In what was a widely expected announcement, the BBC has confirmed it will be broadcasting the ladies and men's singles finals of the 125th Wimbledon Tennis Championships live in 3D on its BBC HD channel – the first ever 3D broadcast on a BBC channel.
The BBC will also be supplying its 3D feed to a small selection of regional cinemas across the UK as well as offering free 3D screenings to the public (information how to apply is available at the end of this news article).
As 3Dfocus.co.uk announced earlier this year, the semi-finals of the world’s premiere tennis tournament will be broadcast live in 3D as a result of a collaboration between the BBC, Sony Broadcast, Can Communicate, SuperVision Media, The All England Lawn Tennis Club and Arqiva.
Sony and production company Can Communicate will produce 3D coverage of the men’s semi-finals, finals and women’s finals in high definition 3D which will be distributed to digital 3D cinemas by Sony’s theatrical distribution partners SuperVision Media. The BBC will only be broadcasting the finals in 3D but will of course be broadcasting the SD and HD feed of the entire tournament.
Danielle Nagler, Head of BBC HD and 3D, says: "I'm delighted that in this anniversary year we're bringing UK audiences a new way of getting close to the action on Centre Court. I'm sure that 3D will only add to the drama as the world's greatest players compete for the championship."
Paul Davies, BBC Executive Producer Sport says; "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".
George Entwistle, Director of BBC Vision says; "We know how much audiences already enjoy the BBC's Wimbledon television coverage. This is a hugely important experiment for us and I'm pleased that we have the opportunity to show some of our stunning sports coverage to our audiences, in 3D, for free."
Already installed around Centre Court are six Element 3D rigs each with two Sony HDC-1500 cameras and configured with Sony MPE-200 processors for convergence and interocular alignment. There are five 3D rigs located around the court and one high up in the crowd. The Sony MPE-200 processor (a hardware platform built around Sony’s powerful Cell Processor) will also be used as a 2D – 3D convertor. The Director will be able to apply conversion to any of the 2D BBC camera feeds that he or she deems appropriate.
Testing was carried out at Centre Court recently and was said to go very well.
Although the BBC has the exclusive UK broadcast rights for the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, it has followed a very cautious approach to 3D broadcasting when, as a public service broadcaster, very few 3D TV sets have been sold in the UK. However Danielle Nagler, Head of BBC HD & 3D, has often suggested big events would be an ideal opportunity to explore 3D including in an interview with 3Dfocus.co.uk in February saying…
“Around big events it is about bringing people closer to them; allowing them to feel like they are really there and giving them a front row seat. That is something we try and do in our 2D coverage and we need to figure out whether 3D can help us do that even better."
In the same interview she said "There is no reason why we could not get 3D to every platform that has HD”.
The BBC has been the host broadcaster for the Wimbledon Tennis Championships for almost 75 years and this will be a significant highlight in the BBC’s technology ‘firsts’ timeline as well as a significant moment for 3D broadcasting in general. The Wimbledon Tennis Championships was also one of the first sports events to be broadcast in colour on the BBC.
The BBC HD channel is available on Freeview HD, Virgin Media, Sky and Fressat. UK Viewers with 3D televisions will be able to watch a live 3D broadcast for the first time without paying a Sky TV subscription.
Sony will also be making use of their recent acquisition of the company called Hawk-Eye, a company who develop innovative solutions for sports broadcasting. In tennis coverage, their officiating technology has been deployed to accurately track the motion of the tennis ball. Using a number of calibrated camera positions around the court, the software can analyse the ball position by triangulating the information of each camera. By combining the data with virtual reality style graphics, the system is not only useful for the umpire to determine whether a ball was in or out, but it also offers a visually interesting replay for TV viewers.
Sony Marketing Director David Bush recently told TVB Europe …“We are talking with Hawk-Eye about any possible additions to what they are planning at Wimbledon and we are very interested in learning to what extent the Hawk-Eye system can be used as part of our 3D production plans.”
To promote the upcoming 3D broadcasting of the Wimbledon tennis championships in 3D, Sony commissioned sports broadcasts specialists Can Communicate to produce a 3D cinema trailer. We were invited to watch the 3D trailer being made and here is an exclusive look …
Last Sunday, 3D coverage of the Roland Garros French Open tennis tournament finished which was broadcast to Orange TV subscribers in France and Eurosport customers in the rest of Europe (via Virgin Media in the UK) which saw Rafael Nadal win the men's finals and Francesca Schiavone win the woman’s singles.
Sky TV Reaction
Head of Sky 3D John Cassy is encouraged by the BBC's decision to broadcast the Wimbledon tennis finals in 3D. Contrary to what you might think, Sky and the BBC have a good relationship regarding technical innovation. This morning he said,
"For everyone with an interest in the development of 3D in this country, this is encouraging news, with the promotional might of the BBC helping to create further interest in, and awareness of, 3D TV. I’ve said for a long time that for 3D TV to feature in living rooms up and down the country, the whole of the UK TV industry needs to work together to explore the new possibilities offered in three dimensions. I very much hope that during the experience of putting out this broadcast, the BBC sees the creative value in offering licence fee payers 3D coverage. Based on our own experience of showcasing the ATP World tennis finals and last year's US Open in 3D, I’m sure it will prove a great success, helping encourage them to think about the other parts of their schedule that may benefit from 3D."
Wimbledon 3D Viewing Options
The BBC HD channel (not BBC One HD) will be broadcasting the event unencrypted. This year, the ladies single finals will be happen on July 2 followed by the men’s single finals the next day.
Freesat – EPG Number 108
Sky TV - EPG Number 169
Virgin Media - EPG Number 187
Freeview HD - EPG Number 50 (Freeview HD is available to 70% of the UK in regions that have gone through digital switchover. At the end of DSO next year, 98.5% of the UK will be in HD coverage.)
For those out there with a 2D HD TV, you will still be able to get a flavour of the 3D effect by viewing your TV in a certain way. If you know the technique of merging two side by side images together into one by staring at the image slightly cross eyed, you will be able to do the same while the side by side images are broadcast on the BBC HD channel. You will need to stand far back, no tennis balls will be coming out at you and it will look squashed but hey, after a few Pims that will seem normal.
How to get free tickets to a live screening of Wimbledon tennis 3D
Live 3D coverage of the men's singles final will be available in a limited number of UK cinemas as well as the BBC Television Centre in London. Tickets are being offered as part of a random draw.
To apply visit www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours. Tickets will be available from today (June 8th) up till next Monday (June 13th).
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