Thursday, May 27, 2010

TV review: 3D or not 3D

I have seen the future. And it looks very much like Ian Holloway is standing in the corner of the pub.

Blackpool’s play-off game against Cardiff – "the richest game in football" itself – provided the entertainment as I dipped my toe into the brave new world of 3D football courtesy of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Sports.

Actually too new a world. What a disappointment not to see the old cardboard specs with the coloured cellophane. At least then if the game had been dull I could have pretended that I was actually on a date at a 1950s drive-in movie theatre somewhere in America.

A fantasy that would have lasted until as long as it took me to realise that I was actually sat next to a septuagenarian – and temporarily one-armed – photographer.

Anyway the new specs are actually cheap and nasty black plastic that leave you looking like the world’s worst Men In Black impersonator. And they immediately turn everyone into a comedian: "Never knew there was so many blind men drank in here on a Saturday afternoon." You get the drift. My sides literally didn't ache.

Do you remember those funny patterned things that were inexplicably popular in the Nineties? The one’s that if you screwed your face up for long enough an image of a dinosaur or Whigfield jumped out at you.

Well I could never see them. Everyone else would have walked away saying "wow, it was a Ferrari" and I’d still be squinting like a young Denis Law an hour later.

So I was worried that I’d not actually be able to see the benefits of 3D TV. Apparently this displays my ignorance of both technology and the human eye.

This was confirmed before kick off when as if by magic Ian Holloway and Dave Jones were both suddenly jumping out of the screen. I was agog.

Trust me, when your only previous experience of televisual 3D was that risible Doctor Who Children in Need effort in 1993, what Sky are doing is spectacular.

At least in close up. It’s amazing when Holloway looks like he’s about to go to join you for a pint (I reckon he’d last for one and a half excitable one liners before you were shoving him back through the TV) or when they focus on someone in the crowd. Sky’s graphics department are the big winners, the channel’s over reliance on shiny trophies and spinning club crests has never looked so good.

But for the meat and drink stuff: when the camera is actually following the game it’s just so-so. The clarity is remarkable but is that not what HD is for? The 3D stuff looks like an extra gimmick that the technology hasn’t fully caught up with yet.

With separate coverage of the game on different channels, and with most pubs only having one 3D screen, there is a temptation to look round for different camera angles on the main sports channel. But to get a clearer picture of that you’ve got to flick the glasses away. It all ends in a bit of a kerfuffle rather than in the promised land.

The initial impact is excellent but about an hour in – and it was a cracking game – I was wondering if I’d not rather be watching it on normal TV, sans glasses from Coco the Clown’s House of Crap.

Mind you, not even his – surely somewhat embarrassed - dentist has ever had a better view of Charlie Adams’ chaotic arrangement of gnashers.