With 3D going nowhere, sports broadcasters look to ‘freeD’


Burdened by funky glasses, a lack of programming and high prices, 3D television just isn’t catching on with consumers.

Now, the buzz is shifting to a video technology known as 4K. It provides a sharper picture by doubling the resolution of traditional high-definition sets.

But this time around, broadcasters aren’t waiting for consumers to buy the ultra-expensive Ultra HD televisions to give them some stunning videos.


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NBC plans to shoot a pair of Dallas Cowboys home games this season using 4K video cameras that are normally used in factories to inspect new products. The 12-megapixel cameras, manfactured by Teledyne DALSA, shoot at a fast 60 frames per second.

That pace and their high resolution will allow NBC to leverage a program from Replay Technologies Inc. to take any play and show a replay to viewers from any overhead angle — without having to move a single camera. Think of a fighting scene from sci-fi flick “The Matrix.” Replay calls it freeD.

Unlike 3D, scenes won’t pop out of the screen. But freeD promises to offer a more rounded, crisper and wider view of crucial plays near the goal line. Best of all, it’ll look good on any-old HD display.

The YES television network has used freeD during broadcasts of New York Yankees games to show plays near home plate. It takes about 30 seconds for YES to put together a freeD replay. See an example 10 seconds into the video below.

NBC tried out the technology during the 2012 London Olympics, too. One video played replays of vaults by U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney and men’s All-Around Champion Kohei Uchimura of Japan alongside each other and then on top of each other. NBC producers were able to seamlessly rotate the shots to show that Maroney leapt higher than her male counterpart despite starting from a lower bar. FreeD’s other appearance came during the 2012 PGA Players Championship golf tournament.


At AT&T Stadium in Texas, a dozen cameras will be mounted around each end zone during the Sept. 8 New York Giants-Cowboys game. NBC’s broadcasts of the Oct. 5 Notre Dame-Arizona State game and the Oct. 13 Washington Redskins-Cowboys game also are expected to see freeD use.

“Being able to seamlessly move from side to side and around an entire play without switching shots will entertain and inform the fans in Cowboys stadium and the National TV audience on NBC,” said Fred Gaudelli, NBC “Sunday Night Football” producer.

He added, “Fans will think they’re playing a video game or watching a sci-fi movie, but they’ll actually be viewing real NFL football as never presented before.”

The below video from Replay Technologies shows a mock-up of what the replay might look like.


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