Augusta National Golf Club and Comcast have announced a partnership to deliver the Masters Tournament in 3D to U.S. homes. Consumers with new 3D TVs and 3D-enabled PCs will be able to watch the Masters live in 3D from April 7-11.

The 2010 Masters will be produced in 3D by placing multiple 3D cameras strategically throughout the course, primarily focusing on the second nine.

"Augusta is actually handling the production," said Mark Francisco, Comcast Fellow. "We receive a left-right and audio feed from them."

Engineers in Comcast Labs have been testing transmission of footage from Augusta National over the past few weeks, according to a blog posting last night from Derek Harrar, SVP GM video and entertainment, with Comcast Media & Entertainment.

Comcast will use its fiber network to carry a 3D production feed provided to the Comcast Media Center, where the feed will be packaged for distribution to Comcast systems and the Masters website. Comcast systems will transmit the coverage through a dedicated 3D channel that will show about two hours of live footage per day.

Only those early adopters who have 3D TVs or special PC gadgets will actually be able to watch the 3D coverage. To watch on a PC, viewers will need a 3D media player, 3D monitor and 3D glasses.

Francisco acknowledged there aren’t very many 3D TVs in the market, yet. He said consumers could record the tournament on a regular DVR and watch it later on a 3D TV.

"The set-top doesn’t know 3D," said Francisco. "It’s broadcast in panelized side by side format. To the set-top it’s just another HD stream."

Viewers with regular TV sets who tune to the 3D channel will see the 1080i feed with left and right images set next to each other.

"I don’t think you would want to watch that very long," said Francisco.

Sony/IBM

Sony will support the effort as a sponsor, along with supplying the latest advances in camera and TV equipment. Comcast and IBM, the tournament’s technology partner, will combine efforts to offer the 3D feed via www.masters.com.?

Two hours of live afternoon 3D coverage will be available each day beginning with the Par 3 Contest on April 7 and continuing throughout the four tournament rounds, April 8-11. Traditional Masters Tournament coverage will continue to be available in HD on CBS and ESPN with highlights On Demand and online.?

The Masters Tournament has been broadcast by CBS since 1956 and, beginning in 2007, early round coverage has been televised by ESPN. In 1993, the Masters introduced its first HD production and became the first golf tournament presented live in HD on network TV in 2000.

-Linda Hardesty

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