The wait is finally over. The excitement that’s been building since The Masters announced their 3D plans, is coming to a crescendo as coverage of the first of pro golf’s four major tours is being delivered on television and online like never before.
Having visited Augusta National Golf Club on two different occasions, I can honestly say the 3D coverage I saw today of the tournament’s opening round, produced by The Masters, made me feel like I was actually in the gallery watching some of the world’s best golfers up close and in person. I thought it might be interesting to share a behind-the-scenes look at what went into making this historic broadcast possible.
As you might imagine, it was quite an honor when The Masters asked us earlier this year to help them with their first 3D production. We’ve been providing television service to the Augusta community, including Augusta National Golf Club, for almost four decades. We worked with them to deliver the first golf HD broadcast years ago, and today we’re using our national fiber backbone to make a little history again with the first live, national next-generation 3D broadcast of a major sporting event on TV and online.
It’s been exciting to work with the Masters, Sony and IBM in the weeks leading up to the Tournament. Our engineers, led by Mark Francisco (check out Scott’s interview with Mark), have been on the ground in Augusta and in Comcast Labs in Philadelphia and Denver preparing for this. And they’ll be onsite at Augusta National through the last putt on 18 on Sunday, making sure it all works.
So how are we doing this? Read on…and for those of you don’t want to get caught in the technical rough, you can skip to the last paragraph.
Here we go. The 3D production feed being created by The Masters uses footage shot by multiple cameras on the course. These cameras produce two distinct images – one for the right eye and one for the left eye – that are fed to a production truck where 3D expert Vince Pace of Pace Digital produces the feed in real-time that goes onto Comcast’s fiber network in Augusta. From there, it travels as two IP-encapsulated video streams to our Comcast Media Center.
At the CMC, we’re using RealD 3D multiplexing technology to combine the two separate images into a single 1080I side-by-side format to create the television and Internet 3D viewing experience. We’re creating and transmitting multiple video formats (MPEG2, MPEG4 and VC-1) across our national fiber backbone to providers nationally and internationally. Once the signal reaches consumers’ homes, an advanced HD set-top box, connected to a new 3DTV via HDMI, displays the side-by-side images together, creating the 3D picture for anyone wearing 3D glasses. And online, IBM is taking our 3D video signal from the CMC, and streaming it from www.masters.com.
Seems complex, huh? It is, but that’s the magic of what we do every day. We take care of the technical details, so you can simply turn on your television or log onto the Internet to enjoy great content. Or in the case of The Masters in 3D, you can get a glimpse of the future of TV…today.