Because so few people actually own 3D-capable TVs, Comcast hosted 3D viewing events of the 2010 Masters Golf Tournament to get the word out and to encourage new TV purchases. (For more on the Masters in 3D, click here).

Comcast threw the invitation-only parties in several cities around the country at the same time it delivered the Masters Tournament in 3D through dedicated 3D channels that showed about two hours of live footage per day.

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. (For more on CableLabs’ work with 3D, click here).

Broberg said top/bottom is the horizontal offset between the two images that preserves the depth fidelity.

Perhaps the side-by-side choice is one reason the Masters coverage didn’t seem to pop out at the viewer in the same way as did "Avatar."

Gary Sasaki, president of digdia, said the tournament at Augusta National Golf Course probably seemed more impressive to golfers.

"If you’re a golfer, you’re used to standing behind your partner as they’re hitting the golf ball," said Sasaki. "Your experience might be more familiar, more comfortable in 3D."
 
He added, "But your stereoscopic vision kind of goes away after 15 or so feet. Put an optic 20 feet away, and then cover the left and right eye and see if eyes see much different stuff. If you put that object five feet away, there’s a big difference."

Comcast’s promotion materials of the event said, "Viewers will be able to experience the course’s undulating greens, steep bunkers, countless azaleas and hundred-year-old trees."

And the foliage was impressive in 3D. It provided depth interest that wasn’t always apparent during the golf action.

Sasaki said golf coverage requires at least one stereoscopic camera at the tee off being shot, but highly action-oriented sports such as 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. You know what the focal distance is ahead of time pretty reliably."

For the Masters in 3D, Comcast transmitted the coverage through a dedicated 3D channel in1080i 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.

"This is the same rate that we typically deliver for live 2D HD sportscasts," said the spokesman.

"It’s a business decision how much bandwidth is allocated," said Sasaki. (For more, click here).

Whether operators will be willing to spare more bandwidth for higher-quality 3D is yet to be seen. (For more on bandwidth considerations, click here).

"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

The Daily

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