What a difference a year can make. The first time we got our eyes on 3D sports, we saw a lot of promise during the 2009 BCS Championship -- but it was marred by technical glitches and a lack of onscreen information during the game. This weekend we settled into a local movie theater to check out a presentation of semifinal round games from the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in our lengthiest experience with 3D yet. Not a lot has changed in the theater with the same passive RealD glasses, but the quality of what's on screen has gone way, way up.
For basketball, most of the camera angles were similar to a videogame, mostly using sideline shots that seemed lower than we're used to on HDTV broadcasts. For the price of a $25 ticket for both games, it was a reasonable approximation of seats 10-15 rows up in Indianapolis; Lucas Oil Stadium that would have cost considerably more. Other angles included a skycam view that we probably liked the best, which was supplemented by cameramen positioned under each basket for a front-row view of the action and a couple of views from over each basket and behind the student section that varied in quality depending on what was going on in the game. The picture was sharp and the motion was easy to keep track of, though there were still a few times when it seemed to lose focus, especially during the first game. We've never had a problem keeping track of the ball during a match, but spying passing lanes and the aim of long jump shots was far easier than viewing in 2D. There's no mistake about it, 3D brought us closer to the action -- even from hundreds of miles away -- than we were previously used to.
Another thing we worried about was eye fatigue. With both games stretching even longer than Avatar, how much could we take? But even over our prescription eyeglasses, we never got too tired or strained, though breaks in the action and between games probably helped. Actually, it was those breaks in the action that were our largest complaint -- in an event sponsored by CBS and LG, a constant reel of the same four or five commercials for the Infinia 3DTV and various TV shows had us ready to scream even before De'Sean Butler's knee gave out. The viewing seemed to go over well with others in the half-full theater, with comments on the extra depth provided by 3D topping the list of benefits. If our team of choice had put up a W, we'd probably be headed back for the finals tonight, but it turns out even a great broadcast can't ease the heartbreak of a last second loss and a questionable no-call. Duke and Butler fans who can't find their way to the stadium may want to give it a look right now, but as for us, we'll be waiting for the next high profile event that catches our actively shuttered eye.