The Cleveland Cavaliers' New 3-D Floor Projection System Is Astonishing

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 19 2014 4:16 PM

The Cleveland Cavaliers' New 3-D Floor Projection System Is Astonishing

The Cleveland Cavaliers are having a rocky season—currently, they're on the outside looking in at an Eastern Conference playoff berth.

But they are winning on at least one front. As a part of the retirement ceremony for former Cavs big man Zydrunas Ilgauskas last week, the team used a 3-D floor projection system that was downright breathtaking. While similar to other projection systems seen before–such as ones used during the Sochi closing ceremonies and the University of Kentucky's Big Blue Madness–what the Cavs rolled out at Quicken Loans Arena took the technology to another level.

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Other projection systems of this ilk tend to use the court—or playing surface—as a canvas for what essentially amounts to a giant slideshow. As you'll see in the video above, though, this system used the court itself as part of the production, thereby adding—for lack of a better word—more pop to the final presentation. According to Quince Imaging, the company responsible for the effect elements and execution of the final product, this was done by first pixelating the court itself, and then using that digitally re-created hardwood as a part of the show.

"We reverse-engineered the system by taking the court and its painted elements and translating that into pixels," said Quince COO, Scott Williams, when reached via email. "This wire frame was then our baseline for content development and projection placement."

The genius in this different approach is obvious—parts of the floor fall away like Tetris bricks and then roll wave-like from left to right, with the whole thing looking natural and the 4K ultra-high resolution images themselves crystal-clear. Even the standard NBA pre-game introduction parts of the presentation—like the highlight reels—look almost Jumbotron quality. And that should come as no surprise, as Quince and the Cavs basically turned the court into a giant plasma TV.

"We used 20,000 lumen HD projection systems in four quadrants on the court, and then using powerful media servers, we knitted the projection areas into a final pixel space that encompassed the entire court," said Williams, noting that the pixel density and brightness levels of the presentation allowed even front row viewers to see the show clearly.

According to Williams, the project was a collaboration between Quince, Think Media, and the Cavs TV and Media department. They arrived at Quicken Loans Arena five days before the game to get everything set up, and then spent a day rehearsing the full production. That's a lot of work—and even more moving parts—for a minute-long pre-game show, but given the final product, it was well worth the trouble.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

A.J. McCarthy is a Slate video blogger.

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