Yankees/Mariners Set To Make 3D History Via DirecTV, YES Network

Major League Baseball will get the 3D treatment on the weekend of July 10. DirecTV, YES Network, and FSN Northwest will work together to produce and deliver two New York Yankees-Seattle Mariners games in 3D to viewers. The 3D telecasts from Safeco Field in Seattle will be available to viewers in the home team footprint of both YES and FSN, and additional national coverage is under discussion.

“This is important to learn not only how to produce baseball in 3D but also how to make it part of day-to-day baseball productions,” says Eric Shanks, EVP of entertainment for DirecTV. “Reaching home-team markets is essential for us to find a way to do ongoing 3D productions.”

NEP SS3D will be used for the telecast, and the production team is figuring out whether it will have six or eight cameras. “We’re looking at traditional camera positions,” says YES Network COO Ray Hopkins, “but, to get the traditional 3D effect, low-home camera positions are better.”

The telecasts will serve an important role for the Fox Sports national network, since some production personnel involved with the coverage will also work on the 3D production of the MLB All-Star Game on July 13 in Anaheim, CA. The team from PACE, led by CEO Vince Pace, will oversee the productions in both Seattle and Anaheim.

“There will at least be some experience when the All-Star game is broadcast in 3D, and it will help make the All-Star game coverage perfect,” says Shanks. “Getting two games under the belt of the production teams is key.”

As for future 3D telecasts, Hopkins says that much depends on the success of this production and also the ability to work with distribution partners and sponsors. “Moving forward, we will see how immersive 3D can be and then weigh, from a business standpoint, how best to mount 3D productions beyond 2010.”

DirecTV will take a similar approach and gauge the interest of the regional sports networks, Shanks says. “We’re going to learn a lot about the economics through the course of 2010-11,” he adds, “and there won’t be a week without some sporting event being produced in 3D.”

Will 3D baseball be a home run? Shanks says tests recently completed with high school baseball teams in Anaheim showed the potential of 3D and baseball.

“There were some really interesting shots from the centerfield camera,” he says. “When the runner is on second base, you can see the depth between the runner, the pitcher, and the batter, and the camera really does give a good depth of field.”

The YES home-team footprint includes all of New York State and Connecticut, north and central New Jersey, and northeast Pennsylvania. The 3D telecasts will also air in the entire states of Washington, Oregon, and Alaska and parts of Montana and Idaho.

“Our latest collaboration with DirecTV reflects our commitment to explore new technologies, which further immerse viewers in our telecasts,” says Hopkins. “These revolutionary telecasts speak to the power of the Yankees brand and strengthen YES’s leadership position in terms of bringing new viewer enhancements to market.”

Beginning in June, DirecTV HD customers will receive a free software upgrade providing access to dedicated 3D channels: N3D powered by Panasonic, ESPN 3D, a 3D DirecTV Cinema channel, and a 3D DirecTV On Demand channel. The customers will need a 3D television set and 3D glasses to view the 3D programming.

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