NBA going high tech

Mandalay guests can view all-stars in 3-D

Showbiz and the sports biz are beginning a love affair with the 3-D format, propelling the National Basketball Assn. to experiment with the first-ever live sports events that will air in 3-D high definition: the primetime NBA All-Star Game festivities from Las Vegas on TNT.

It’s an experiment because the only people who’ll be able to watch the programming in 3-D on Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. ET will be guests of the league at two theaters set up at Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Hotel.

Technology company Pace has designed five 3-D HD camera systems that will cover all of the action at the Thomas and Mack Center. The Pace blueprint calls for two HD cameras to be built in to each of the five systems, working together to transmit the 3-D images. Invitees will need glasses to get the full 3-D effect.

A special director will take charge of the 3-D coverage, said Steve Hellmuth, senior VP of operations and technology for NBA Entertainment, “but the widescreen depth of field is so immersive that there’ll be far fewer cuts than in the standard-definition version, and the cameras won’t have to move as much.”

Hellmuth bills the experience as “about as close as you can get to having courtside seats.”

In the works is at least one game of the NBA Finals in June. If, say, it’s Dallas and Detroit in the Finals, and the game is taking place in Dallas, the 3-D HD coverage might be fed to paying customers in the Palace at Auburn Hills, Mich., and to some theaters in the Detroit area.

The NBA claims to be the first pro-sports league to deliver live games to cell phones, the first to feature live games in high def on its wholly owned channel NBA TV and the first to engineer a live video Webcast of a game.

TNT will carry both the All-Star Game on Sunday and what it calls “All-Star Saturday Night,” which includes events like the Slam Dunk contest and the Three-Point Shootout.

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