Just a few years ago, 3-D television was the next big thing in home entertainment, and sports was the next big thing in 3-D. Now, 3-D is a minor feature in television sets, kind of like automatic dimming or a memory card slot. And 3D sports broadcasts, while catching on in some countries, aren’t common place in the United States. Today’s Super Bowl will not be televised in 3-D; the broadcaster, CBS, is not currently producing any original 3-D programming.
Keeping the Super Bowl a 2-D event makes a certain amount of sense. The Super Bowl is typically viewed in large groups—I’m going to a Super Bowl party today, you may be too. And it can be tough to find the decent 3-D viewing angles for a crowd in a typical living room, though 3-D broadcasts in pubs in the U.K. have worked out just fine.
Just because it's going to be done in 2-D doesn't mean the Super Bowl is a simple broadcast to produce. A regular season game has cameras at fewer than 30 different positions, for today's broadcast CBS will more than double that number, to 62, says Howard Postley, CTO of 3ality Technica, who wrote about the challenges of producing sports broadcasts in 3-D in the November issue of Spectrum.
Meanwhile, true 3-D sports broadcasts on traditional networks seem to be fading away in the United States. ESPN, the network that had pioneered some of the early 3-D sports broadcasts in the U.S., has moved on to what they call 5-D TV. It sounds great, but it’s more like two-and-a-half D; the 3-D camera rigs are used to capture both a 2-D image and a 3-D image, meaning the broadcast cannot necessarily be optimized for 3-D.
“I think 3D channels are destined to go Over the Top,” Postley says, that is, delivered via the Internet instead of through traditional broadcast channels.
Photo: Randy Sagar/ESPN
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.