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The Usual Suspects

3D magic to light up Lord Stanley's game Add to ...

Is Lord Stanley ready for the James Cameron treatment? More precisely, what happens when hockey's greatest moments get the same 3D treatment that famed Canadian director Cameron is employing to convert his classic film Terminator? "I'll be back … with my hockey stick."

Michael Lowe, the producer/director of Calgary's LoweLife Productions, has teamed with Conversion Works - the innovative 3D conversion firm working with Cameron on his classic Terminator and Titanic films - to create a history of hockey that he hopes will blow the doors off anything seen by fans before. Lowe recently showed Usual Suspects samples of what to expect from the marriage of 3D and hockey. The results might be described as Gary Bettman's happy dance.

The depth of field on 3D, the capture of perspective between the players, offers a solution to TV's biggest complaint about the sport: Where's the puck? Using the technology at the Hockey Hall of Fame, to mention one venue, to revive vintage games and classic moments could put hockey in the front seat of sports technology.

The meeting came just days after Cameron and Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, had extolled Conversion Works at the annual ComicCon convention. Suddenly, the Calgary company, which shares working space with LoweLife in an old factory space behind the Stampede grounds, was besieged by requests from around the world to see its technology.

Which put a temporary crimp into Lowe's progress in making the slow conversion of his hockey material into 3D. A former junior hockey player himself, Lowe has received permission to adapt vintage hockey photos and films to 3D for a film about the sport he loves. His plan is to create a 55-minute feature film called For Lord Stanley for distribution. He would later like to expand that to a six-part history of the sport.

"I think that, properly positioned, hockey can still overtake the NBA as third-most popular sport in North America," Lowe told Usual Suspects. "What we've always lacked is a way to translate the speed and excitement of the game. That's what 3D can do."

Craig Button, a former NHL general manager and now an analyst for the NHL Network, is helping Lowe negotiate hockey channels.

"The ability to apply current technology to historical content doesn't change what happened," Button says. "It does change the experience and allows the entertainment spectacle to be enjoyed in ways never before possible. I think of how new technology allowed Nat King Cole and his daughter Natalie to sing together. The 3D and conversion technology employed by LoweLife will offer the same opportunities for the consumer. It's exciting."

Distribution is one challenge for any 3D project. There simply aren't enough screens, TVs or distributors willing to use the technology. Lowe (no relation to Kevin Lowe, president of the Edmonton Oilers) believes that once the public demands the technology, the venues and screens will follow. (Cameron shares that belief.)

"In the meantime," Lowe said, "we'd like to tour the film on our own projection equipment. Make it available to leagues, communities, groups … anyone who wants to promote the game using a groundbreaking idea like For Lord Stanley."

Lowe hopes to have a website (www.forlordstanley.com) online by Sept. 1 to let everyone see the possible future of hockey viewing.

Tweet Nothings

We've written about the concerns teams have about their athletes using social networking sources such as Facebook, Twitter and personal websites. J.R. Smith of the Denver Nuggets shut down his site after it was noted that he used "k's" in place of "c's" in some words, giving some the impression of an association with the Bloods street gang. Then there was cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who was fined $2,500 (U.S.) by the San Diego Chargers for using Twitter to complain about food at training camp.

Turns out that teams aren't the only ones having a Twitter fit. ESPN this week issued its own guidelines for all employees and contractors regarding their tweets. "Avoid discussing internal policies or detailing how a story or feature was reported, written, edited or produced," the message goes. Employees should "steer clear of … [defending their]work against those who challenge it … "

Ric Bucher, ESPN's NBA guy, broke the news on his own site: "The hammer just came down, tweeps: ESPN memo prohibiting tweeting info unless it serves ESPN. Kinda figured this was coming. Not sure what this means but I'm probably violating some sort of policy just by telling you. In any case, stay tuned … My guess is I can still tweet about my vacation/car shopping, etc. Which I will do, if I can. But the informal NBA talk is [probably]in jeopardy …"

ESPN has been hammered recently about its coverage of certain legal stories, and the Twitter guidelines could be a reaction. But expect this to soon be the standard by which networks claim ownership of an employee's name and job-related site.

dowbboy@shaw.ca

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