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Best: Baseball in 3-D has potential to be a big hit

Yankees' Marcus Thames, left, and Brett Gardner high-five

Yankees' Marcus Thames, left, and Brett Gardner high-five after scoring on a double by Derek Jeter against the Seattle Mariners during the fourth inning, Sunday. (July 11, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

I have seen the future of televised baseball, and it looked a little intimidating, frankly, what with both the ball and 6-7, 290-pound CC Sabathia moving in my direction in glorious 3-D.

That was only one of a number of arresting images Sunday during a YES screening of the Yankees-Mariners game, the second in Major League Baseball history produced in 3-D for home viewing.

(The first was Saturday night's Yankees-Mariners game.)

From a weird, in-your-face closeup of Ichiro's feet to a pitch ricocheting off Brett Gardner's batting helmet, 3-D did what it does best: offer unusual views of common sports scenes.

And as with all 3-D events, the best views were from ground level, where the depth of field allows the technology to do its thing most dramatically.

The joint YES-DirecTV production was the latest in a series of live 3-D sports experiments, a process that has accelerated now that sets are on the market for early adopters.

Football, basketball, hockey, soccer, golf and other sports have had their turns - including a Rangers-Islanders game on MSG in March that marked the first live 3-D event available for home use.

This weekend, it was baseball's turn, with the technology set to go national for Monday night's Home Run Derby on ESPN and Tuesday's All-Star Game on Fox.

So how does baseball look in three dimensions? Pretty good, actually.

One advantage it has over most sports is that players are more evenly spaced than in, say, football or hockey, which enhances the effect of seeing them in both the foreground and distance.

The catcher, umpire and batter appear as three men stranded on an island, as are the lonely pitcher and the fielders behind him.

It helps that much of the time, baseball players are standing still. The 3-D effect was more disorienting earlier in the day as the World Cup finalists ran hither and yon over a soccer field.

YES used only five cameras, compared with 12 for a normal telecast, and three were at ground level for maximum 3-D impact. (The higher the angle, the more 3-D looks 2-D.)

The idea mostly was to tinker with ways in which to incorporate 3-D shots into telecasts as the technology improves and more people buy sets to make the added production expense worthwhile.

"The good news is it works,'' said John Filippelli, YES' president of production and programming. "The shots are spectacular.''

But he added the key will be producers and directors learning to work with the new tool.

"Don't go so much by what you see today, although you'll see some great things,'' he said. "Think of it in two years or three years when this is really defined. HD took some time to define . . . Obviously, this is not a finished process. It's a natural evolution.

"I underscore the word 'potential.' The potential for this is huge.''

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