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BBC to use 3D and Super Hi-Vision for Olympics

Some events at the 2012 Olympics will be covered in 3D and NHK's Super Hi-Vision, according to Roger Mosey, the BBC's director of London 2012.

Some events at the 2012 Olympics will be covered in 3D and NHK’s Super Hi-Vision, according to Roger Mosey, the BBC’s director of London 2012, writes David Fox.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, he revealed that the BBC is planning to broadcast a selection of events, such as the 100 metres final. “The hope is we will do some limited experiments in 3D,” he said.

The BBC doesn’t have the channel capacity to offer a dedicated 3D channel, and any 3D transmissions will come at the expense of HD coverage on one of its two HD channels. The selection of events that will be shown in 3D will also depend on what the host broadcaster, OBS, wants.

“There is a trade-off between 3D and HD. We don’t want to damage the mass audience HD proposition,” he said, particularly as 3D can only be viewed by a minority.

So far, the only 3D broadcasts the BBC has made have been of the men’s and women’s Wimbledon tennis finals this Summer, which Mosey said was “pretty successful,” attracting about 140,000 viewers.

The BBC has been working with NHK on experiments with Super Hi-Vision, particularly on transmission methods, and is planning to show the 7680×4320 images on 15m high screens at three locations – outside Broadcasting House in London, at BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay studios in Glasgow and, probably, at the National Media Museum in Bradford.

Mosey believes that the images from the 33-megapixel camera will offer “the real spectator experience” and be at least as good as sitting in one of the best seats at the event. “Super Hi-Vision might be a better long-term prospect than 3D in some ways as it gives you the feeling of being in the stadium. People are knocked out by it,” he said. The events likely to be shown on the 16x HD-size screen should include the opening ceremony, which could be shot using a single camera.

The BBC made experimental transmissions with SHV equipment last year, and developed a compression system that allowed the 24Gbps original data to be carried as a 350Mbps stream.

It has been five years since SHV made its debut at IBC, and it is likely to be at least a decade before there is any realistic prospect of seeing it in the home – in Japan initially. In the New Technology Campus at IBC, NHK is planning to show a slow-motion system plus an eight-channel video switcher, along with footage from a NASA shuttle launch and a live transmission from London.

For the Olympics, the BBC will also allow viewers to watch live streams of events on its website, with simultaneous access to results, competitor profiles and other data. “At peak there will be 24 streams online and for connected TVs in 2012, which is about four times more than Beijing,” explained Mosey.

The Corporation is committed to showing every event, and having promised that two of its four main channels will be Olympics free in peak hours, will have to make use of new media to ensure everything is viewable, with around 1,000 hours of live Olympics video coverage that will not be shown on TV.