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Masters in 3D creates new ways to watch
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AUGUSTA – I saw the future Wednesday.

Sitting in Augusta National’s interview room at 3 p.m., I witnessed television history as the Masters became the first live national sporting event ever broadcast in next generation 3D. My experience was breathtaking. Watching ESPN’s Par 3 tournament coverage, I could see the pollen falling from the trees, the undulation of the beautiful terrain, and the patrons practically popping off of the screen.

At a place where technological innovation is expected - The Masters was the first golf tournament presented live in HD in the early 1990s - this is another monumental step in broadcasting history.

“I cannot imagine a better venue exists anywhere in the world for the introduction of three-dimensional broadcasting,” Augusta National and Masters Chairman Billy Payne said Wednesday to a group of reporters. “I hope by the end of the week, you will all agree.”

The beauty of Augusta National is absolutely unparalleled, but there are some drawbacks in this new 3D television world. For instance, with everything else ‘in-your-face’, I found it difficult to follow the ball in flight, and on-screen graphics appeared distorted in comparison. Plus, I had wear the glasses – those ridiculous, cumbersome ‘active’ glasses that made the observing media look like a Star Trek audition.

The problems, however, are miniscule in comparison to the opportunities this could create for live sporting events. Imagine NASCAR drivers racing around the track, boxers and MMA fighters slugging it out, or football players colliding into your living room. Far beyond HD, this is another step toward being a part of the action.

Until now, this type of 3D content was limited to movie theaters, with blockbusters like Avatar paving this natural path, but starting Thursday, the world can see Augusta National in a whole new way. On top of the stunning beauty of the courses countless azaleas and 100-year-old trees, anyone who watches the 3D coverage will gain a newfound respect for the skills required to navigate the twists and turns of this legendary course.

The 2010 Masters will include two hours of live daily 3D coverage, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For viewers looking to watch the Masters in 3D, it won’t be the cheapest option. Consumers will need new 3DTVs with active 3D glasses and HD cable service and/or PCs enabled with a 3D media player, 3D monitor and 3D glasses.

An exciting future for the television and online broadcasting world is here, but hopefully in the future, it won’t include glasses.

You can follow Vince’s LIVE Masters coverage on Twitter at www.twitter.com/vincejohnson.