Cavs bring back 3-D court projection

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James won't be the only one enjoying a grand return to Quicken Loans Arena when the Cleveland Cavaliers play their season opener Thursday against the New York Knicks.

The Q will also welcome back its innovative pregame introduction that involves projecting 3-D images onto the floor, transforming the hardwood into a massive 94-by-50-foot screen adorned by eye-popping animations.

The Cavs first used the technology on a trial basis in March as a part of former Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas' jersey retirement ceremony. Cleveland's chief marketing officer, Tracy Marek, said the presentation elicited such a response that the team decided to make it a permanent fixture.

"It was wildly successful to say the least," Marek said, adding that a video on the Cavaliers' website featuring the 3-D projection received more than 2 million views and was even aired on the "Today Show." "We got an enormous amount of great feedback about the capability so when we started to roll into the season, of course we remembered that. We decided to purchase the system so we could use it more regularly."

The technology can do anything from making a court appear to have waves rolling underneath it to making it seem like every piece of the hardwood is being swallowed up into a giant black abyss.

"The reason it works and the major determination for success is that it has to be an image design done that is both bright enough and high resolution enough so that you can animate the surface," said Scott Williams, the chief operating officer of Quince Imaging, the Virginia-based company that developed the technology. "It's physics, really. You have to be bright enough, you have to be high resolution enough and then the second part of that, you have to have content that forces the viewer to be, essentially, faked."

Marek declined to say how much the system cost the Cavs, but Williams said it rings up north of $1 million.

"It's seven figures, that I can tell you," Williams said. "It's not a ridiculous amount considering the hardware and media servers that are involved and the expertise that is required."

Quince Imaging hopes that its technology becomes a staple at professional sporting events throughout the country. The Atlanta Hawks will use it this season, as will the Philadelphia 76ers, who offered a sneak peak of their new pregame introductions on their Instagram account Monday.

A sneak peak at our intro video for this season on the new 3d projection system... ??

A video posted by Philadelphia 76ers (@philadelphia76ers) on

The New Jersey Devils -- controlled by the same ownership group as the Sixers -- also purchased the system from Quince Imaging, while the Calgary Flames experimented with a temporary system at the start of their season, as will the Sacramento Kings this week, according to Williams.

Williams believes his company's service can become as much of an expected part of the live-game experience as the video board is today.

"Twenty-five years ago, only the real visionaries had video replay boards and they were so expensive," Williams said. "But now you wouldn't think of building an arena without a video scoreboard. I think this technology is going the same way. There's a new way to energize your fans, there's a new way to bring excitement to the game space and I think it's only a matter of time."

The Cavs first got the idea to use the technology for a game back in 2012, when Quince Imaging prepared a visual spectacle as part of the grand opening of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert's Horseshoe Casino in downtown Cleveland. They became the first NBA team to embrace the technology during Ilgauskas' night last season, which James just happened to attend. Marek said the team wasn't using the 3-D projection to try to impress James, however. It was just a unique way to honor "Big Z."

Doors open at 5:30PM on Saturday. Don't miss this. We've got BIG things in store for you... #AllForZ

A photo posted by Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) on

The Cavs will unveil a brand-new video board on Thursday in addition to the 3-D projection system.

"We kind of have a really fancy car and we're really looking forward to putting it out on the open road and seeing how it drives," Marek said. "So, it's going to be a lot of fun."