I just spent an hour and a half watching test footage of The Masters in 3D and I was blown away.
I didn’t have high expectations. I walked into SNY Studios at Rockefeller centre thinking 3D TV would never really take off. But Comcast’s demonstration of the technology, with footage of professional golfers swinging away on the Augusta National Golf Course, changed my mind.
The studio was set up with three different models for watching 3D TV: A Sony TV expected to hit markets in June, an LG Japanese model TV, and a Pacer laptop.
Although I didn’t realise it until I saw a side-by-side comparison of 3D footage to HD footage, the third dimension is really an amazing new way to watch events on TV.
The LG and Pacer sets use “passive” 3D technology, which uses polarization to create an illusion of depth. Special polarised glasses are required for this technology, but are far cheaper than the electronically controlling shutter glasses whose lenses rapidly open and close. These are essential to the “active technology” used by models such as the Sony 3D set.
In my opinion, the passive sets produced a better, more stable picture. Their plastic glasses are cheaper and far more comfortable to wear, too.
Watching the game is an excellent experience if you are sitting directly in front of the TV, about six to 10 feet away.
Despite its impressiveness, however, the 3D footage was not perfect: trees in the foreground were blurry; flags waving in the wind hurt your eyes.
Mark Hess, Comcast’s senior VP of product development, told me these errors have more to do with production than anything else.
Vince Pace, who worked with James Cameron on Avatar, was hired by Augusta to head filming and production. According to Hess, Pace is using the test footage I saw today to perfect camera angles and ensure these imperfections will be gone next week.
Augusta approached Comcast (its cable provider) in hopes of airing the Tournament live in 3D on Masters.com. The technology transitioned so well, however, that Comcast decided to offer it free to households across the US. And their services aren’t limited to their subscribers; Comcast is distributing the 3D production feed to Cox, Cablevision, Time Warner, Shaw (in Canada), and several outlets in Europe as well.
Now that I’ve seen the technology, I think 3D TV could really become the next big thing.
There’s a reason why Panasonic sold out of their 3D TVs just a week after their $2,900 models hit Best Buy.
- If you are in the market for a new TV in the next few years, you will buy a 3D TV. This is because “3D TVs” aren’t exclusively 3D — manufacturers are making HD TVs with 3D capability, Comcast Fellow and engineer Mike Francisco told us. Switching from HD to 3D will be as simple as pushing a button, although they will be much more expensive for now.
- While some “active” glasses are battery-powered and as much as $150 a pop, many sets are opting for “passive” technology. The glasses for these TVs could cost as little as one dollar each, and will be available starting this summer. Plus, they work just as well — if not better.
- 3D TV isn’t like the movies. Things don’t fly out at you and make you feel sick. The Masters in 3D has all of the subtlety of the Masters in HD, but adds depth, angles, and the contours of the course.
- 3D glasses won’t be necessary. 3D technology, sans glasses, is currently in the works, and should be ready for the consumer market within the next five to 10 years.
While the consumer market, and TV programming companies, play catch up, I recommend putting on those goofy glasses and giving 3D TV a try.
While it won’t be great for watching the MTV’s The Jersey Shore or the news every night, putting on the glasses will be worth it for a good movie or boxing match. And, of course, Tiger Woods.
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