ESPN will produce and televise the Sept. 14 USC-Ohio
State college-football game in 3-D, marking the first time the programmer has
distributed a live 3-D sporting event to fans.
Viewers will be able to watch the game -- set for Ohio
Stadium in Columbus, Ohio
-- for free on the University of Southern
California campus in Los
Angeles and in several theaters around the U.S.
The test production is designed to help ESPN better
understand the 3-D technology from a consumer and technical perspective, said
network executive vice president of technology Chuck Pagano.
"This is part of the learning process," he said. "It's an opportunity
for us to see how it might change the way we do things and will help us gauge fan
"It isn't a dry run for a business or the launch of a
channel. It isn't a dry run for anything other than trying to get our arms
around it to see how we might do our business in the future, if and when it
does become a reality," he added.
ESPN will create two distinct productions of the game, using
separate equipment, crews and announcers. ESPN and ESPN HD will carry the
standard and high-definition telecasts to home viewers.
A separate 3-D production will use Pace cameras and an NEP
truck that has been equipped to handle three-dimensional images. Mark Jones and
Bob Davie will announce the 3-D game, with free screenings of the live game
offered at the Galen Center on the USC
campus and in theaters in Columbus, Ohio; Hartford, Conn.; and Hurt, Texas.
Fans in each will be given an opportunity to win free tickets over the radio;
ESPN will not sell tickets to the event.
On the technical side, ESPN will experiment with the best
way to shoot a game in 3-D and try to get a better sense of which camera angles
work best, Pagano said. It will also be the first time that ESPN has tried to
incorporate 3-D graphics into a live 3-D production.
While ESPN has made no commitment to launch 3-D services, the
production comes at a time when a number of television programmers and pay TV
providers are actively exploring 3-D's potential.
In the U.S.,
both Fox Sports and TNT have been involved
in 3-D productions and ESPN has been experimenting with the technology for
about three years. "We've put maybe seven or eight things in the can," Pagano
3-D programming is already available via satellite and in the United
Kingdom, both the BBC
and BSkyB have experimented with the technology. This summer, BSkyB announced
that it will launch regular 3-D programming in 2010.
A number of hurdles remain, however, before the technology
finds it way to multichannel television. Transmission standards have yet to be
developed and relatively few 3-D-capable sets have been sold, though consumer
electronic manufacturers are expected to roll-out a number of 3D capable models
at CES in January.
Cost is another issue. For the moment, ESPN and others have
had to shoot separate 3-D and HD productions, making it a much more expensive
process. "We don't have an answer yet as to whether it will be possible to
produce both at the same time," Pagano said.
Stereoscopic productions and high-quality HD productions are
also likely to place heavy demands on bandwidth. Even though ESPN has made no
decision on the possible launch of 3-D service, the programmer built a 3 Gigabits-per-second
infrastructure for the new facility it opened in Los
Angeles this spring and is expanding the capacity of
its fiber network.
"Everything that is coming up will be a bandwidth hog
and we're trying to make certain we have all our bases covered for the new
generations of HD and 3-D," he said. "I tend to be a boy scout. I'd rather be
prepared than be reactive."