3-D TV: Live Events And Broadcaster Intents
Brian Dipert - May 7, 2010
While the bulk of the focus of my recent print writeup was on living room movie playback, DVDs and Blu-ray discs obviously aren’t the only content source that consumers regularly tap into. As such, broadcasters’ plans (via a variety of delivery schemes; Internet, ATSC, cable, satellite, fiber, etc) are critical to the success or failure of embryonic 3-D technology. January’s CES brought optimistic news on this front, although we’ll still need to wait and see when (and if) aspirations translate into reality:
- As rumored one week beforehand, DirecTV plans to launch three 3-D channels later this year. Subscribers with DirecTV HD set-top boxes will receive a firmware upgrade that’ll make the units compatible with both the planned content and with 3-D TVs. The demo (which I didn’t personally see) reportedly was quite compelling.
- Additionally, DirectTV (and other partners) plan to carry ESPN’s 3-D channel, which is forecasted to launch in June, in time for World Cup soccer.
- And Sony is partnering with the Discovery Channel and IMAX to deliver additional 3-D content to the marketplace. The World Cup is a target delivery date for Sony, too.
- Comcast beat competitor DirecTV to the 3-D punch by broadcasting the Masters golf tournament last month.
- Cablevision outslugged them both
- Verizon has 3-D FiOS plans but isn’t currently saying (at least publicly) when they’ll roll out, and
- Even the CatholicTV channel is getting in on the act. Seriously.
A goodly chunk of ESPN’s content in particular will be of the live events variety, specifically sports. Prior experiments in this regard provide a compelling if not crystal clear forecast as to this particular medium’s potential for success:
- In early December 2008, the NFL broadcast an otherwise forgettable game between the San Diego Chargers and lowly Oakland Raiders to theaters in Los Angeles, New York, and Boston. Engadget’s headline, I think, neatly summed up the experience: ‘Good technology overcomes bad entertainment‘
- One month later, 80 theaters’ full of viewers (plus CES 2009 attendees) viewed the BCS national championship football game between the Oklahoma Sooners and Florida Gators. Engadget also gave the experience a thumbs-up; yours truly was too busy working elsewhere in Las Vegas that day to personally audition it. Sensio, who I’ve mentioned before, provided the underling compression and delivery technologies.
- In mid-December 2009, the Dallas Cowboys partnered with Hdlogix to project an anaglyph 3-D variant of the second half of the team’s game versus the San Diego Chargers (notice a trend), dynamically converted from 2-D source material and projected on the massive (160 feet in length, 72 feet in height, and stretching from one 20-yard line to the other) four-panel display which hangs from the stadium ceiling and is suspended 90 feet above the playing field. Reportedly, though, the experiment didn’t go very well; viewers’ forgetfulness to don the requisite anaglyph glasses were partially to blame, and the fact that the Cowboys lost probably didn’t help matters, either.
- Live rugby in 3-D came to UK theaters and pubs at the beginning of February, the latter courtesy of service provider Sky. Opinions on the results were mixed; some folks were underwhelmed, while others were more enthused. Sky must have been pleased, because it rolled out the service to a thousand-plus pubs a month ago.
- In mid-March, Germany tackled its first 3-D soccer broadcast trial, which at least one reviewer found compelling. Belgium and Poland are next.
- In late March, it was hockey’s (specifically the New York Islanders’ and Rangers’) 3-D turn. Again, the outcome was positive.
- And the NCAA Final Four broadcast a month back was reportedly also a success.
I didn’t see any post-Masters postmortem reviews; if you viewed the seminal golf spectacle in 3-D, please share your perspective in the comments. Instead, I’ll pass along some of the chronologically ordered pre-event writeups I found particularly informative:
- Comcast’s 3D Masters broadcast explained
- AVS Forums lets you know how to watch The Masters in 3D online
- The Masters in 3D will require you to manually select side by side
- Inside the Masters Golf 3-D Bunker
- The Masters in 3D at Sony Style
I agree with Stacey (then again, maybe not) that sports content (along with compelling film material such as Avatar and the upcoming Toy Story 3) will drive 3-D adoption in folks’ living rooms. Yet I still feel, as I wrote in my cover story, that there’s a sustainable future role to play for theaters in providing live community-tailored content, not just athletic events but also programs such as live music concerts and opera performances:
If 3-D technology does rapidly invade the home, it may quickly obviate any meaningful differentiation between movie theaters and living-room theaters. This step does not necessarily herald the death of cinemas, however. Look, for example, at the largely successful live-broadcast trials of concerts, sports venues, and other events to theaters in several cities, states, and countries. Most of these presentations have been in 2-D, but there’s no reason that they couldn’t quickly migrate to 3-D given the infrastructure in many venues. The 2012 Summer Olympics, the next Super Bowl, or even a gig by a band that otherwise wouldn’t come to my hometown presented live in large-screen 3-D and surround sound: I’d buy that.
Look, for example, at my five-years-back review of a live Phish concert broadcast. Now imagine how much more realistic it would have been in 3-D. And for more justification, check out the following links from my research collection:
- Movie Theaters Aim for Live 3D Sports
- Will 3-D Sportscasting Save the Movie Theater?
- Cuban invests in Carmike Cinemas, clearly expects 3D sporting events to thrive
- CES: Interview with Mark Cuban and Bud Mayo
- ‘Larger Than Life in 3D’ Brings Music Fests Into Theaters
- Sony Promises Live Concert Performances in 3D, Starts With Jimi Hendrix
- Bizet’s “Carmen” sets record viewer mark for The Met: Live in HD
p.s…speaking of live 3-D…literally…
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