Technology

MSG Proclaims 3D Hockey a Success

Raucous crowd enjoys viewing party 3/25/2010 10:15:38 AM Eastern

MSG
executives were enthusiastic over their 3D production Wednesday night (March
24) of the National Hockey League game between the New York Rangers and New
York Islanders, the first live 3D sports telecast to be delivered over cable
pipes.

"This
will be the future of sports television," said MSG Media President Mike Bair,
who added that he would like to produce a 3D concert event for the music
network Fuse this summer.

While
it is likely that only a handful of Cablevision subscribers actually got to see
the game on new 3D TV sets, which only hit store shelves two weeks ago, an
enthusiastic crowd of some 2,500 Rangers fans paid $20 apiece to watch the game
in the Theater at Madison Square Garden (the Theater can seat around 5,600, but
MSG blocked out a number of seats on the sides and rear of the Theater to
ensure fans got a quality 3D effect). Bair noted that such viewing parties
might be a good business in itself in the near term, as many Rangers and Knicks
games are sold out, particularly during the playoffs.

The
paying customers seemed to enjoy the 3D game, which was delivered using RealD's
digital cinema technology.  The crowd cheered
loudly throughout a contest that was crucial to the Rangers' slim playoff hopes
(the Rangers won 5-0). The game was produced using six 3D camera rigs from
3ality Digital, including three beamsplitters, two side-by-side units and a
robotic unit. Bair said that the production came together in just the past two
weeks, as MSG seized an opportunity to use 3ality's gear between a Black Eyed
Peas concert it produced earlier this month and the NAB show in Las Vegas next month.

Bair
said the short prep time made securing carriage of the 3D game with other
operators difficult, though MSG was open to it. Comcast will be carrying a 3D
broadcast of the Masters next month and DirecTV plans to launch three 3D
channels in June.

"It
was really just a timing issue," said Bair.

Scott
O'Neil, president of MSG Sports, said he was surprised by how quickly the
tickets for the viewing party sold out with such a short promotional window;
MSG just announced the 3D broadcast last week and began touting the viewing
party on its various channels and through radio spots and emails. He was also
impressed with how good the 3D footage looked, especially considering the only
3D hockey shot to date was some test footage from the outdoor Winter Classic at
Boston's Fenway Park
this winter. Andy Rosenberg, who has directed two 3D productions for the NBA
All-Star games, oversaw MSG's 3D production.

"There
aren't too many people who know too much about shooting a live game, so I
wasn't sure what the experience would be like," said O'Neil.

Both
Bair and O'Neil said that going forward, they would have to strike a balance
between the ideal camera positions for 3D and the "seat kills" that would
result, which require the Rangers to either move customers from their normal
seats or sell less tickets. Bair said that camera placements for 3D will be
closely considered as the Garden is renovated over the next year.

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