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'Hockey Night in Canada' in 3D has rough start but technology shows promise

TORONTO - Saturday marked CBC's first foray into 3D for "Hockey Night In Canada"—and unfortunately, it showed.

The Canadian Press reviewed the game with a new 3D TV on loan from Panasonic, the sponsor of the inaugural 3D hockey broadcast, and after several days of watching all kinds of different content and seeing how cool 3D can look, "Hockey Night in Canada" was a bit disappointing.

The broadcast had its moments and the potential for using 3D in future games was clear, but the quality of presentation was far from perfect. And CBC's nonstop shilling for the technology made it feel like an infomercial for 3D with hockey squeezed in.

Ron MacLean was quoted as saying he thinks 3D will have 10 times the impact high definition did, and Kelly Hrudey kicked off the show by saying, "it is the wave of the future, it's not a gimmick."

It'd be one thing if the breathless gushing about the technology stopped when the puck dropped but it went on all night long, even while play was on.

And it was a bit comical to see the on-air talent keep their glasses on for the entire broadcast as to if to say to the audience _ "we know you're stuck wearing them so we will too."

Hopefully by the time CBC's next 3D broadcast rolls around—on Feb. 20, when the Calgary Flames host the Montreal Canadiens for the outdoor Heritage Classic from McMahon Stadium—they'll just let the technology speak for itself.

Hockey fans thinking they might want to get in on the next 3D game should know what to expect. Watching a game in 3D isn't about sensing that pucks are coming through the screen—although you might get that feeling if a puck were to be shot straight at a camera. The real experience is the enhanced sense of depth that makes it feel like you can see deep into the screen, like looking out a window, or actually sitting in the stands at the arena.

During scrambles in front of the net there's a better sense of how players jam the outside of the crease and battle for space. The referees also had a knack for getting in the way of the shot, which actually just added to the 3D effect.

Shots from cameras positioned along the glass give an impressive view that competes with sitting rinkside. But it's not necessarily the best angle to actually follow the action—as cool as it is to see—and CBC was guilty a few times of lingering too long with angles that showed off the 3D effect but didn't follow the play well.

For that reason, it may just be that replays are better suited to those really cool angles that maximize the 3D effect.

CBC also had a few other nagging problems that should hopefully be addressed in future broadcasts, like distracting glare and reflections off the sideboard glass, and focus issues that made 3D-induced headaches feel even worse.

And while CBC did a nice job of putting its onscreen graphics in 3D, the effect was actually too good for the game clock and scoreboard, which sat too far in the foreground and were distracting.

In fairness, it was CBC's first attempt at delivering a game in 3D, and putting on a live production will inevitably have its fair share of glitches. CBC has some time to figure out how to improve the broadcast for the Heritage Classic, and because it's an outdoor game, there will be more control over camera placement and getting the right angles to maximize the 3D effect.

Next time they should leave the excessive 3D talk to the pre-game show, or at least intermissions. And no need for a pre-game skit, like the one on Saturday night starring Gordon Pinsent as "the professor" of 3D. Someone should've told the writers that even though a Justin Bieber joke may have seemed obligatory, it probably fell flat with the hockey-loving audience.

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