Looking to get the word out, Comcast hosted 3D viewing events of the 2010 Masters Golf Tournament to encourage new TV purchases.

The MSO threw the invitation-only parties in several cities, showing two hours of live footage daily.

For the Masters in 3D, Comcast transmitted the coverage in 1080i side-by-side format to the Comcast Media Center, where it was packaged to 18.75 Mbps using MPEG 2 and a RealD multiplexer for final delivery to the home, according to a Comcast spokesman, who added, "This is the same rate that we typically deliver for live 2D HD sportscasts."

Although David Broberg, VP of consumer video technology at CableLabs, has said the preferred format is the top/bottom solution, the Masters was delivered in side-by-side format. Broberg described top/bottom as the horizontal offset between two images that preserves depth fidelity.

Perhaps the side-by-side choice is one reason the Masters coverage didn’t affect viewers in the same way as did "Avatar." According to Gary Sasaki, president of digdia, "If you’re a golfer, you’re used to standing behind your partner as they’re hitting the golf ball. Your experience might be more familiar, more comfortable in 3D."

Comcast’s promotional materials said, "Viewers will be able to experience the course’s undulating greens, steep bunkers, countless azaleas and hundred-year-old trees." And the foliage apparently was impressive in 3D, providing depth interest that wasn’t always apparent previously.

Sasaki said golf coverage requires at least one stereoscopic camera at the tee off, but highly action-oriented sports like basketball would require more 3D cameras.

"The synchronization of cameras is easier to do with golf because you don’t have to coordinate things with other cameras," he said. "With golf, you can control where people are."

Whether operators will be willing to spare more bandwidth for higher-quality 3D is yet to be seen. "For 3D, you’re tending to allocate more bandwidth for precision and alignment of pixels for left and right eye," Sasaki said. “Compression plays with the pixels. The less compression you have to deal with, the higher the fidelity of the image."

– Linda Hardesty

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