NBA All-Star Saturday Night Goes 3D Across Nation

By Ken Kerschbaumer

Rim-rattling slam dunks at the 2009 National Baskeball Association All-Star Saturday Night will reverberate around the nation as the NBA, Turner Sports, and Cinedigm Digital Cinema (formerly AccessIT) team up to broadcast TNT’s coverage of NBA All-Star Saturday Night in live 3D to 80 digitally equipped theaters across the United States. “The NBA has teased fans with 3D, and Mark Cuban gave 500 Mavericks fans a chance to watch a game in a theater in Dallas last year but now fans in 80 theaters nationwide will be able to participate in NBA Weekend,” says Steve Hellmuth, NBA EVP, Operations and Technology.

The live 3D HD event will be shown on up to 160 screens in Carmike Cinemas, Celebration Cinemas, Cinema West, Emagine, Galaxy Theatres, Marquee Cinemas, MJR, NCG, Rave Motion Pictures, Showcase, and UltraStar Cinema locations and will serve fans in 35 states across the country.

“When the general public gets a chance to see sports in 3D and especially live events, they will be blown away,” says Jonathan Dern, president of Cinedigm. “It’s not only the best seat in the house, but, in some cases, it’s better than being there.”

Cinedigm delivered a live 2D college-basketball game between the University of Texas and Texas A&M to 15 theaters in Texas last February. It has never delivered a live 3D event, but it has done tests and trials. “We’re ready to roll,” says Dern.

“The Cinelive system anamorphically squeezes the left- and right-eye video frames onto a single frame and then compresses it for delivery over satellite and decompresses it at the theater using Real D technology,” says Hellmuth.

Dern says the Cinelive system keeps the left- and right-eye streams in sync and also allows a 3D signal to pass over 2D transmission pipes. Compression technology developed with Sensio and IDC takes compresses the signal on-site and delivers it to Cinedigm’s network operations center in Chatsworth, CA. The NOC then delivers the content to the cinemas via satellite. A decoder then receives the signal and can pass it out to multiple 3D capable projectors.

The 24th annual NBA All-Star Saturday Night broadcast is scheduled to air on Saturday Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. ET on TNT. Last year’s NBA All-Star Saturday Night on TNT was the most watched in the event’s 23-year history.

Hellmuth credits David Levy, president of Turner Sports and TBS, with the idea. “Turner Sports is excited to work with Cinedigm to extend our brand, as well as that of NBA All-Star Weekend, into a new arena through this creative and innovative viewing opportunity,” says Levy. “We are proud to once again be on the cutting edge in providing NBA fans with a truly unique and comprehensive 3D viewing experience during NBA All-Star Weekend. This partnership demonstrates that Turner continues to provide new and innovative concepts for NBA fans to enhance the viewing experience.”

“Cinedigm is the only company that can deliver live 3D broadcast on a nationwide scale to cinemas, and we are thrilled to be working with Turner Sports and the NBA on this event,” says Bud Mayo, chairman and CEO of Cinedigm.

The NBA featured the first live sports event in 3D HD with special viewing parties for NBA All-Star 2007 in Las Vegas. For Game 2 of the Finals in 2007, at the direction of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the NBA delivered the first public viewing of a live sporting event in 3D HD when more than 14,000 fans in the Quicken Loans Arena watched the Cavaliers take on the San Antonio Spurs on four 60-foot screens.

Last season, the Dallas Mavericks produced and delivered the first live 3D HD sporting event to a motion-picture theater at the Landmark Theater in Dallas to 500 fans.

“After people see the slam-dunk contest, skills competition, and three-point shootout in 3D, they’ll be so blown away that any event in 3D will be a hit,” says Dern. “I don’t think there is any concern of cannibalizing television viewers because it is such and immersive and different experience.”

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