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the future

The World Cup Final, in Three Dimensions

One of the first things you notice about watching a World Cup soccer game in 3-D — as we did for the final yesterday at the Pavilion in Park Slope — is that the crispest shots with the most dramatic 3-D effect are the ones of fans in the crowd: Each row appeared farther and farther away, like a mirror image of the theater seating, but with brighter lights and funnier hats. Flags in the stands appeared to jump off the screen, and the wave circling the stadium looked so realistic that when it approached the camera, some fans in the theater stood and threw their arms up.

The problem is, one of the next things you notice is that the 3-D effect is least dramatic from the main camera, the one showing a wide shot of the field that's used for much of the match. Players in the foreground stand out just a bit, but the ball is so tiny that even when it's kicked toward the near sideline, it's not all that impressive. Only the players' benches and the boom camera behind the goal really popped off the screen from this angle; these are typically not considered the most visually interesting elements of a soccer game.

Much cooler were the field-level shots: replays of the ball being punched by the goalie toward the camera, or David Villa writhing in pain on the ground while play continued behind him. (Actually, we found that the less movement on the field, the more impressive the shot, meaning some of the best 3-D effects occurred when a group surrounded a player who'd hit the turf with an injury — or, you know, an "injury.") Unfortunately, Spain supporters — who outnumbered Netherlands fans in this particular crowded theater — were denied the ultimate 3-D soccer shot: Andres Iniesta running right at us, celebrating his World Cup winning goal. (Hey Andres, next time you score the goal of your life, would you mind running directly towards a 3-D camera? Many thanks.)

Perhaps the most jarring effect occurred during the medal presentations: The in-focus players appeared as if they were walking right toward us — but away from a fuzzy green-screen image of a hoard of photographers. (Obviously that wasn't actually the case, but that's what it looked like.) Luckily, there was still one more great effect to come: As the yellow confetti filled Soccer City upon presentation of the trophy, it was tempting to reach out and try to grab some as some sort of virtual souvenir. The best news? They've got four years to work out the kinks — and by "work out the kinks" we mean "place lots more 3-D cameras at field level" — before Brazil's World Cup kicks off in 2014.

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