Published December 08, 2008
LOS ANGELES – The first NFL game broadcast to theaters live in 3-D fumbled, then recovered Thursday night.
Two satellite glitches blacked out the broadcast to theaters in Boston, New York and Los Angeles in the first half of the game between the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers.
And on a few occasions, a quick camera movement or a refocusing — and one ill-advised dissolve — had viewers pulling off their polarized lenses.
But the Los Angeles audience was mostly forgiving, in awe of a spectacle that had depth and in some instances gave the feeling of being on the field, especially for the opening coin toss.
"It's amazing," said Chad Ahrendt, a 35-year-old writer from Los Angeles who attended the screening in Hollywood. "Technically they obviously have a little ways to go, but once they work out all the kinks, it's definitely the new era of television."
John Modell, 48, co-founder of 3ality Digital LLC, the Burbank-based company that put on the show for the NFL, said the demonstration was a good learning experience, and that team owners viewing in New York and Boston had told him they were pleased.
"They're all knocked out," he said.
The NFL has not decided what to do with the technology, but the team owners' broadcasting committee will meet some time before March to discuss it.
Howard Katz, the senior vice president of the NFL's broadcasting and media operations, has said the NFL is for now committed to free, over-the-air broadcasts if and when they adopt 3-D technology. Only about 2 percent of the nation's TV sets are equipped to handle 3-D broadcasts.
Fox Sports plans to broadcast college football's BCS National Championship game to 150 digital movie theaters in 3-D in January.
On Thursday, some systems at a Salt Lake City location had to be rebooted to restart the satellite feed and some camera crews performed pans that ended up leaving the viewers a bit cross-eyed, Modell said.
"Well, this is a test," he said. "It's a learning experience for the director and for the camera people how to shoot."
Some scenes clearly captured the benefits of 3-D broadcasts, however, such as an interception by Chargers linebacker Stephen Cooper as players crisscrossed the field, and a long touchdown catch by San Diego's Vincent Jackson with the arc of the ball caught on camera all the way.
Viewers were encouraged to text in their reaction to the viewing.
One of the first comments, according to the commentators: "More cheerleaders."