Friday, January 15, 2010

3-D Television

I read this fascinating article from Slate on ESPN's plan to offer a 3-D sports network. Justin Peters's points are excellent, and help me understand the difficulty in the jump to 3-D. Check this salient point:

Live-action 3-D differs from the 3-D camerawork made famous in CGI-heavy movies like Avatar. A 3-D representation of the computer-generated Na'vi looks great largely because you've never seen a Na'vi before. Since you have no idea what a blue cat person is supposed to look like (and since the blue cat people are computer-generated), you don't pick up on any visual distortions. But we all know how a real, 3-D human is supposed to look—and, while watching a 3-D football game, you're acutely aware that the guys in helmets and pads don't look exactly right.

From what little bit I've seen and read about 3-D TV, that's spot-on. But Peters goes on to elaborate what actually does work in 3-D sports:

In my experience, close-ups are where the technology really shines. You're close enough to the action that the added depth starts to matter. Bailey says also that in its broadcast of the USC-Ohio State game, ESPN experimented with low-angle shots that did provide something of a ball-in-the-face effect. Three hours' worth of pigskin flying at your head would make you nauseous, but an occasional through-the-screen shot would do much to convince doubters that 3-D adds something extra to conventional broadcasts.

Neat-- so, I wonder: could a working M.O. be something like a dynamic switch back-and-forth between 3-D and plain HD, where replays and extraordinary plays were in 3-D, but the rest was in 2-D HD?

Maybe-- but even for that to happen, the technology will have to come a long way before it makes it into most living rooms. I don't see folks being too quick to wear a pair of 3-D glasses for the whole game, only to watch the instant replays in 3-D.

My guess is that we're still a ways off from broad adaptation of 3-D TV technology. What do you think?

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