the Magazine)

Strobes were required at both venues due to the low ambient arena light, and although there was a set I could rent at Pauley, Thomas and Mack Center at UNLV didn’t have any. So that meant extra hustle for the project (i.e. hanging the strobes the morning of flying into Vegas, shooting two days of cowboys getting thrown from bulls, then breaking down strobes, flying out and going straight to UCLA). But hanging arena lights was really the easy part of the project, getting two camera set-ups with exact same focal lengths manually focused and both firing the same set of lights simultaneously would be the hard part. For those of you not familiar with how 3D photography works, ideally you have one camera for each eye (no more than 8″ apart unless you want  a headache) both with same exposure, lens, and framing capturing the same exact moment for each eye. In post, the photos are then stripped of color data, usually red in one and blue/green in the other, then put together in a photo composite sandwich to be viewed with red/blue glasses. I decided to go with a setup with two 70-200mm lens on Canon 1D’s, and then a second setup with 28-104mm lens. Both cameras were fired with a homemade trigger tethered to each camera’s remote cable port, and then each camera had pocket wizards attached to their hotshoe’s sending the same channel signal to the four strobe heads I installed in the arena.

3D Camera Rig with two 70-200mm’s, two Canon 1D MkIII’s, two pocket wizards firing four white lighting strobes installed in arena. Fitted on a double mounting plate on a ballhead and tripod. (Photo by Donald Miralle)

Rigging the strobes in catwalk with extra safety cables and ropes. Safety first when hanging or walking up in arena catwalks!

It was really frustrating because with so many moving parts, the actual percentage of photos that worked was very low at less than 5%. Sometimes only one camera would fire, or the strobes wouldn’t fire, or only one camera caught the strobes. As I told Jim, it was truly one of the hardest technical shoot I had done in awhile, but I’m always excited for a challenge and something new. In a perfect world with unlimited budget, flash wizards would be the mechanism of choice, but I worked with what I had and made the best of it. ESPN was very happy with the final result and ended up running one of the PBR photos. The biggest fans of the photo were my sons, who really enjoyed looking at the magazine with the glasses…

Here’s the final spread, sorry about the quality, just shot it with my iphone camera…

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