3D HD Presentations Make NAB Pop

By Carolyn Braff

Of all the buzzwords crisscrossing the show floor at NAB, one seemed to pop out – 3D HD. From Missy Elliot to the Dallas Mavericks, everyone was jumping into (and out of) 3D HD, making NAB 2008 a cornerstone for a future where 3D broadcasting is a reality. “It was a really good NAB, probably a historic NAB,” explains Mark Horton, strategic marketing manager for Quantel, one of a handful of companies to showcase 3D technology at NAB. “We will probably look back on this NAB as a turning point.”

Quantel was displaying Pablo, the world’s first 3D HD post-production system. According to Horton, every major sports broadcaster in the world stopped by the Quantel presentation, and many were so impressed that plans are already in motion to have pilot transmissions ready by month’s end.

“This time last year, the whole stereoscopic thing was really kicking off with Hollywood and that’s picked up momentum,” Horton explains. “Subsequently, the broadcasters have come on board with it as well. This is really a generational change. This is as big a change as black and white to color.”

The NBA is certainly doing its part to embrace the change. The only League to have ventured into 3D so far, the NBA has now shot three events in 3DHD and showed off its most recent success, a March 28 Los Angeles Clippers-Dallas Mavericks game, in a Live 3D Sports case study at NAB.

“The presentation was excellent,” says Michael Rokosa, vice president of engineering for NBA Entertainment. “We had a lot of buzz afterward from various organizations that have an interest in getting involved. We met with a couple of graphics companies that expressed an interest in digging deeper and a couple of international broadcasters and rights holders with the NBA that are interested in this for their marketplaces.”

The NBA presentation packed a standing room only crowd into the 350-seat theater and more than 700 visitors flowed through Quantel’s 28-person capacity showroom.

While NAB 2007 raised the question whether stereoscopic 3D was going to take hold, the 2008 event changed that if to a when.

“No one knows how long this is going to take,” Horton says. “It’s up to everyone involved to make it happen, but it’s simple – you show it to people, they like it, and then it’s just a matter of time.”

The NBA hopes to cut down on that lag time by bringing 3D into digital cinemas. The League debuted its 3D cinematic experience in Cleveland during last year’s NBA Finals and hopes to use the technology to expand the in-arena experience in every market.

“Courtside seats are very limited, so extending the venue to theaters where people could have a 10-game package is certainly not out of the question,” explains Stephen Hellmuth, EVP of operations and technology for NBA Entertainment. “It’s about the transformative aspect of sitting in that courtside seat. We create new fans with that process.”

After the theaters must come the home theaters, and the first step in that transformation lies with the broadcasters. As is the case in Japan, content will drive the distribution chain – one Japanese broadcaster already has stereoscopic transmissions running regularly on a 15-minute loop and has plans to deliver stereo 3D to viewers’ homes later this year. Horton says that the rest of the world is a bit further behind, but in-home delivery of 3D sporting events is not far off.

“The barriers are falling quickly,” Rokosa says. “There is plenty of bandwidth within the ATSE standard, so this is not a big bandwidth hog. We think gaming is going to want to run after this in a big way, also. I think it’s around the corner.”

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