About 50 football fans from the Billings area had a front-row seat to Thursday night's college football national championship between the Florida Gators and the Oklahoma Sooners.
They stood silent during the national anthem, jeered the refs for perceived bad calls and stood up and cheered when their team scored or leveled a booming tackle on opposing players, just like most fans at a football game.
But they weren't at the Bowl Championship Series title game, which was played in Florida, although they may have found the next best thing. A special live presentation of the game was on a screen at Carmike Wynnsong 10 Theaters, all in high-definition 3-D.
"This coverage is phenomenal," said Rich Mouldin, who drove from Red Lodge with his wife, Kathy, for the game. "We've got season tickets for Florida football, but after seeing this, we've got a better seat here."
It wasn't your typical 3-D presentation, as a California-based technology company called Cinedigm provided high-definition projectors, a satellite network and live digital feed to bring the game to roughly 180 screens at 60 theaters in 35 states. It is the first time that a live sporting event had been broadcast to the public in high-definition
3-D. Another tech company, 3ality, was on the field with special cameras to film the game.
The result was an often crystal-clear picture that gave viewers a sense of actually being on the field during the game. Players didn't pop out of the screen like in old 3-D movies. Instead, the picture had a sense of depth, and on-field cameras stayed tight with the game action.
Ken Tuss drove in from Belfry to watch the game. His younger brother is a Florida grad, as is his pal Rich Mouldin, who was decked out in a Gators jersey and learned about the presentation through an alumnus Web site. Tuss said he was rooting for Oklahoma, which lost 24-14.
After the first half, when the score was tied 7-7, Tuss said he was impressed with the 3-D game.
"This is fantastic," Tuss said at halftime. "It makes the players stand out so much. You can see everything."
The crowd had a slightly pro-Gator lean to it, but fans of both teams cheered, chattered and occasionally hollered at the screen, something you don't normally see in a movie theater.
"It's a great game, number one," Mouldin said. "These are clearly the best two teams in football. Number two, I'm really impressed by the quality of the 3-D."
Tuss added that he wished more events would be broadcast this way.
He may just get his wish, as Cinedigm recently announced that it will air the NBA All-Star weekend in February in high-definition 3-D, although it was unclear Thursday if Wynnsong would show it.