In case you didn’t hear, the first-ever 3-D broadcast of an NFL game recently went down. Don’t worry if you missed it, because your old buddy The Grouse was present to bring you this report from the front lines. Or, the line of scrimmage, as it were.
The NFL hopes to someday bring 3-D football to the pigskin loving public at large. This preview was a demo of what we might someday see play out in movie theaters across the country. That’s right—the game was shown in the same type of movie theaters you’d watch one of those Disney 3-D movies in, which should be your first clue that this was definitely a different way of watching football.
As I entered the theater, I was handed a pair of 3-D specs, which looked more like a pair of Risky Business Ray Bans than the classic cardboard blue-and-reds. After a couple of laps around the room in search of a decent seat, I finally settled in just before kickoff.
I’m going to skip the drum roll and just tell you that what I saw up on that big screen was definitely … OK. Let’s start with the good:
Pardon the cheeseball PR word, but the broadcast was undeniably ‘immersive.’ The 3-D cameras gave the field a sense of depth that I’ve never experienced at a sporting event before, either on TV or in person. It was kind of like watching the game through a ViewMaster—you had things like the refs, security guards and first-down markers in front of you in the foreground, while the on-field action happened on a different plane just behind everything else. On-screen graphics and instant replays were particularly nice on the eyes, and no fewer than twenty times did I turn to the friend next to me to say, “That was cool!” or “Did you see that?” I also really enjoyed sitting in a movie theater, drinking a beer and talking to the people around me at normal conversational volume—this was definitely a new experience.
At the same time, however, there were some fairly fundamental problems with the 3-D broadcast, which make me question whether it’ll ever be suitable for public consumption.
The depth of field I describe was certainly cool, but that’s really all there was to it. You didn’t have linebackers blitzing towards the camera, and the ball never looked like it was going to torpedo right out of the screen. Every single camera angle was a set up for the same visual trick: Dazzle the viewer with a few things in the foreground. Unfortunately, more often than not that was done with a shameless shot of a cheerleader shaking her pom poms in your face. Otherwise, it was a shot of the same few painted-up super fans who had been told to point tauntingly at the camera. Both wore on me pretty quickly.single page
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