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The Future of Sports: 3D Technology

Queen Elizabeth watches a clip from 'The Hangover' in 3D (Note: I made that up; she is probably watching something classier than that) (Source: YardBarker.com)

As a member of Fansided.com, I recently had the privilege of attending a special viewing of the 2010 MLB All-Star Game in an event space in downtown Manhattan. The game was shown on Panasonic’s VT25 series of VIERA® Full HD 3D televisions. While this may not be a baseball blog, it is a sports blog, and 3D TV is being hailed as the next major technological leap since HDTV. To be honest, I was pretty skeptical going in. I believed that 3D technology was probably a bit of a fad, and the sort of thing that only hardcore technology geeks would really be interested in. Suffice it to say, I was wrong. Coming up, a few throughts describing the future of sports in 3D.

  • Dear Santa, this year for Christmas, I want a Panasonic VT25 series VIERA® Full HD 3D television.
  • Dear Easter Bunny, this year for Easter, I want a Panasonic VT25 series VIERA® Full HD 3D television.
  • Dear Tooth Fairy, I juft puwwed out a permamenn toof. I weally, weally wann a Panasowi VT25 seweez VIERA® fuw HD 3D teewee.

After watching the All-Star game, I am convinced 3D television is absolutely going to change the way we watch sports. Most people would probably imagine the experience as being something like, “The ball is being thrown and pops out of my screen” or “Wow, that player is falling into my living room.” Yes, it sometimes looks as though objects are coming out of the TV, but that’s not the most impressive accomplishment of the product. Panasonic’s 3D technology excels at creating levels and layers of depth that you simply cannot experience unless you are at a live game. I know, “Depth Perception” hardly sounds sexy as a selling point, but in the world of sports, it changes the entire viewing experience. You gain a real sense of the space between the pitcher and catcher as a 98 mile-per-hour fastball is thrown. It is as close to an experience of being on the field as current technology will allow, and it’s light years ahead of where I would have expected it to be at this point in time.

A few additional thoughts in a hail of bullets:

  • The most consistently good camera angle for the All Star Game was directly behind the umpire at a slight angle. With the pitcher and the batter in full view, you really got a sense of the space and speed at which the ball is thrown.
  • Interestingly enough, the slower the ball moved, the prettier the technology looked. I think this is a framerate issue rather than a 3D issue. Simply put, these pitchers have the ability to throw the ball so fast, sometimes the cameras can’t keep up, 3D or not.
  • The most impressive image of the night, however, was a ball hit between 2nd and 3rd base. The camera from the field view was in the perfect position to capture the curve of the ball’s trajectory as it flew through space in a way that you simply could NOT see without the 3D technology.
  • The quality of the image and it’s ability to highlight a sense of depth seemed to increase the closer the camera was to the ground. Angles from waist height really captured the sense of distance, as though the far side of the field was sinking deeper and deeper into the TV.
  • Since this is a football blog, I should mention a little bit about the technology and how I project it will play in an NFL game. I am willing to bet you the 3D technology is going to really help improve the way the running game looks on the screen. At the moment, a big pass looks so much better than a short run between the trenches with our standard technology. 3D technology will almost certainly improve this, as the images lower to the ground look amazing. The improved depth perception is almost certain to make holes that open up in front of the running back stand out more clearly.
  • The one sport I think may have trouble adapting to 3D technology is hockey. As a sport, it moves so fast that I wonder if the quick cuts or the shots from a far distance won’t allow the sport to look as impressive as some of its peers. If they find a way to show some good shots of players checking each other into the glass, however, I think it will do just fine.
  • In case you are concerned about how the technology looks if you have bad vision: don’t be too worried. I took off my prescription glasses for an inning to test it out and it was not that big of a deal. I have an astigmatism in both of my eyes as well, so I expected it to look pretty bad. It looked no worse than anything else when I’m not wearing glasses.
  • One element of the technology that still needs some work: if an image comes too close to the camera (such as a person unexpectedly walking in front of it), the resulting image does not look good and can be somewhat jarring. Sort of like how a picture taken 6 inches from someone’s face generally looks messy. I suspect the cameramen will be able to work around this as the technology is utilized in more live events.
  • Other things that look very cool in 3D: crowd shots (the layers of people really stand out), confetti, waving flags, grass, dirt shooting up from the ground as a player slides on base.
  • Things that do not look very cool in 3D: closeup shots of baseball players adjusting their jock straps.
  • In case any of my friends or family are reading this, now you know what to get me for my birthday.

Topics: 3D, All Star Game, MLB, NFL

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  • Keith Null

    Glad you had a good time Devin, sounds like 3-D sports is going to be sick and I cannot wait to see Brees slinging it around the field in glorious 3-D!