Sports

3-D NFL Comes To Movie Theaters

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The NFL broadcast Thursday a 3-D version of the San Diego Chargers-Oakland Raiders game in three theaters in Los Angeles, New York and Boston. This latest attempt to bring 3-D to an NFL audience is being designed by a company in Burbank, Calif.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block. Last night, at theaters in Hollywood, Boston and New York, tech geeks and football fans rubbed elbows. They were watching the first live-action, three-dimensional broadcast of a professional football game. Skye Rohde took in the sights in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of NFL Broadcast)

Unidentified Announcer: We're under way, the first NFL telecast broadcast in 3-D.

SKYE ROHDE: OK. So, it was the San Diego Chargers, who were four and eight, versus the Oakland Raiders, who were three and nine. San Diego won 34 to seven. And a Burbank, California-based company called 3ality Digital broadcast the whole thing in 3-D.

(Soundbite of NFL Broadcast)

Unidentified Announcer: Tom was driving the pile, first carry tonight the Tomlinson...

ROHDE: When you film in 3-D, you use two cameras that converge on a single point. Those funky glasses help you see what's on film as if it were jumping out of the screen right in front of you. What 3ality has done, with the assistance of two other companies, Real-D and Technicolor, is create a tool that keeps the lenses of the two cameras working precisely together. Steve Schklair is founder and CEO. He says it's easy to win skeptics over to this format.

Mr. STEVE SCHKLAIR (CEO, 3ality Digital): Put them in front of a screen for 30 seconds, and that's about all it takes. And the light bulbs go off, and then everybody loves it. Nobody has looked at football or other sports on a 3-D screen and went, ah, that's not very interesting. Unanimously, people look at it and they go, holy cow, that's amazing.

(Soundbite of crowd shouting)

ROHDE: Last night's broadcast was an invite-only affair held at the three theaters for 1200 people, from electronics companies and the NFL's broadcasting partners and a few rabid football fans, like TV film producer Chad Marshall. He begged his way into the Mann Chinese Six Theater in Hollywood, and he wasn't disappointed.

Mr. CHAD MARSHALL (Film Producer): This gives you much more of a visual feeling because you actually do feel that much even more in the game. And it's - it does have a feel like you really feel like you're in the game, where you're sitting in the front row at the stadium. So, that's kind of neat.

Ms. AUTUMN YUDALL (Marketing Consultant): If you really like the football, but you don't have the cold, that's the perfect way to see it.

ROHDE: Autumn Yudall(ph) runs a marketing and branding company in nearby Santa Monica.

Ms. YUDALL: I really, really enjoyed it. And when the ball is coming to you, you're sitting there and you see it, and you're like - you can't help but put your arms out. It's fantastic.

ROHDE: Sport and football in particular has been pushing the envelope for TV experimentation ever since the first pro football game was broadcast in 1939. Victoria Johnson is a professor of film and media studies at UC Irvine.

Professor VICTORIA JOHNSON (Film and Media Studies, University of California-Irvine): Sports tends to represent the ideals of broadcast television in terms of pulling together the largest, most diversified audiences live in real time, while also taking advantage of all of the bells and whistles of the newest technological media applications.

ROHDE: And that's the stuff that will get football fans pumped up, says Dave Chesnick at Northeastern University Center for the Study of Sport and Society.

Professor DAVE CHESNICK (Center for the Study of Sport and Society, Northeastern University): The main consumer group, which is probably males aged 18 to 35 or 40, I think they're probably pretty excited about it. I don't know if it means they're excited enough to venture out of the comfort of home. I wonder if it will take actually bringing the technology into the home to really generate the excitement that they're shooting for.

ROHDE: Twelve hundred theaters around the country are now 3-D capable, but the real payoff for the NFL and 3ality just might arrive with the next generation of televisions. There are already a few brands of 3-D enabled TVs on the market, and more are on the way. 3ality CEO Steve Schklair has lots of plans for his business, but he won't say anything about them, except that more 3-D events will come first to theaters, then sports bars, then living rooms around the U.S.

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

ROHDE: The response to last night's broadcast was favorable, despite of a few satellite glitches and a few fuzzy moments on screen. The constructive criticism heard most frequently was - no surprise - the request for more shots of the cheerleaders. For NPR News, I'm Skye Rohde in Los Angeles.

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