The Masters in the third dimension

For the first time, golf fans will have the opportunity to watch five days of coverage of the Masters from Augusta National Golf Club next week on the ESPN 3D Network. As someone who has worked with ESPN 3D telecasts since the beginning of the project, I could not be more excited. There’s nothing like spring in Augusta, Ga., especially in 3D.

Our 3D network had not launched in time for the 2010 Masters, but some members of our team helped produce the first 3D telecasts ever from Augusta last year. It totally exceeded our expectations. What we soon realized with golf is that sports that take place on a three-dimensional playing surface come to life in 3D in ways that are beyond what we had imagined.

Most sports take place on a virtually flat, or essentially a two-dimensional playing surface, but golf takes place on varied, multi-dimensional terrain. Without the sensation of depth that is created by 3D, the human brain really has no way to understand the elevations and undulations of Augusta without seeing it in true 3D.

For an event that’s been seen for so long and so beautifully in 2D, it was like a switch was flipped. All of a sudden, you saw Augusta in a way that was so powerful, so much more vivid, so much more real, it felt so much more like you were actually at the course.

The colors and images of the flowers, the spectators, the golfers, the greens and the trees create a spectacular imagery in terms of the layers of depth that are available in so many of the shots, and that makes a really dramatic 3D visual experience.

Every so often you just get a magical shot where you’re shooting across the green at someone in a sand trap, and then sand explodes out. Or the moment you see the greens in 3D, it’s immediately obvious how they are sloped, and you look at it and how the putt will break all makes sense, as if you’re standing there waiting to make the putt yourself.

People normally say they are amazed when they see Augusta in person for the first time. People had that exact same reaction to 3D. With our friends at CBS producing the coverage, we look forward to bringing those images to the viewers of ESPN 3D for the first time.

Phil Orlins is the Coordinating Producer of ESPN3D.