3-D TD jumps off screen

December 05, 2008|DIANE PUCIN | ON MEDIA and Pucin is a Times staff writer.

Excuse me, there's a San Diego Chargers cheerleader in your lap.

And that's way less scary than having LaDainian Tomlinson carrying the Oakland Raiders' defensive line into your lap.

The Thursday night NFL Network broadcast of the Chargers' 34-7 win over the visiting Raiders was shown in three theaters (one each in Los Angeles, New York and Boston) in three-dimensional or 3-D technology.

There were, by invitation only, about 400 people at the Mann's Chinese Six Theatre in Hollywood -- mostly industry and technology experts. Still, there was a collective gasp when the Chargers cheerleaders jogged onto the field.

And there was a collective "woo" when Tomlinson scored the game's first touchdown and a loud "aah" when Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers tossed a pass that was out of bounds and heading for . . . yes, again, your lap.

Standing in the hallway sweating bullets was John Modell, son of former Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell.

The cameras and technology used in this game were developed by the Burbank-based 3ality Digital, whose major investor is the Modell family. When the screen went briefly blank in the first quarter because of a satellite transmission issue, John Modell slapped his forehead and said, "Murphy's Law. It's always in effect."

This wasn't the first time 3-D technology has been used for a sporting event. And it won't be the last. Fox Sports announced this week that it would be broadcasting its BCS bowl games in about 150 theaters across the country in 3-D. Ticket prices and specific theater locations have yet to be announced.

In 2007, the NBA All-Star game was held in Las Vegas but broadcast live in 3-D at Mandalay Bay's theater. This was done in part to alleviate the pressure created by having the game in the 19,000-seat Thomas & Mack Center when demand for tickets was three times that number, said Steve Hellmuth, senior vice president of operations and technology for NBA Entertainment.

So the NBA in what Hellmuth said was a "scary yet ultimately thrilling" experiment, placed about 10 3-D cameras in Thomas & Mack and Hellmuth watched with the theater audience.

"It was realistic enough," Hellmuth said, "that people in the theater were standing up when fans in the arena stood up because they were trying to see over the heads of the arena fans."

Two other NBA games have been broadcast in 3-D, a 2007 Finals game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs at Quicken Loans Arena and a 2008 regular-season Clippers-Dallas Mavericks game.

Howard Katz, NFL senior vice president of broadcasting and media operations, called the production an experiment.

There is no grand plan to show NFL 3-D games in theaters nationwide, Katz said. And having 3-D capable televisions in homes is not "anything that's imminent," Katz said, though there were two 3-D-enabled televisions available for viewing in a VIP area at the Mann's Chinese.

"We're pretty fortunate with the distribution model we have," Katz said. "I'd be a little nervous to start sending people to theaters. If it means not watching at home, we've got to be careful about that."

Modell, however, hinted otherwise.

"You'd have to think it might be kind of cool to have a Super Bowl game in 3-D where you could have the experience of watching with other fans and kind of feel like you were there," he said.

And why was Boston one of the three locations for the NFL 3-D show? Modell said that Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, made a special request to see it. Kraft is, Modell notes, the head of the NFL broadcast committee.

Now, for your plain old television viewing:

Today's best

Two Pacific 10 Conference teams are playing in the NCAA women's soccer semifinals -- first Stanford and Notre Dame (ESPN2) and then North Carolina against UCLA (ESPNU). Bruins basketball fans can fantasize that this is the NCAA Final Four.

Saturday's best

The Army-Navy football game (9 a.m., Channel 2) has the best pageantry of any game and you watch with the poignant knowledge that these kids will soon go off to serve their country and fulfill a duty.

But if you're into that BCS stuff, there is the SEC championship game with Alabama and Florida at 1 p.m. on Channel 2 and the Big 12 championship game with Missouri and Oklahoma at 5 on Channel 7. If you're into blowouts and bragging (Trojans), or wishing you could trade your most prized possessions for an upset (Bruins), then it's USC-UCLA at 1:30 on Channel 7.

Sunday's best

The NFL games on broadcast television are pretty undistinguished. However, on ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown," Jeremy Schaap profiles disgraced New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress. This has a chance to be more compelling than the Eagles-Giants game that follows at 10 a.m. on Channel 11.


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