Tuesday, June 15, 2010

HD: An Appreciation

More than once in the past few days, Ron and I have turned to each other and swooned: "I love HD!" This is the first World Cup we have watched in high def, and I have to admit, soccer is even better when you can see every blade of grass and every thread in the net.

ESPN's camera people seem to be reveling in the possibilities of HD, too. I mean, the headers and tackles and goals are wonderful in the moment, but then, but THEN: the replays! Oh, here they come! First, a couple slo-mo replays from different angles: left, right, low angle, maybe even overhead. Then, we find the camera that caught extreme impact. Remember when England striker Emile Heskey plowed into Tim Howard? Yeah, well, thanks to HD and slo-mo replay, we witnessed every delicious bit: blades of grass and clumps of dirt scattering as Heskey's cleats tore through the sod, Howard's right arm, then his shoulder whumping against the ground, his left arm buckling against his body, the light glinting off studs as Heskey's boot crunched into Howard's hand and then his--oh ouch!--we could see the flesh on Howard's chest reverberate with the impact. I swear I could hear ribs cracking. Oops, I mean bruising. Yeah, bruising! He's fine! Really! He's fine to play on Friday! We don't need X-rays! We can just have the U.S. team doctor poke gingerly at his chest! There, see? He's totally fit!

And then there was that tragedy-in-the-box in the Netherlands-Denmark game, when poor Simon Poulsen tried to clear a cross from Netherlands' van Persie and the ball rolled off his head onto Agger's back and--oh man! Own goal! It was so awful, Poulsen just laughed. I mean, talk about the fates against you. But THEN, we got to see the replays. There was one camera shot--it took the producers a couple minutes to find it--in which we watched the ball move into the frame, then boing dramatically onto Poulsen's skull, releasing this explosion of sweat in every direction. Trace the trajectory of each sweat bead outward... outward... there--see each one evaporate? I forgot all about the goal and started thinking about the miracle of the water cycle.

So thanks to the ESPN camera people and producers for capturing the facial grimaces, the crunched ankles, the ball squashing on impact and re-expanding, every glorious visual detail, and broadcasting it right into my living room so that I can lie here on my couch and marvel.

And I hope they realize that if Howard tries to wear a steel chest plate on Friday, we are definitely going to catch the telltale outline under his shirt.

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