“The Prime Viewing Choice Will Be 3D” – Sky Chief Engineer

submit to reddit Jun 15, 2011 9 Comments by

Speaking at today’s 3D TV Masters event at BAFTA, London, Chris Johns, Chief Engineer of Broadcast Strategy from Sky, said that eventually 3D will be the prime viewing choice in the home followed by HD with SD slowly losing ground.

Despite the recent negative global headlines about the slowing consumer interest in 3D, Chris Johns confirmed Sky’s commitment to the 3D format. Reacting to recent news that consumers are increasingly choosing the 2D version of films when presented with a choice in the movie theatres, Chris Johns highlighted the similarity with the early days of HD uptake saying the figures are almost identical.

Chris said that Sky were talking to many companies and potential partners about getting the Sky 3D content out to as many people as possible on as many different platforms, starting with the Nintendo 3DS. He could not confirm or deny a content deal with LG to edit packages for their Optimus 3D phone, due for launch next month. Chris said that the new Sky Anytime service is “capable” of delivering 3D content too.

Sky Looking Into Delivering Full HD 3D

In the same speech, Chris John revealed that Sky are talking to STB manufacturers and standards bodies to develop a solution for full HD 3D, and that there is a drive to deliver “higher quality 3D” over the next few years.

Although Chris Johns was not at liberty to discuss Sky 3D subscriber figures, he did say that the figures were high enough to warrant the investment which has led to a second dedicated 3D OB truck.

He sung the virtues of passive 3D TV stating that internal tests revealing 80% of people asked preferred the passive sets over the active kind.

Chris said, whilst he was sceptical about whether the frame by frame compatible standard would prove a high enough quality experience when suggested two years ago but he admits the results have been impressive and it was the only option to get 3D through the existing STB infrastructure.  He said that there are a number of different ways of broadcasting full HD images to each eye and that discussions were ongoing to decide which is the best format to do so.

The current frame by frame compatible format effectively squeezes the left and right eye image into one frame. Whilst this saves on bandwidth costs and there are no sync issues, the resolution is halved so this is a positive announcement from Sky 3D.

There is good news for 3D producers and distributors with 3D content. Sky are increasing their production budgets by 50% over the next three years, spending £380 million this year on in-house productions and commissions, rising to £600 million by 2014. Chris said a good portion of that will be spent on new 3D productions which will need to evolve into genres outside of sports such as gameshows and pop videos to reduce the content gap.

Other highlights of Chris John’s speech included…

  • David Attenborough’s new 3D documentary about penguins will be broadcast in December and is said to ‘look fantastic’.
  • Sky have invested a lot of money on re-cabling the Premiership football grounds to be able to get the 3D camera angles right.
  • Sky does use 2D to 3D conversion but it is deployed rarely.
  • The commitment to 3D is showing rewards.
  • Theme park style 3D can be used if done carefully.