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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 8, 2010

Soccer: World Cup final among 25 matches to be broadcast in 3-D

AP Sports Writer

LONDON The World Cup final at Soccer City in Johannesburg will be among 25 matches at this year's tournament broadcast in 3-D.

Twenty-five of the 64 matches in South Africa will be filmed by at least seven pairs of cameras, with record five-time World Cup winner Brazil the most featured team. All three of its group matches are among the 15 first-round games scheduled for broadcast.

The United States' only scheduled 3-D match is against Slovenia on June 18 in Johannesburg.

Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Argentina, South Korea and Nigeria will each appear twice, with England and France among the 10 sides which must advance to stand a chance of their matches being shown in the format.

The first World Cup match broadcast in 3-D will be the opening game between South Africa and Mexico at Soccer City. Four more of the 10 World Cup venues will participate in the venture: Ellis Park in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth.

"We wanted to make sure the key matches would be in the production schedule," FIFA director of TV Niclas Ericson said. "There was a lot of other reasons such as production constraints and other issues such as space."

The 3-D footage will be broadcast live to home viewers in 26 countries and at dedicated public events.

Home viewers pair the necessary 3-D television with so-called active shutter glasses, which are battery-powered and work by stopping the image to each eye alternately at a high rate.

The image quality is superior to that possible on cinema screens. Cinema audiences will wear the same passive polarizing glasses used for 3-D screenings of movies such as "Avatar."

But an exhibition of both systems at Thursday's announcement using action from last year's Confederations Cup showed that the bigger cinema screen compensates for any lower quality.

There is little difference to traditional images in wide shots, but close-up images leap from the screen as players tussle for the ball or run toward camera.

Fans will be able to watch the 3-D matches at dedicated sites at Soccer City, Cape Town and Durban, as well as in cinemas and at fan festivals, modeled on the fan zones that took off in Germany during the 2006 World Cup, and in cities including Berlin, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City.

FIFA has three confirmed 3-D broadcasters, including ESPN, and may announce more before the June 11-July 11 tournament. Spain, Britain and the United States have dedicated 3-D channels and FIFA expects Japan to have one before the tournament starts.

Sony declined to say how much it spent on the project, but expects its outlay to be covered by licensing fees to broadcasters.

"The whole premise is that we wanted to balance the project," Ericson said. "We're happy to say the project is on track."

Three of the seven camera positions with be above field level, albeit at about half the height of regular 2-D elevated cameras. The other four will be at field level.

Ericson said FIFA expects "a few hundred thousand" fans in total to watch games in 3-D.

Sony is filming the matches and said its technology, which was tested at last year's eight-nation Confederations Cup, was as important as the shift from black-and-white to color.

Sony Professional Europe marketing director David Bush said the first time he ever watched color TV was during the 1970 World Cup.

"I was among about 25 neighbors crowded around a TV watching that great Brazilian team of Pele and Jarzinho break Italian hearts," Bush said. "This is the next paradigm shift."