As exclusively revealed by TVBEurope two months ago, the BBC is to make its first stereo 3D broadcast by transmitting the 3D feed of the 2011 Wimbledon tennis championship via the BBC’s HD Channel, writes Adrian Pennington.
This marks the first of several stereo 3D broadcast experiments the BBC has in the pipeline.
The free-to-air broadcast of the Championships in 3D will be available to anyone with a 3D TV set via digital TV providers: Freesat, Freeview HD, Sky or Virgin Media.
TVBEurope first aired the news in our story: BBC plots Wimbledon 3D on Freesat and confirmed the announcement as: BBC to air Wimbledon on 3D, but the Corporation has now officially confirmed the broadcast and added some details.
The Men’s and Ladies’ singles finals will air live in 3D on BBC HD on the final Saturday and Sunday of the event (on July 2 and 3 – when those games will be shown in HD on BBC One HD). Both of the men’s singles semi-finals will also be recorded in stereo on the Friday, but transmitted in 3D from 9am on BBC HD on the Saturday morning so as not to clash with the BBC HD channel’s daily HD coverage of the Championships.
“We don’t have the space to carry two HD signals [the 3D signal fitting into one HD channel] and we don’t want to take HD coverage away from viewers so we have to choose when we are using the HD channel to broadcast 3D,” explained Danielle Nagler, Head of BBC HD and 3D.
“We’re looking at a very established sport which the BBC has a long relationship with and with which viewers are very familiar with in 2D and HD,” she added. “We’re interested in what they make of seeing it in 3D and what that can tell us about what a 3D experience might be.”
Feedback will be gathered from audience research, directly from some 1,000 people invited to free BBC-organised screenings at TV Centre and a number of cinemas around the UK. Tickets will be available via a random draw (applications at www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/).
The Corporation will also be doing indirect research with some of the 200,000 potential 3DTV viewers in the UK.
Further 3D experiments
“We have other 3D projects linked to existing commissions, some recorded and some live, in the pipeline,” said Nagler. “These are for a range of different types of content and again understanding the audience is key.
“For sports where we are UK TV rights holder we are keen to work with producers if they are already doing a 3D version of the event,” she added. “We want to understand the mainstream TV audience and will pick the kinds of programming across all genres that have very broad audience appeal and where the audience has a familiarity with content in 2D HD. That helps to tell us what value there is in 3D or if it has a very small, limited audience appeal.”
The BBC’s decision may seem to go against the grain of the corporation’s technical review published earlier this year, which stated that 3D was a consumer display manufacturer-driven technology and that without standardisation TV commissions were unlikely.
“That was a reasonably accurate assessment of 3DTV because it is display driven and the format won’t grow until consumers acquire a display,” she said. “We continue to do a small number of 3D experiments which are about finding out what our audience thinks about 3D, how important is it them in relation to their enjoyment of content. That is the basis on we should make a decision on what we do in future.”
The BBC’s coverage is being provided in partnership with the All England Tennis Club and Sony Professional. Can Communicate is the technical consultant on the project.
Paul Davies, BBC Executive Producer Sport added: “During our 75 years of televising the Wimbledon Championships the BBC has continually broken new ground in broadcasting techniques. This unique 3D transmission is the latest innovation to bring to life all the tension, drama and excitement on one of the most iconic sporting arenas in the world.”