Sky 3D, Europe's first dedicated 3DTV channel will launch in April to pubs, featuring a live weekly 3D Premier League football match, writes Adrian Pennington.
According to Brian Lenz, BSkyB director of product design & TV product development, Sky 3D will be introduced to the home "at the back of the year", initially free to subscribers of Sky's top package and the Sky HD pack. Prospective viewers will of course have to purchase a new 3D Ready TV.
"Our commitment is to a weekly match with additional pay per view on some larger events as those opportunities present themselves," Lenz said. "In the run up to our residential launch we'll increase our output to multiple events per week, adding in other content such as movies."
Sky will preview the new service this weekend with what is claimed as the world's first live 3DTV sports broadcast to a public audience. The Premier League clash between Arsenal and Manchester United this Sunday is being broadcast to a total of nine pubs in London, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin.
Sky Sports will produce two edits, one for its HD channel feed and another dedicated to 3D in-conjunction with outside broadcast provider Telegenic. This dual production scenario will be replicated when the full service launches.
Eight 3Ality rigs will be fitted with 16 Sony HDC1500 cameras in positions alongside or different to the 18 cameras used for the standard 2D HD production.
"There are a few pieces we need to finalise before launch notably getting the final truck, kit and rigs and everything we need to be fully operational," said Lenz. "This event will tell us where we are on that path."
One of the challenges with 3D, especially at sports events half way through a season, is finding suitable camera positions that do not interfere with the line of sight of paying spectators.
Likely camera positions for the Sunday game are two in the gantry, another to the right and slightly below, one high shot behind, a steadicam and two lower down - these being the harder positions to fill.
Telegenic first got involved in 3D production when its facilities were used by producer Nineteenfifteen to produce Keane in concert in April 2009. It further supported a 3D shoot of a Usain Bolt sprint, an All Blacks rugby match Twickenham, game show Are You Smarter Than a Ten Year Old and the ATP Tennis Masters finals at the O2. It also trialed 3D coverage for Sky at the Everton v Sunderland Premier League match yesterday.
"We've done about 15 matches in 3D already so we're quite well rehearsed," Telegenic's Eamon Curtin said. "Our engineers, convergence pullers and stereographers have been in training and practice for some time but this event will be a big confidence boost since it brings together everything we've been working on. We're really excited about it and that all those months of training and experience will come to the fore this weekend."
Curtin added that although the build of the rigs takes the same time as normal, aligning the cameras can take an additional 1-2 hours.
The broadcaster is hosting an event at Bafta next month for independent TV producers.
"We see a great opportunity for the UK to set the pace in generating high quality 3D content," said Lenz. "Content creators need to understand what they need to do to take that challenge on. It means education on the basics of 3D, where they can look to develop their own skills. It's about exciting interest among the creative community about the opportunities open to them."