Final Four Enters 3D Arena

CBS to broadcast 3D games to movie theaters

CBS will broadcast the 2010 NCAA Men's Final Four semifinal and national championship basketball games live in 3D after securing a sponsorship deal with set-maker LG Electronics, the network announced March 9.

CBS will use NEP's SS 3D production truck and PACE 3D Fusion cameras to capture the games in 3D, and rely on Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. to broadcast the games via satellite to paying customers in up to 100 theaters across the country. Cinedigm has previously broadcast Fox's 3D production of the 2009 BCS National Championship Game and Turner's 3D production of the 2009 NBA All-Star Saturday Night to digital cinemas equipped with Cinedigm receive equipment.

Fans attending the Final Four festivities in Indianapolis also can view the games in 3D on LG's LCD HDTVs at locations throughout Lucas Oil Stadium and at the NCAA's interactive fan event, "Bracket Town refreshed by Coca-Cola Zero."

"Bringing the Men's Final Four to consumers in 3D is a prime example of how LG strives to deliver something better - superior technology combined with an unparalleled viewing experience - for consumers," said Peter Reiner, senior VP of marketing for LG Electronics North America, in a statement. "As the official 3D Sponsor, we are excited to partner with CBS Sports to bring consumers this immersive 3D viewing experience and tap into the passion of college sports fans throughout the country."

"Cinedigm's experience, having brought the 2009 BCS Championship and the 2009 NBA All-Star Saturday Night events to theaters in live 3-D, has shown us that fans who attend will feel as though they have courtside seats," added Cinedigm Chairman and CEO Bud Mayo. "We're proud to work with our technology partner Sensio and with our growing national network of top-quality theaters to help bring fans one step closer to courtside."

The 3D games on Saturday, April 3 (6:00-11:00 PM, ET) and Monday, April 5 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET) will be fully-produced CBS Sports events with CBS College Sports Network announcers Dave Ryan and Steve Lappas calling the action.

CBS' 3D foray with the Final Four is not surprising, as CBS Sports Executive VP of Operations and Engineering Ken Aagaard has been an early supporter of using stereoscopic 3D technology for live sports. As B&C previously reported,  Aagaard has been considering for months whether it would be feasible to produce the Final Four or next month's The Masters golf tournament in 3D.  Last month Aagaard attended ESPN's test production in late February of a Harlem Globetrotters basketball game in Orlando where it used the same truck and cameras to produce both 3D and 2D broadcasts as well as the NBA All-Star Game in Dallas, where the NBA captured some 3D footage for later repurposing.
Aagaard has emphasized that networks will need support from set-makers to cover the extra cost of 3D. He said the Final Four production, which will be CBS' first in 3D, wouldn't have been possible without LG's support.

CBS will use five 3D cameras for the Final Four, including a robotic overhead camera on one basket, two handheld cameras under the baskets, and two hard cameras mounted higher up in the arena. The network may use a camera placed at midcourt to present a more conventional view of the game, and it is also considering cutting in some footage from 2D cameras and using new 2D-to-3D conversion technology to present it. Aagaard notes that CBS isn't obligated to run the same commercials as the 2D broadcast, and may insert some special 3D spots into the game.

The Final Four broadcasts will be the first live 3D production experience for both director Mark Grant and producer Ken Mack. CBS will use the college All-Star game this Friday night in Indianapolis as a 3D rehearsal, testing both camera positions and Cinedigm's satellite delivery system.

"It's our first time doing this, and we'll be learning as we go," he said.