Towards the end of the conversation Matt suggested this would be a High Definition television tournament and I assumed he was he right.
By coincidence, since then I had my first real HD TV experience…on a huge 52” screen, no less…and perhaps, given all the ongoing World Cup shenanigans, unsurprisingly while watching footie.
I’d had brief glimpses of HD before but never a proper, sit-down, lengthy gawp so when a bunch of us went round last week to a mate’s to watch the pivotal England-Uruguay group stage World Cup game and were greeted by this majestic, magnificent 4-foot-4 monstrosity in the front room I knew my time had come.
Oddly, despite being suitably amazed with the quality of the picture from Sao Paulo on RTÉ 2 HD when we walked in just in time for the 8.00pm kick off, it was only when we cut to Gilesy, Dunphy, Brady and O’Herlihy back at base at half time that we realised the signal from Brazil, though initially impressive on such a large television, wasn’t in fact HD at all.
Or if it was, it wasn’t a very good one.
Despite the beauty of Suarez’s two strikes – especially if you’re of the anyone-but-England persuasion…I’m not – the match pictures being analysed in Dublin – and that we subsequently went back to for the second half – hadn’t the crisp sharpness of the studio ones.
This was a tad disappointing as I was, like Matt, under the impression this would be the first major global HD football tournament – and for a lucky few, a 4K Ultra HD (four times the resolution of normal HD) one.
Anyway, back in Studio 5 while we not only listened raptly to RTÉ’s learned panel’s analysis we also pondered the remarkable detail of their facial features now microscopically visible for all to see.
High definition can be a cruel mistress and certainly doesn’t make anyone prettier – ask many of those in the porn industry who have been reluctant to embrace its imperfection-exposing clarity – so it was no surprise that our ageist consensus in front of our mates 52” display was that HD wasn’t exactly doing our veteran quartet’s looks any favours. Sorry, gents.
But there’s no doubt HD in its ever advancing forms is the universal television viewing future. I’m by no means as confident about 3D…at least not for watching football.
Others have written more knowledgeably about the downsides of 3D in general and on my limited experience – god, I’ve lived a shockingly sheltered TV technology life, haven’t I? – I’m not convinced either.
Four and a half years ago I was invited by the Guardian’s Lisa O’Carroll to watch the very first Sky Sports broadcast of an English Premiership game in 3D in Fagan’s in Dublin’s Drumcondra, one of only a few pubs in Ireland and the UK specially chosen to show by invite only that day’s Arsenal–Manchester United clash.
And yes, being Fagan’s, of course Bertie Ahern – former Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and Fagan’s celebrity local – never one to turn down some free publicity, got his mug in the paper pretending to watch the game, though he was actually scurrying out of the pub as Lisa and I arrived before it even started.
He didn’t miss a whole pile, in fairness. I’ve no idea whether it was a good game or what the score was – ok, I’ve just Googled it: Utd won 3-1 at the Emirates – but I clearly remember being disappointed with the 3D experience.
And while Lisa quoted me in her Guardian article the next day, she hadn’t the space – at least, that’s what she told me at the time…whaaaat? – to go into detail on why the experience left me cold. Sure, the mandatory glasses didn’t help but my real problem was with the very nature of how football games are shot.
And I didn’t put my finger on this inherent shortcoming until the half time ad break.
The only commercial I remember from it was the one for the 3D hit animation movie of the time, Avatar.
And I remember it because most of the clips featured were framed right in the heart of the action. So for most of it I felt surrounded by all sorts of imaginary fantastic flying dinosaur creatures and ducked and dived in my seat as they swooped and banked around my head in alarming detail. It was an exhilarating 30”.
In football, on the other hand, all the cameras are on the outside looking in so I never got anything close to that same rush. Yes, I remember some nice 3D shots from behind the goal as Van der Sar took his goal kicks, and there was one particularly effective long shot of Ferguson and Wenger on the sidelines that seemed to highlight how close and yet so far apart they stood in their respective sideline technical areas.
But otherwise, nada. Now I presume it’s improved since but at the time I figured until they wear able to somehow put steadicams in the ball or cameras on individual players, the 3D football viewing experience would always come up short. And as far as I know they haven’t figured either out yet.
On the other hand I said that day in Fagan’s there’s one sport already rigged up where simply swapping in 3D cameras for the normal ones already in use would be spectacular for television viewers.
Formula 1 has more cameras around each circuit than you could shake a “Hello mum” sign at. More importantly, now that miniature camera technology is both affordable and produces surprisingly high quality pictures, it has them all over individual cars and even on the drivers.
Motorbike racing, which I never watch, I suspect does too.
So imagine the start of a Grand Prix in 3D from the perspective of the cars on the grid, low down to the ground and surrounded by 20-odd other glistening, revving, state-of-the-art driving machines as they accelerate away at frightening speed when the red lights disappear, jockeying dangerously for position through the first few bends mere centimetres apart.
Imagine the thrill of witnessing a spectacular overtaking manoeuvre from the perspective of the drivers involved.
Imagine a crash in 3D.
Now, ghoulish as it may sound, that I’d wear silly glasses for.
You might be interested in this on the ups and down of working in radio and TV over Xmas: https://www.patomahony.ie/2014/12/beginning-to-look-a-lot-like-christmas/