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3D Olympics Coverage on FIOS is spectacular. Reason 1 – No Yapping Matt Lauer. Reason 2 – Brilliant 3D

Right now I’m watching the London 2012 Opening Ceremonies on FIOS Channel 1003 (if you have Comcast, AT&T, Cablevision, etc. you’ll find it on different channels).

It took me a while to get it to work right. I had component cables going from my Tivo to my PS3 Display, but the Display annoyingly wouldn’t allow me to switch into 3D mode–the 3D option was completely greyed out on the Display. After a bit of fiddling, I realized that I needed to connect my Tivo via HDMI.

Now on Friday night, I’d watched the NBC coverage “live” (actually, no one in the US could watch it live because NBC blocked access to everything except its tape delayed coverage). I watched about 10 minutes of it before I had to shut the sound off. I have nothing against Matt Lauer or Mededith Viera, but I found their constant need to provide non-stop commentary to be utterly annoying to the point of my wanting to throw something at the TV. It was impossible to enjoy the beautiful music and the wonderful sounds of the Opening Ceremonies because they felt a need to constantly explain to the viewers what was going on. The worst of many bad moments of the night, when Matt Lauer saw a scene of British nurses and children recreating classic English storybook scenes and decided to interject “while the healthcare debate is going on in the US, Britain is proud of its universal healthcare and wanted to proudly display it to the world”. Uh, thanks Matt.

The one bright spot of the evening was Bob Costas, from whom we heard painfully little compared to the always-on Viera and Lauer.  It was touching to hear his “audible” where he called for a moment of silence for the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Munich massacre, an event for some strange reason the Olympic committee decided to put on the back burner.

Overall, I give London’s Opening Ceremonies an “A” and NBC’s Friday night prime-time coverage a solid “F”. I hate to break the news to NBC, but the reason the Today Show’s ratings are plummeting was not because of Ann Curry. It’s because no one wants to wake up in the morning and hear the painful and endless drivel the likes of which we heard Friday night.

Okay, this is a blog to talk about 3D coverage, so I’ll talk about NBC’s coverage of the same event on the NBC 3D Olympics channel.

The coverage stated at 5 AM sharp. After a montage of videos of Olympic athletes, we cut to Bob Costas, who gave a brief, one-minute introduction to the Olympic coverage. Then, the Opening Ceremonies began.

I braced myself for the annoying commentary. But it never came. Instead, I heard the beautiful voices of children singing. I heard the rich sounds of the orchestra. And I could see the most stunningly beautiful images that have ever come out of my Playstation 3D display, in glorious and deep 3D.

It turns out that NBC decided to air Panasonic’s raw footage untouched. From their point of view, they probably knew that very few people would be tuning in, so it wasn’t worth their time to get on-air “talent” to provide running commentary. For me, this was the most brilliant decision the boneheads at NBC made yet. Because even though it was 24 hours later, I thoroughly and immensely enjoyed this coverage from start to finish.

NBC did find ways to ruin even this experience. Every 10 minutes, and in some cases during pivotal moments in the action, NBC abruptly cut to commercials right in the middle of the action, making us miss key moments. For example, during the point in the festivities when the ironworkers forged the beautiful Olympic rings, we jump from the scene where the red-hot rings are being lifted to the ceiling, cut to commercial, and come back to see that the rings are lit up, presumably as part of an impressive pyrotechnics display that happened when we were enduring the 50th airing of Matthew Perry’s new show on NBC this fall (which I will boldly predict will not last the season). Still, what they did show was stunning (use the “cross-eyed” method to view these and other 3D images).

3d burning olympic rings opening ceremony

The one saving grace was that most of the commercials themselves were for movies and Blu-Rays in 3D from the Avengers to Finding Nemo in 3D, but of course NBC put in 2D commercials for its own shows.

Another very annoying thing is that it seems every three minutes they’d superimpose an animation of The Lorax with silly sound effects, sometimes during the most dramatic or emotional moments.

You’d think that they’d get a college intern to putting commercials in the right places, and to make sure that their annoying animations didn’t interfere with the show. But the message from NBC was clear. We don’t care about 3D viewers, and we’re going to milk as much as we can out of them. Thanks NBC.

Still, that couldn’t put a damper on the excellent quality of Panasonic’s 3D. Colors were vibrant, the camera angles really maximized the quality of the 3D and made you really feel “part of the action” in a way that traditional 2D never could. Watching the Parade of Nations (again, thankfully without constant commentary) was a really fun experience. Here’s a still of the US team entering the stadium:

us team entering stadium in 3d

Scenes like the fireworks displays over the stadium were truly jaw-dropping (unfortunately, the one thing NBC decided to do was to cut into the fireworks to splice in a montage of scenes from past Olympics, ruining perhaps the single most impressive 3D images of the evening).

olympic fireworks

The Opening Ceremonies went from 5:00 AM to about 10:00 AM, at which point NBC started looping the coverage again through the day. Tough to tell if they’ll be doing that for the other Olympic action, or if they will be providing commentary for the sporting events. But I have to say, the great anticipation I had for the Opening Ceremonies (as you can see from all my posts leading up to it) was well warranted. Even though I know it was out of laziness and an utter lack of concern for its 3D viewers that NBC decided to not invest any production costs into its 3D coverage, for me that turned out to be a positive. I grade their 3D coverage of the Opening Ceremonies an A+ for the way it let me experience the Opening Ceremonies in an unprecedented way. It just makes me wish there were a mute button that should shut up some of their on-air “talent” on their regular 2D coverage.

If you have a 3D display and FIOS, tune to 1003 and check it out for yourself over the next few days. If you don’t have FIOS, sign up here with referral code IWANTFIOS to get it now with a nice gift card to boot! And if want to experience beautiful 3D for yourself at the cheapest price possible, Best Buy has the PlayStation 3D Display Bundle for only $199–that’s $400 less than suckers like me paid for it!

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