Monday, 19 April 2010

Football in 3-D: The Beautiful Game

blog for the skinny

As it's bright and sunny outside, everyone's wearing shades. But we're indoors, and not sitting-by-the-window indoors, we're deeply hidden away in Edinburgh's Three Sisters' backroom bar, round the corner from any mere vestige of sunlight, watching the telly. It's the Manchester derby, bizarrely now the richest city derby in world football, and we're wearing the darkened glasses because it's being shown on Sky 3-D.

When I was a kid, a 3-D film was an attraction at Universal Studios in Florida, alongside a simulator where you flew into a dinosaur's mouth and a boat that was thrillingly attacked by a giant shark. Now 3-D films are arriving every week at multiplexes, and 3-D football has arrived at the pub, except they don't squirt you with water at the pub for realism (there is an excitable crowd of sweary men though, just like at a real game). It's not a great match, but with the glasses on it was easy to lose interest in the actual football and begin thinking about the way the camera shots are being cut. Most of the game is shown in wide-shot, which isn't very different from how it is on normal telly. But close-ups and different angles show much more depth: you can see the layers of perspective, the sharper focus on near objects than far. It's not quite "like being there", as Sky's publicity says, because your total vision knows you're just watching a flat rectangle on the wall of a dark pub. But it is kinda like a window to actually being there: like you could reach your hand through this window and wave it around and freak everyone out at the disembodied limb shaking above the pitch.

That's probably the kind of silly thing people said about television sixty years ago, I know. Anyway, because it's not a magic portal -- because it's a television -- it's also brighter than real life. It's lit up, and that makes it quite beautiful to look at (unless it's a close-up of Carlos Tevez (above), of course). Instead of pointing to the screen to direct abuse or illustrate a move or tactic, this pub audience points at the screen for the angled crowd shot, to say "look at the layers!", or at a substitution, to see how the sub, the linesman, the dugout and the crowd are arranged. Of course, they're arranged exactly as they always are, but I've never been so enamoured just gazing at a substitution before.

The Three Sisters provided us with free half-time pies, which were nice, but no matchday programme, wind-chill, or deafening tannoy announcements of the half-time raffle results, which would've added to the realism. The next match to be shown is Chelsea v Stoke next Sunday, but you can check the Sky 3-D website for details on upcoming games, and where you can watch them.

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