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Fans see USC-Ohio State game in 3-D

ESPN helps game leap out at Trojan fans gathered at Galen Center to watch the game.

September 13, 2009|Mark Medina

After cutting toward the near side of the field, USC running back Stafon Johnson appeared to run toward the 7,000 fans sitting in Galen Center.

Then he quickly switched directions and glided into the end zone for what would be the winning touchdown Saturday in the Trojans' 18-15 victory against Ohio State.

It wasn't just the Buckeyes' defense that was deceived.

Johnson's shiftiness appeared to leap out of the 40-by-22-foot screen in the middle of Galen Center, and served as the most memorable example of ESPN's first 3-D broadcast providing an in-game atmosphere for fans.

The USC fight song performed by the marching band, the cheerleaders' dance routines and T-shirt giveaways during timeouts also helped. Then there were the screaming fans who stood on top of the media tables during the Trojans' comeback effort.

Anthony Bailey, vice president for emerging technology at ESPN, said he was happy with the final results but was noncommittal about the future of such broadcasts.

ESPN officials distributed a 28-question survey to fans where the broadcast took place, which included ESPN Zones at L.A. Live and Anaheim, and theaters at Columbus, Ohio; Hurst, Texas, and Hartford, Conn. A joint effort between ESPN and Digital Market Research, a consulting firm based in New York, will analyze the results within the next week.

"That's important in evaluating what the next step would be," Bailey said.

Before the number crunching takes place, Bailey already has plenty of thoughts on how the broadcast might evolve. Eight cameras were used in the broadcast, and he foresees changing the main camera angle along the sideline.

That would mean replacing the cameras on each side of the 50-yard line with four cameras -- on both sides of the 30-yard lines. The wide shot along the 50-yard line lacked detail compared to the vivid close-up images provided by the two cameras covering both end zones.

Those cameras caught USC safety Taylor Mays grabbing his right leg before being taken out of the game in the first quarter; the tackle made by Ohio State's Nathan Williams that appeared to hurt the right arm of Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley in the third quarter and Johnson's touchdown run.

Three NBA games have been broadcast in 3-D as well as two other football games, the most recent Fox broadcast of last season's Bowl Championship Series title game in 81 theaters in 35 states. The telecast was roundly criticized for its shaky and out-of-focus camera use.

That wasn't an issue in Saturday's presentation, which also featured the first use of 3-D stereoscopic graphics, making the yellow first-down line and statistic boxes appear to jump off the screen.

"That was very important that we made sure cameras were always in focus and weren't losing our convergence," said Bailey, who said ESPN conducted nine internal broadcasts in the last three years. "We're very happy with how the teams delivered that."

ESPN used different camera crews, production trucks and announcing crews than what it had working its television broadcast. Announcers Mark Jones and Bob Davie and sideline reporter Ed Cunningham worked the 3-D broadcast, while Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit and reporter Lisa Salters worked television.

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mark.medina@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesmedina

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