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ITV keen to compete on 3D

23 July 2009

ITV is keen to see an alternative 3DTV service to that being readied by Sky, and has called on UK producers to get involved in 3D production, writes Adrian Pennington.

Sky is understood to have asked at least two TV production companies to pitch for 3DTV ideas, while Channel 4 is understood to be readying a 3D special for the autumn. It would be the broadcaster’s first experiment with the medium.

Colin Smith, ITV’s technical analyst, said: “It is important to ITV that there is a genuine alternative to the dominant pay platforms in the UK and ITV will consider any commercial service of 3DTV when there is a viable business model.”

He added: “We believe that 3DTV will only reach the widest audience when glasses are no longer required, but see glasses technologies as a stepping stone and an important part of the learning process. The duration glasses will be required to view 3DTV will depend on consumer interest in this first generation of 3DTV, and accordingly it will be continually reviewed as to its commercial viability.”

The broadcaster has conducted 3DTV tests of animation series ‘Headcases’ and ‘Thunderbirds’ and has a creative and distribution partnership with Breakthru Films, whose latest production is the stop-frame stereoscopic 3D feature ‘Chopin’. While this will have an initial route to the consumer via digital cinema, as 3DTV markets mature ITV will be able to distribute this content globally in 3D.

“We believe there are opportunities today for 3D productions and this will obviously grow when the displays reach consumer pricepoints, 3D console gaming starts to develop, and broadcast efforts to reach consumers commence. With 3D you have to shoot in a way that requires new skills and practices. Accordingly, the 3D skill set will take some time to evolve and technology to become more readily accessible. So while dedicated 3D channels might be some way off, this does not mean the lessons should not be learnt today for the UK production community.”

Smith is making note of the lessons gained during ITV’s stereoscopic trials. “One challenge when making shows for 2D and 3D at the same time is to let the 3D experience be enjoyed with the knowledge that the 2D version not being compromised,” Smith explained. “Another is how to make best use of the stereo vision – in real life we use other ocular cues such as perspective, motion parallax, etc, and after approximately 20 metres we don’t benefit from two separate eye views. A person mid way up a football terrace would only see 3D in terms of the people below him, with the action on the pitch appearing the same as it would in 2D. With 3DTV it is possible to change this, but we don’t yet know what people really want: more natural looking 3D shots where a lot of the action was not in 3D, or greater use of 3D effects and new production grammars. These areas will continue to be considered and solutions will develop over time.”

Sky’s director of strategic product development, Gerry O’Sullivan, said: “Anyone involved in content should look at this medium and notice the change that has happened in the features world. It’s not a gimmick when 10 to 20% increase in box office receipts for 3D movies prove otherwise. With HD, there were a lot of sceptics early on, and those sceptics were proved wrong. 3DTV is following the same path. We’ve got over the hard part which is ensuring that our HD customers are future-proofed. The next stage is learning what appetite there is among consumers.”

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