The Masters: 3D and the human dimension

  • Article by: JOHN RASH
  • Updated: April 12, 2010 - 3:07 PM

If 3D is ever going to transition from the big screen to the small one, it will be because of events like the Masters Golf Tournament. Azaleas and dogwoods among the doglegs provide a backdrop so vivid that the august Augusta National Golf Course is as big a draw as the golfers themselves.

A preview from Comcast of the highly-hyped technology didn't disappoint. Beyond the extra dimension of natural beauty, the perception in depth was particularly enriching for a game that's all about distance from the pin.

But what works in the Cineplex may not work as well in living rooms. A 3D movie is an event, with 3D glasses making it a lean-forward, single-focus media moment. TV viewing, conversely, is usually a lean-back (if not lie down) experience, and increasingly involves media multitasking, like reading a magazine or using a laptop along with watching the set. Wearing 3D glasses in the living room disrupts that, along with the eye contact crucial to conversations that are often a part of viewing events like the Masters.

And no matter how impressive television in the third dimension is, it's still the human dimension that will determine the success of any television event. The Masters, for instance, featured the sports psychodrama of Tiger Woods' return as the big story. But like any great drama, there was a twist: His great golfing rival, Phil Mickelson, won his third green jacket, and won over hearts with his teary embrace of his wife, Amy, who has been battling breast cancer.

The contrast with Woods, whose wife, Elin, did not attend, was stark. And yet the similarities between Woods and Mickelson, while subtle, were equally as compelling. Playing what's arguably the most mentally taxing sport, both have a remarkable ability to compartmentalize: Woods was able to set aside a sensational sex scandal to finish fourth, and Mickelson was able to be at his professional best when his personal life is perhaps at its worst.

The 3D preview came during Friday's second round, and showed that despite the many hurdles ahead, it's probably a question of when, not if, 3D becomes the norm. But it will still come down to emotive moments like Sunday's 18th hole hug (which would have been just as compelling on the old black and white set in the garage), to make sports, and media, memories.

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