3D or not to 3D?

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Major League Baseball became the latest global sporting organisation to jump on the 3D bandwagon this week with the announcement that the New York Yankees' clash with the Seattle Mariners will be broadcast in the format next month, writes Simon Peach.

It marks baseball's entrance into the new era of broadcasting, joining a whole host of sports in embracing the technology, varying from cricket to football. The latter has been most notable in its adoption of 3D, with numerous Barclays Premier League games broadcast in the format since February 2010 via BSkyB, while ESPN has launched its own 3D network in time for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. But while the much–vaunted technology has received a plethora of admiring advances from across the world, there is one major issue: It's not very good. Not yet, anyway. On Sunday I enjoyed (or should I say endured) my first 3D sporting experience, with Sky Sports' coverage of the vital Premier League clash between Liverpool and Chelsea. It was fair to say I was like a giddy kid walking into a pub full to the brim with people huddling around a small flatscreen television donning cheap–looking sunglasses. As I bought a pint, paid a deposit for my glasses and took a pew in time for the big kick off, there was a sense of excitement and intrigue as the clock counted down on the television. But come game time that feeling turned to one of disappointment. Despite Sky Sports proudly airing soundbites from viewers such as 3D was "amazing", "it's just like being at the stadium" and "it's fantastic", the comments I heard in the pub that afternoon far less complimentary. It is supposed to be the dawn of a new era for sport and technology, but is it really? The Premier League is one of the most exciting sporting properties in the world, but at the moment 3D does not add to the spectacle. In its current state, there are not enough cameras, resources and, most pertinently, understanding of the technology for it to be successful. For the vast majority of the 90 minutes the only view you got was from a camera way up in back of a stand, panning the action from right to left, and back again. Yes, the players stood out slightly, but not enough to make a substantial difference and certainly not enough to make up for lack of replays, close–ups and extra analysis footage that you would have got with standard 2D coverage. The only time the 3D technology was truly embraced was in the close–up shots of the fans and the odd replay of an incident in the penalty box. As Salomon Kalou hurtled into the box and, ultimately, into the turf under a robust challenge from a Liverpool defender you could see the true potential of 3D. It did bring the action to life. You felt more involved and felt better able to understand the decisions and actions on the pitch. But then. . . snap. Back to the wide screen view and a sense of frustration. There is undoubted promise in 3D, that much is clear. But the problem is the technology has been rushed out far, far, far too quickly. The producers do not seem to know how to utilise the technology and have failed to understand what viewers want. Despite 3D sport obviously being in the Beta testing stage, there is a danger that the technology rolled out is not ready for the market. You wouldn't bake a cake without all the ingredients, just as you wouldn't try to sell a product that isn't ready. But my experience only stems from football and maybe other sports have found the right formula to bring the action to life and allow the same in–depth analysis that 2D television brings. My views on the 3D football experience may seem overly negative, but I really was not impressed. And it seems I am not the only one. The proprietor of the pub said the broadcast was good for business, but admitted the same folk aren't returning game after game. It's a new crowd for each 3D experience, suggesting viewers are disillusioned. The hype surrounding 3D has resulted in enormous interest from the general public, and with the likes of ice hockey, rugby league and tennis soon to enter the 3D revolution that will only continue. It can only be hoped that by the time producers have cracked how to utilise the technology properly, they haven't lost the people that matter, the viewers. About The Sport Briefing This story has been reproduced with the kind permission of The Sport Briefing. The Sport Briefing is published by PA Sport and can be found at: www. thesportbriefing. comSubscribers to Major Events International can take advantage ofexcellent discounted rates for The Sport Briefing. Sign up now to receive a 20% discount on your annual licence for TheSport Briefing. Special rates are also available for company–widesubscriptions. Subscribers receive a daily digest or up to 30 stories from across every sector of the global sports industry, access to the 24–sevenwww. thesportbriefing. com website and a hard copy of the quarterlymagazine. For more information, email info@thesportbriefing. com or call +(0) 44 207 963 7888.

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