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MSG Goes 3D for Hockey

It took just two and half minutes into the New York Rangers v. New York Islanders hockey game to deliver what many curious fans watching the 3D telecast wanted to see: the first 3D hockey fight. While the fight itself didn’t amount to much, the 3D aspect didn’t disappoint.

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers saves a shot from Matt Moulson #26 of the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
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Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers saves a shot from Matt Moulson #26 of the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

It’s unknown how many fans at home own 3D capable sets and watched the 3D telecast, but those that did saw a work in progress. Certain camera angles worked better than others. Low and off-to-the-side angles provided an amazing 3D experience. Larger overhead shots provided little new beyond what you get from an HD broadcast. Fans standing up in front of the cameras turned into a 3D distraction. Overall the 3D effect is enhanced at slower speeds, so the speed of the players often reduced the effect.

None of this seemed to matter to the 2,000 fans who paid $20 each to sit in the Theater at Madison Square Garden for the game. They came to be a part of the first network hockey telecast ever produced in 3D. For MSG Sports President Scott O’Neil the telecast is a way of extending the Ranger hockey experience. “Hockey live is a wonderful escape but it doesn’t always translate to TV. If you can capture the live experience, you have something special.”

MSG officials aren’t saying what it cost to be the first network in America to offer home viewers a live 3D sports telecast but it certainly wasn’t cheap. A total of six cameras were used in the telecast, including a robocam previously used for underwater scientific research on loan from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. That camera was mounted on the glass above one of the nets. Technicians laid more than 10,000 feet of fiber throughout the arena, theater and transmission area. Two 3D capable transmission trucks, in addition to the two trucks already required for an HD telecast, were brought on site. 3,500 pairs of 3D polarized glasses were distributed in the theater and around MSG.

Beyond the technical requirements, the team had to replace the glass in front of the 3D cameras to provide the clearest viewing experience. Another concern: Dirt and smudges on the glass surrounding the ice. So in a fitting tribute to the Times Square area just a few blocks away, squeegee men worked to keep the glass clean during intermissions.

There’s no plan in place for another 3D telecast but you can bet we’ll see it sooner rather than later. As TV producers and stadium officials learn the best techniques for capturing the 3D effect, the experience will only get better. Will that give fans another reason to say home than go to the Garden? MSG’s O’Neil doesn’t see a problem. “We have 18,200 fans that are here every night. There’s nothing that can replace that communal experience of a live event. But there are also a lot more people in this area that want to see Rangers hockey. This gives those fans that for whatever reason can’t come to the game the best possible experience.”

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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