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ESPN expands 3-D coverage of Masters

April 4, 2012 - 8:16 pm
Convergence operators look at a bank of screens in ESPN's main control room at Augusta National during Wednesday's practice round.  ANDREW DAVIS TUCKER/STAFF
Convergence operators look at a bank of screens in ESPN's main control room at Augusta National during Wednesday's practice round.
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By Billy Byler |


ESPN’s presence at the Masters Tournament will again include coverage on its 3-D network, and the production crew has expanded its broadcasts with more hours, technology and cameras.

ESPN’s 3-D broadcasts from Augusta National Golf Club started in 2010, before the creation of its ESPN 3-D network, with just 10 3-D cameras. Last year’s Masters, the first aired live in 3-D, had 18 cameras. This year the crew will work with 28 cameras covering the entire back nine.

“We feel pretty sound that we have the documentation we need for almost everything on the back nine with 28 cameras,” said Phil Orlins, ESPN’s coordinating producer for 3-D.

The Masters has regularly been broadcast with cutting-edge technology. It was one of the first sporting events broadcast in high definition.

“It’s as if (3-D is) made for golf,” said Paul Tobyansen, a 3-D stereographer. “The gimmicks of throwing a ball or club in your face, that’s not what we’re after, but we definitely want the wow factor.”

Orlins said the “wow factor” comes from Augusta’s undulating greens, deep bunkers and vivid colors, none of which translate on a two-dimensional screen nearly as well as on a 3-D broadcast.

“A flat playing surface is not going to look that much different in 3-D. So if you’re looking at basketball, football, baseball, tennis, whatever it is, there’s a lot of great things in it from a 3-D perspective, but there’s no real change in the perception of the playing surface itself because it’s flat,” he said. “So I think the first aspect you see is a three-dimensional surface or uneven terrain (of a golf course) will be much more impactful in 3-D than in 2-D. That is clearly one of the big things that people have responded to.”

The 3-D broadcast will include all four rounds of the tournament with three hours of daily coverage, slightly more airtime than a year ago.

Of the 28 3-D cameras on the course, 10 are shadow cameras - units mounted on the side of CBS’ two-dimensional cameras. Six cameras hang from strategic spots, such as a tree or TV tower, and are operated remotely. Humans operate the remaining 12 cameras.

A large module on the grounds of Augusta National house the production crew of about a dozen operators, who use video game-like controllers to adjust the distance between a 3-D camera’s two lenses and the point in space where the lenses’ focal points converge, establishing a shot’s foreground and background.

An adjacent module houses more producers and directors who communicate with the crew on the course, add graphics on screen and make sure the finished product is up to ESPN standards.

ESPN’s Terry Gannon will be the host for the 3-D broadcast Thursday and Friday. Mike Tirico will take over for the weekend with input from analysts Paul Azinger and Curtis Strange.

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