The grain of the hardwood floor was in pristine stain. One could easily discern the rotation of the ball in flight on long 3s. Flailing arms and hands in pursuit of loose balls sprang onto the screen.
The scene: Neulion’s Live 4K streaming presentation of the Jan. 15 matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks from London’s O2 arena at NBA headquarters in New York.
BT Sports produced the game in 4K – the first for a major U.S. sports league – which delivers 4000DPIs, quadruple the resolution of images seen on most high-definition TVs.
Executives at Neulion, which also streamed Knicks-Bucks live to executives and clients in its San Diego office and who will be showcasing the Global Game contest to others, talked up the imminent promise of 4K. They mentioned how many TVs are already properly equipped; that Hollywood is up-converting or filming to some degree in the format; that GoPro cameras and Samsung Galaxy phones can capture images thusly; that Comcast, DirecTV, Netflix and Amazon are in the game: that IPTV protocol will afford consumers personal 4K choices.
Still, the likelihood that consumers will get to see a lot of sports in 4K anytime soon is remote.
NBA executive vice president of operations and technology Steve Hellmuth, on a phone call from London during the telecast, said 4K cameras are in fairly wide play in the production flow, citing ESPN's use during some NBA games to cover everything for referees’ replays. He also noted that Fox filmed some of the 2014 World Series action in the format, as did CBS during Super Bowl XVIII.
Full-scale 4K production is another matter, though. Asked if TNT might shoot the 2015 All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden in the format, Hellmuth said it physically can’t happen: there aren’t any mobile production trucks in the States yet.
That's expected to change in April when the Mobile TV Group is scheduled to roll up a truck armed with a full array of 4K-capable equipment to the NAB convention in Las Vegas.
Might that mean use during the NBA Finals, or other events? Sports fans should hope so.
BT Sports/Neulion’s images were spectacular on the 65-inch TV screen in Olympic Tower.
When New York’s Carmelo Anthony lowered his shoulder and drove Milwaukee’s John Henson to the floor before Buck teammate Jared Dudley hacked the crap out of the Knicks star from behind, you could feel each of the player's pain.
A close-up of an O.J. Mayo baseline jumper over Shane Larkin accentuated the height and lift differential between the opponents.
In short, 4K provided real courtside vistas of the proceedings.
Conversely, at points there was also a bit too much reality reproduction. A view of the wrinkles in Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s neck as he waved to the London crowd was better left unseen, while the bald spot/hole in the beard of Milwaukee's Mayo became all too noticeable during a halftime interview
One final visual takeaway from the 4K telecast: Phil Jackson’s 2014-15 New York Knicks suck in any format.
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