Open Letter to ESPN 3D

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

By Jennifer B. Davis

On the occasion of the announcement of the first-ever NBA telecast on ESPN 3D, here is an open letter to the executives of the network.

Dear ESPN 3D,

I am writing as a concerned fan and as a fellow-traveler in this crazy world we call “3D in the home.”

First, I have to say that I appreciate your leadership and vision with regards to 3D. In similar fashion, you lead the charge to HD and I only became a fan of sports watching once I saw it in high-definition. I share your belief that 3D will be to sports what HD has been to sports, but only if we solve some of the fundamental problems with the medium. Problems, frankly, that you are proliferating.

Allow me to explain. When I go to http://espn.go.com/3d/, I am told that to experience ESPN 3D I need three things: 1) a 3D TV, 2) Active 3D glasses, and 3) a compatible set-top box. I have no concerns with your #3 (that is your business), but I have a problem with #1 and #2. They just don’t tell the whole story.

I am concerned that your fans will take your advice and rush out to buy a small, 3D TV to serve up their new cable channel. They probably won’t get great service from the big box store in which they will shop. They probably will end up with a compromised, mass-marketed display with mediocre performance on a small screen (when compared to being in the stands, courtside, or on the green at the sporting events you will shoot in 3D). They’ll want to experience the thrills and spills of their favorite sports with the same realism they get at the game (the promise of 3D), but instead they’ll see something that looks like a diorama or dollhouse (more like foos ball than hockey). If they want the realism that is possible, they need the immersion that they get not with a 3D TV, but with a truly big-screen experience of a projector, like the new Runco 3Dimension™ Series D-73d. Projectors and screens are a solution that you don’t even mention on your website.

Along with the 3D TV, you tell them they will need glasses. That technically is true, as autostereo (glasses-free) 3D impacts display resolution and viewing angles too dramatically to make it a viable option for the home any time soon. However, you show a picture of Active 3D glasses (of course, designed to go with the 3D TVs that you recommend). This isn’t the sports fans’ only option. They can watch 3D in their home using glasses that are as stylish as sunglasses they may buy. Prescription glasses wearers can choose clip-on or custom-ordered prescription glasses. Kids can have glasses designed for their smaller faces. All of this is possible with Runco’s PreciseLight™ system used with our projection systems. This innovation results in more comfortable and compelling 3D (with no batteries to wear down or replace), yet it isn’t represented in your description of 3D.

The most discriminating sports fans will want to replicate the view from the 50 yard line or the 9th hole green and their 3D experience will lack that realism, that immersion, and the excitement of being “there.” This kind of involvement in sports watching is possible, but not with the technology you are advocating. If your customers had a Runco D-73d projector in their home, their experience would be incredible, the feedback they would give to their family, friends, and neighbors would help you sell more cable packages for your new 3D channel, and we’d truly embark on a new era for sports watching in the home.

I am a big believer in 3D. I love that you had the vision to be one of the first to announce and deliver 3D content into the home and applaud your efforts to improve the state-of-the-art in camera recording techniques, editing and distribution technologies. I ask that you show that same vision to the display technologies that you recommend.


Jennifer Davis

P.S. I am excited to see the Miami Heat (and its new core of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) versus the New York Knicks on Friday, Dec. 17 in a 3D broadcast from Madison Square Garden and, rest assured, we'll be watching it on a 3Dimension Series D-73d here at Runco. I am hoping by the time that the other eight regular-season NBA games air on the new ESPN 3D (like the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic which are coming up after the first of the year), and certainly in time for the play-offs, you'll acknowledge that consumers have a choice for 3D Done Right.

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