LAS VEGAS -- Thousands of people in 30 cities nationwide paid about $20 to watch No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Oklahoma in a 3-D airing of the BCS championship game as part of the first big consumer test for the technology.
Fans in 82 theaters watched a completely separate production from the nationwide broadcast on Fox, with different camera shots, angles and popup graphics used to show off the added depth.
"You feel like you could just reach out and grab somebody, don't you," play-by-play announcer Kenny Albert said as the Sooners took the field before the coin toss.
"I already tried," replied his color commentator, Tim Ryan.
Viewers wore specially made polarized lenses to view the game, but not the paper glasses with red and blue lenses used in 3-D projections of the past. That's because the companies developing the technology for theaters and homes don't want it to be viewed as a gimmick.
"What we've got to do is condition the audience for what 3-D really holds," said Sandy Climan, chief executive of 3ality Digital LLC.
The Burbank, Calif.-based company won the contract to shoot the college football title game after an impressive, though imperfect, test broadcast of an NFL game in early December.
Ticket sales figures were not available, Climan said several theaters were sold out and one of three theaters in Las Vegas was adding screens showing the game as interest built up.
At a theater inside the Paris Las Vegas casino on the Las Vegas Strip, an invite-only crowd made up primarily of people in town for the International Consumer Electronics Show cheered loudly in the first quarter when Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was intercepted, and at the end of the second quarter when the Gators picked off a pass on the goal line that pinballed off at least four players.
But besides big plays, the crowd reacted positively toward cheerleaders, close-up angles of players during timeouts and sideline views that added depth to the game unable to be seen in conventional broadcasts. The typical sideline shot used at the start of most plays looked like what a player standing on the bench behind his teammates would see.
"We're learning what the emotional transition is from 2-D to 3-D," Climan said. "We're still learning how the reactions are different."
Climan said camera crews were tinkering with shots to try to improve the look of the broadcast throughout the game.
Only about 2 percent of the nation's television sets are equipped to handle 3-D broadcasts, but the NFL has said the league is for now committed to adopting the technology and providing free broadcasts when available.
Alec Shapiro, senior vice president of Sony's broadcast and production systems, said producing the game broadcast in 3-D cost 20 percent to 30 percent more than conventional high definition broadcasts.
Climan said that 3-D broadcasts would need to be viewed on their own channels, as the broadcasts look blurry to viewers not wearing the glasses.