digital reporter

TI plan gives 3-D HD sporting chance on TV

The technology of 3-D, traditionally associated with cinema, is zooming closer to the tele-vision screen thanks to content created for high-speed sporting events like NASCAR races.

In February, Texas Instruments brought its digital light processing technology to the NASCAR Busch Series' Stater Brothers 300 at the California Speedway in Fontana. There, the company collaborated with production entity 3ality Digital to capture the speed and excitement inherent to NASCAR events for 3-D high-definition TV.

The footage shot by 3ality will be edited into a music video-like sequence to showcase the high-adrenaline nature of the sport. It will feature the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet race car operated by Hall of Fame Racing, a team run by Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman and driver Bill Saunders. That footage, part of the DLP Reality Zone mobile marketing unit, will be on display next month at the Texas Motor Speedway.

The traveling trade show is designed to showcase TI's DLP technology and the benefits of watching races in 3-D HD. One room shows how TI's technology is used in projectors, another emphasizes its use in tele-vision, and a third shows the 3-D effect on the big screen.

"Consumers are starting to see 3-D in a very comfortable environment," says Nancy Fares, GM of DLP Cinema at TI. "We're painting the picture to say, 'Look, you can have this on the big screen, and in the future, you can buy a DLP TV to actually watch 3-D sports in the home.' "

3-D HD proponents say the technology gives the most lifelike viewing experience away from the event.

The NBA recently became involved with 3-D HD when it teamed with Pace, creators of the Fusion 3-D camera, during a live viewing party held last month at the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas. The NBA used five Pace HD camera systems to film the game inside Thomas & Mack Center, providing a live feed on a 45-foot screen for 3,500 guests at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino.

Pace's advanced imaging system initially was designed in collaboration with director-producer James Cameron. While that experiment centered on the production aspect of 3-D, the DLP technology involves the projection of footage and the 3-D viewing experience itself.

The brain that powers the processing behind DLP technology is a digital chip no larger than a postage stamp. The clips have millions of tiny mirrors that deliver a precise, vibrant image. They also have a 16-microsecond pixel response time, allowing them to deliver the fastest motion video performance of any HDTV.

"At the end of the day, this 'brain' processes the image onto the screen, whether it's a screen 50 feet or 50 inches, whether at your house or cinema," Fares says.

She explains that with DLP, it's the millions of mirrors — each moving 5,000 times per second and carrying a single piece of data — that make the technology such a good fit for high-speed sports.

"The fast switching of the mirrors, and because they're individually controlled, enables every single moment of motion to be drawn and projected on the screen, whether television or cinema," she says.

On the big screen, DLP technology was used by the Walt Disney Co. in the 2005 animated film "Chicken Little" and the upcoming "Meet the Robinsons."

"Animation is computer-generated for the most part, so producers didn't have to deal with the part of filming it in 3-D, and that's significant," Fares says.

Having already made inroads in movie theaters, Fares expects the technology to become increasingly popular with TV viewers. With the technology already available, she says, the question is whether broadcasters will start using it.

Meanwhile, NASCAR appears to be hooked. "It's exciting for them to share with their fan base a new immersive experience of the sport," Fares says.