Imagining local news through 3-D lens


Look at your screen )) ... Screen ))))) ... SCREEN ))))))))) ...

Dimensionally, television is deepening. Post-"Avatar," 3-D TV is now a big, beeping blip on the industry's radar, even if hype is predictably overheated, generated mainly by manufacturers.

Last week, Cox Cable broadcast the Masters golf tournament in 3-D for those customers with compatible sets in Southern Nevada -- a relatively cozy little club for now.

Drawbacks? Cost (a 46-inch Samsung retails for $2,600, not including glasses, at $150 a pop); tech glitches (glasses give some viewers throbbing headaches); and, for the moment, anyway, a scarcity of 3-D content.

"Technology is going to provide the solution for easy viewing and the consumer will provide the solution on costs as more people purchase one, just like HD sets you can get now for under $500," says Juergen Barbusca, Cox's communications manager, though he says reliable figures for the number of subscribers with 3-D-ready sets here are unavailable.

Consequences for local TV news? Years away, perhaps, but intriguing to ponder. Granted, 3-D news viewing isn't the technology's sexiest come-on. Entertainment and sports -- and frankly, porn, which always drives tech advances -- are where the immersive action is.

Still, a new visual vocabulary would be high-tech catnip to stations. So -- hypothetically speaking, of course -- would news judgment shift when newscasts could take crime-scene and car-crash footage and wrap it around viewers?

"Tabloid television will still be tabloid and go to the extreme of having blood coming at you," says Channel 3 news chief Bob Stoldal. "But you'll still have the traditional newscasts."

However, Channel 8 honcho Ron Comings could envision caution warnings arising on daily news decisions. "Because of 3-D, I can't see taking people that close to some images, I'd be afraid," Comings says. "Would we change what we thought important to cover because they lend themselves to dramatic images in 3-D? I would hope that wouldn't be the case."

Similar questions arose when news went high-def, but 3-D would be a game-changer, transforming viewers from sideline spectators to near-participants in news stories.

Benefits? Weather and sports. Feel virtually spritzed inside a rain cloud image, or piggyback on a quarterback firing a bullet pass on the gridiron. Depth-enhanced graphics could be a journalistic jackpot, adding extra room for important info.

More significantly, though, the enhanced technology could finally force local newscasts to reconsider indulging their lesser impulses, ironically accomplishing what years of griping over content never could.

Viewers could be turned off enough to tune out when 2-D rubbernecking of accident stories or gawking at tearful, distraught family members and friends after a loved one is murdered becomes a vivid, 3-D, inside-the-anguish experience, feeling uncomfortably invasive and just plain grubby.

Should that cause news directors to rethink airing stories whose value is largely voyeuristic, it would be a crucial reversal, perhaps even extending to a station that feasts on fear, such as Channel 13.

True, it's in the future. But tomorrow -- i.e., iPads, iPhones, Twitter, HD -- is increasingly impatient to show up today.

For now, let's simply say: We'll see )) ... See ))))) ... SEE ))))))))) ...

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

 

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