CES: Sony, Fox Complete 3D HD Football Drive

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CES '09: Complete Coverage from Broadcasting & Cable

Las Vegas -- The 3D HD broadcast of the BCS college football championship game to VIP guests at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas Thursday night was a bit like the University of Florida’s performance in the game itself: a shaky start with a solid finish.

Staged at the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show, the broadcast, which was sponsored by Sony and produced by Fox using 3D HD production equipment from 3ality Digital, was plagued during the first half by audio problems—static, fade-outs and loud popping noises. 3ality and Sony executives said the audio hiccups were caused by malfunctioning satellite downlink equipment and were limited to the Paris Hotel location.

The 82 theaters nationwide that showed the 3D game didn’t experience any audio problems, said 3ality president Sandy Climan. One of those was the Rave theater in Las Vegas; CBS affiliate KLAS aired a report in Thursday's newscast showing happy fans at the Rave praising the "being there" effect of 3D.

Resetting the satellite receiver equipment during halftime solved the audio buffering problem at the Paris theater for the most part, with only intermittent audio glitches during the second half.

The video wasn’t affected. The 3D HD pictures, which were displayed by a Sony 4K digital cinema projector using image processors and 3D glasses from RealD, were mostly crisp, with only occasional blurs during quick camera pans, though the 3D cameras had trouble keeping up with kickoffs and long passes.

At times, the 3D images were stunning, perhaps never more so than when confetti filled the air at Dolphin Stadium in Miami to celebrate Florida’s 24-14 victory over Oklahoma. The confetti appeared to be floating off the screen and into the air in the Paris theater. Fox’s 3D graphics also consistently leapt off the screen.

Despite the audio problems, the combination of a competitive game and 3D HD pictures elicited a strong reaction from the crowd, with a few audience members leaping to their feet to celebrate big plays. Alec Shapiro, senior VP of Sony Electronics' Broadcast and Production Systems, described the event, which drew executives from networks, sports leagues and cable operators, as an overall success. 

“We had a couple glitches, but for the first time doing an event of this size and scope, it went pretty smoothly,” said Shapiro.

Shapiro’s boss, Sony Chairman and CEO Sir Howard Stringer, also popped in to the Paris theater late in the second quarter to catch some of the 3D football action. Stringer, who had touted the 3D BCS production in his CES keynote address Thursday morning while showing off 3D HD sports and movie content, said he was mostly pleased with what he saw and that perfecting the 3D HD medium was a matter of “technical adjustments.”

“You can see the potential there,” said Stringer, who noted that Sony’s 3D HD demos in its booth, which used Playstation 3 game consoles and prototype LCD sets, had drawn long lines of CES attendees.

“In combination, we’ve advanced the cause of 3D a long way this week,” said Stringer.

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