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Sony, Fox Detail 3D HD Plans

Sony Electronics has struck a deal with Fox Sports to sponsor the network’s 3D HD broadcast of the FedEx Bowl Championship Series (BCS) college football national championship game on Jan. 8 between the University of Florida and University of Oklahoma, which will be shown to VIP guests at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and delivered to 80 3D-equipped theaters across the U.S.

The Fox 3D HD broadcast, which was first announced by Fox Sports Chairman David Hill at a 3D conference in Los Angeles earlier this month, will also be supported by 3D camera vendor 3Ality Digital, 3D projection specialist RealD and digital cinema firm Cinedigm. Representatives from Sony, Fox and the other companies involved are expected to formally announce the project today at the Sports Video Group’s annual League Technology Summit in New York.

The January 8 3D HD broadcast will be produced separately from Fox’s standard HD broadcast, using a dedicated Game Creek Video mobile production truck outfitted with 3Ality’s cameras and processing equipment. The broadcast will be transmitted via Cinedigm’s CineLive satellite distribution network from Dolphin Stadium in Miami to an event sponsored by Sony in the Paris Hotel and Casino’s Theatre des Arts in Las Vegas. There, over 1,200 invited guests from the CES show will view the live 3D game, which will be displayed by a Sony SXRD 4K projection system.

RealD’s 3D stereoscopic Cinema System, which includes digital cinema screen technology and glasses, will enable the audience to view the game in 3D. RealD is a co-sponsor of the CES theater presentation with Sony.

3Ality and RealD have already collaborated on a live 3D HD sports broadcast, as they provided the underlying technology for the NFL’s demonstration broadcast of a game between the San Diego Chargers and Los Angeles Raiders earlier this month.

Cinedigm’s satellite network will broadcast the signal nationally to 80 Cinedigm-enabled theaters, which will charge an undisclosed amount to watch the live 3D HD game. Cinedigm is already working with TNT and the National Basketball Association to broadcast the NBA All-Star Saturday Night event in 3D to its theaters, which are charging $18-22 per ticket for that event.

While several TV set manufacturers are expected to show 3D-capable consumer displays at CES, the long-term business prospects for stereoscopic 3D HD remain unclear. Several industry insiders suggest the pay-per-view events are the most likely play for the 3D format, which bears additional production costs because it requires separate cameras.

But regardless of 3D HD’s potential, sponsoring the 3D HD broadcast of the BCS game is a good fit for Sony, says Alec Shapiro, senior vice president of Sony Electronics’ Broadcast and Production Systems, because it shows off the full breadth of the company’s production and display technology. In addition to its 4K projector, Sony’s cameras will be used in 3Ality’s camera rigs, and Sony plans to demonstrate prototype 3D-capable consumer displays on both the CES show floor and at the Paris Hotel event.

“I think it’s something we’re very capable of doing,” says Shapiro. “It’s a lens-to-living room story. We’re at the forefront of 3D production, just like we were at the forefront of HD.”