Guest Chair: 3D Needs Work, But Could Be The Next Part of NHL’s TV Evolution

Here’s a guesting opinion from Steve Chernoski – Director of “New Jersey: The Movie” on the 3D broadcast of Rangers-Islanders last night. Would you like to sit in the guest chair? E-mail Steve at SMLepore@comcast.net

The NHL evolved on Wednesday. MSG Network’s 3D broadcast of the New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers last night could be perceived as a tacky gimmick to cash in on the latest 3D craze created by Avatar. Or it can be seen as another sea change in how sports are viewed in general. Whatever the consensus is, history was made last night. Cablevision offered the game in 3D to those who had HD capable TVs, making this game the first NHL contest broadcast in 3D to home viewers in history. For those wanting the fan atmosphere combined with the virtual experience, there was a broadcast of the game at the Theater at MSG, which adjoins Madison Square Garden Arena where the Rangers play.

For some in attendance, it was an experiment that was overly flawed. A couple people voiced their displeasure about the broadcast to me after the game. They commented that the screen wasn’t large enough and the Plexiglas dividers proved to be big visual obstacles. However, that was a small minority. A large majority of the people I interviewed, were very pleased with the product they witnessed last night. One person commented that when the camera was on a low angle shot, the hits along the boards gave you that necessary next step; the “being there” feel. I even saw one fan that mimicked banging on the boards after one of these hits.

At the theater, it was a packed house, but surprisingly sedate. The Ranger fans outnumbered and expectedly out cheered the Islander fans at times, but the mood was very movie theater-like most of the time. I wore my Devils’ jersey and didn’t even get booed or harassed! It was like we were already pre-programmed to automatically turn off our cell phones, eat popcorn and hush up during most of the action. This was greatly apparent when some former Rangers turned up in the Theater to be interviewed during the breaks in the game. Mike Richter and Ron Duguay spoke early on, and Mark Messier was given a hero’s welcome. But as time wore on, the interviews went past the breaks. Adam Graves, Ron Greschner, and Nick Fotiu were victims of bad hosting and were tuned out by the crowd, as if theatergoers were telling “that loud movie theater guy” to shut up and sit down.

For me, my expectations were very low going into the event. With images of the glowing puck in mind, I thought this try by the league would fail. The verdict? It was incredibly awesome. At some point, I even thought players might progress into some Matrix-style combat. It looked somewhere close to being at the game in real life and computer generated NHL players on Xbox and that wasn’t a bad thing.

During the 1st intermission, fans in attendance were even treated to highlights from the Winter Classic in Boston and during the 2nd, a short aerial movie shot over a Hawaiian island was shown. The 3D depth was apparent much of the time, but not all. The low cameras provided the best viewing experience. As mentioned before, the hitting against the glass truly benefitted most from the technology., but it would have been nice to see a goal scored from that low vantage point.

The producers do need to figure out how to get the camera higher and avoid the glass. But even with that drawback, it was somewhat interesting to see fans at the actual game, walking to their seats with cotton candy. They looked like they could have been in the theater itself.

I thought about the timing of this event. Was the NHL merely piggybacking on the new 3D pandemonium or was this the next logical step, especially considering the high ratings during the Winter Olympics and the continued success of the Winter Classic? Well, the NHL needed to be the first of the major professional sports to capitalize on this opportunity and they did so. Buzz has been created. Hockey has made national American news headlines for two straight months . . . and the playoffs haven’t even begun. If the costs of producing this can become cost effective, and the technology continues to develop, this has the potential to become mainstream. The way we watch hockey on TV is going to change drastically – all for the good.

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About stevelepore
Steve Lepore is the Managing Editor of Puck the Media. His work has been featured in The Hockey News. Feel free to contact him at stevemlepore@gmail.com

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