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Sky to accelerate 3D production

10 April 2011

NAB News: BSkyB is looking to accelerate 3D programme production but, warns Chris Johns, the broadcaster’s Chief Engineer, not at the risk of creating short cuts that damage viewer experience, writes Adrian Pennington.

Speaking at a SMPTE organised Digital Cinema conference at NAB, Johns said: “We intend to bridge the content gap in 3D, but we are concerned that producers don’t deliver cut price 3D, otherwise people won’t buy into it.”

Many first 3D projects turn out to be theme park 3D, he said, which emphasises the wow factor but is actually very demanding on the eyes.

“At Sky we want viewers to be able to watch 3D – sports or opera for example – for two to three hours or more at a time. That means creating the 3D in a natural way – retaining the theme park effects but limiting them for special occasions and for certain effects.”

Johns, who is the keynote speaker at TVB Europe’s 3D Masters 2011 in June, continued: “Make sure you plan your production. You can’t just take a 2D programme and make it 3D after the commission. It has to begin from the commissioning process. That means working out what you are trying to give to the customer. What are you trying to achieve in 3D? What is the story? Why would it work in 3D? We need to make sure that broadcast content is of interest in 3D since 3D will not improve bad programming. We have to give people a reason to put on the glasses.”

Sky is casting forward to the day when autostereoscopic screens become commonplace but Johns recognised that there could be a lengthy wait before that occurs.

“So, we have to make a comfortable viewing experience with glasses now. I believe people are getting used to wearing them and we are seeing more manufacturers come out with glasses that double as prescription eyewear or designer glasses, sunglasses and also as 3D viewing spectacles – for home and the cinema.”

Sky is investing heavily in commissioning 3D content and hopes its initiative, along with that of 3net, will push the industry forward and create a virtuous circle, “so that when a viewer turns on the TV they have a choice to watch in SD, HD or 3D,” said Johns. “When their first choice becomes 3D then we will have achieved our aims.”

Phil Streather, the CEO of production company Principal Large Format, followed Johns and echoed his advice. Streather is one of the UK’s leading stereo 3D educators, having worked with Sky and training body Skillset to arrange the country’s first 3D primer for cinematographers and producers.

“I find it astonishing that there is no permanent 3D training course at any film school in the UK,” Streather said. “We do need to find some accessible and permanent training solution because there are still far too few production and craft personnel who understand the principals.”

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