Our latest survey results indicate viewers of 3D sport believe it to be an enhanced experience.
We asked 570 people “Does 3D enhance sports broadcasting?” 313 said yes, 43 said 3D made sports coverage worse, 63 were neutral and 151 said they have not watched any sport in 3D.
We also asked 706 3D Focus readers “Do you think the 2012 Olympic 3D coverage will boost the 3D industry?” of which 520 said yes and 186 said no.
3D sports has been a popular genre choice for broadcasters experimenting with 3D. Sky 3D was launched as a pub only service after installing 15000 LG 3D TVs in pubs across the UK back in April 2010. Sister channel Sky Italia, which launched in September 2011, first experimented with a pub installation in Naples, where pub goers could watch a Manchester City VS Naples football game. Sky 3D Germany launched with 3D coverage of the Ryder Cup; ESPN launched a dedicated 3D service in June 2010 and the BBC’s highest profile venture into 3D was its stereoscopic coverage of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships finals last year.
Live 3D sport is a quick, real time way of producing high value 3D content; it appeals to a wide audience and many argue the format offers an enhancing element to the genre. For example, some talk about 3D golf showing the contours of the green and relative position of the golf ball but others have complained that 3D football is less dynamic due to the slower pace of cuts and ‘matchstick sized players’. Football and rugby pose a challenge for 3D broadcast as cameras tend to be positioned lower than 2D cameras – too high up and the 3D effect is reduced but too low and the audience do not experience the ‘world’ view of the match and the relative position of the players.
Despite the positive results of the 3D Focus survey, there are strong indications sport in 3D does not have a mass appeal.
New Zealand company 3D Live had planned to screen key matches from the 2011 Rugby World Cup tournament in 3D at cinemas and arenas. Managing director Ronel Schodt said only 10% of the tickets were sold. “It just didn’t work and I have no idea why,” she said. “The ticket sales were a bit slow, so we had to cancel it. We certainly lost money, but that was the risk that we took.” As the official rights holder, ITV were rumoured to broadcast parts of the Rugby World Cup in 3D if the rugby 3D coverage had gone ahead.
In August 2011, AT&T’s U-Verse service dropped carriage of ESPN 3D citing “high costs” and “low demand” however Bryan Burns, Vice President of the sports network, said Disney were still very committed to the 3D sports channel during MIPCOM in October.
The additional costs of early 3D sports broadcasting meant there were often fewer 3D rigs deployed compared to the large amount of established 2D camera positions. The perception was that 3D viewing would be uncomfortable if cut at the same pace as 2D coverage (this perception also extends to 3D movies and television programmes).
Also, 3D rigs did not cope well with zooming and close up shots (of a player for example) so fans felt less rather than more involved with the games they were watching.
There are few sports that have not been given the 3D treatment. Darts, equestrianism, boxing, rugby, extreme sports and basketball have all been given ‘extra depth’.
3D rig companies such as 3ality Technica and CAMERON | PACE Group have been pushing 3D sports for a few years, appealing to budget conscious broadcasters with dual 2D/3D recording systems such as the CPG shadow Rig (pictured) negating or at least reducing the requirement for extra crew and allowing for an increase in 3D capture positions to match the dynamism of the 2D edits.
The genre has a long history of being at the forefront of broadcast innovation and R&D teams are looking beyond stereoscopic 3D. For several years the BBC, The Foundry and the University of Surrey have been working on the TSB (Technology Strategy Board) funded i3DLive project which follows on from the ORIGAMI and iView projects. The initiative was developing new tools for the extraction of live 3D information using one principle Super Hi-Vision camera with the help of ‘witness’ cameras, scrapping the need for stereo-rigs altogether.
A non-stereoscopic application was shown to 3D Focus TV last year, were a director could manipulate a virtual camera during a football match to achieve any shot/viewpoint required. You might have already seen something similar during BBC sports coverage in post-match analysis but one of the goals of the i3DLive project is to enable free viewpoint camera coverage while the game is in play. This will require powerful processing power that is currently prohibitively expensive for television broadcast.
Click here for a demo video from BBC R&D – it is simply amazing!
At CES, Technicolor was showcasing a system that uses 6 cameras to allow the viewer to move the camera position as if they were in the auditorium themselves. They question is, do people desire the option to choose their own camera angles? – Sky’s PlayerCam proved possibly not when it was launched with Sky Digital back in 1998 (and soon dropped).
Over 200 hours of 3D coverage will be produced by the OBS for the Olympic rights holders this summer in association with Panasonic, as well as Super Hi-Vision coverage for output to three outdoor screens in the UK, Japan and possibly North America. The OBS are also evaluating virtual camera technology similar to what is described above and will be incorporating stereoscopic 3D graphics into its coverage.
Beyond 3D, YellowBird will be recording parts of the Olympic games with their 360 degree cameras. They have also set up a production office in Brazil to cover the World Cup in a format that will allow viewers to move the camera 360 degrees in real-time.
During their Wimbledon Tennis Championships coverage last year, the BBC launched a system that mapped live footage into computer generated courts to allow the producer move a virtual camera from court to court. The VSAR project might be extended out of the gallery into the home via a simple browser application for future Wimbledon online coverage.
With sports being so graphics intensive (scores, replays etc.), there are several companies offering real time sports 3D graphics solutions including 3ality Technica who’s Intellematte graphics engine can push graphics behind people during a live 3D environment in real time.
2012 will be a big year for 3D but especially for 3D sports. The BBC will be returning to Wimbledon with 3D cameras despite only reaching 18,000 viewers and mixed reviews last year. Sony Professional Solutions Europe have committed to producing the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in 3D for at least the next three years. The London Olympics will be the biggest 3D event for a long mile and might even persuade 3D cynics to go for a 3D set if they are currently in the market to upgrade their television.
What do you think? Do you prefer your sports in 3D? Or are you happy to follow your team in HD?
FREE WEEKLY 3D NEWS BULLETIN – SUBSCRIBEFollow @3dfocuslive