BBC favours Super Hi-Vision over 3D

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As part of the BBC’s debate into the long term future of broadcasting it pitted SHV against 3D during the Olympics – and guess which won? By Adrian Pennington

review dividing line BBC favours Super Hi Vision over 3D

“It made you think – My goodness, I am seeing the future of broadcasting.”

The BBC’s internal debate about the future of broadcasting live events appears to be settling on a vision of 8K – or sixteen times the resolution of current HD – rather than 3D. The latest high profile figure to comment on the merits of the two immersive visual systems is BBC Director of Sport Barbara Slater who supervised the 3D broadcasts and Super Hi-Vision experiments in London of the Olympic Games.

“While access to an unprecedented range and breadth of Olympic sport on multiple BBC channel grabbed the headlines, 3D was a little sidelined,” she said. “3D never really caught fire, it wasn’t talked about. We are proud of the opportunity to show some 3D coverage but it was not something that really resonated.”

The men’s 100 metre final, for example, was watched live by 20 million people in the UK but only 66,000 of them in 3D. Super Hi-Vision on the other hand reportedly wowed audiences – and certainly the BBC – at public screenings, during the recent Games.

“It made you think – My goodness, I am seeing the future of broadcasting,” said Slater. “It is incredibly early days for Super Hi-Vision. The amount of available kit is very small but the tests carried out during the Games were an opportunity to see what this technology can deliver. I wouldn’t want to speculate how long it will take to become a mainstream option.

3D Focus Pro Banner for Website BBC favours Super Hi Vision over 3D

She continued: “There is an absolute merit in 3D especially with the development of autostereoscopic screens, but long term it will be interesting to see which of those formats [SHV / 3D] is where the industry will go.” Fellow BBC executives to pass judgement on SHV/3D include BBC Executive Sport Producer Paul Davies who admitted during the 2012 Wimbledon Championships: “There is some debate about the effectiveness of tennis in 3D. While it is very fresh and impactful there are some who think it doesn’t deliver as well in 3D as other sports like boxing or football." he said. "You can also argue that in those sports the jury is still out on 3D and ask whether the long term coverage of sport may be more like Super Hi-Vision. Watching 3D coverage is different from 2D and SHV is different from either since you are using your own eyes to edit coverage.”

The transmission of select live and recorded London 2012 events in Super-Hi-Vision was produced by the BBC and Japanese broadcaster NHK and shown on 50-foot tall screens in Bradford, London and Glasgow.

“We wanted to create some public viewing venues to expose more people to it and draw research from their experience,” explained Tim Plyming, project executive, digital & editor live sites, BBC London 2012. “We are particularly interested to see how audiences react to SHV compared to 3D. What I am finding is that some audiences feel it is a totally immersive experience in the way that 3D is not.”


For the BBC, with its remit to reach as broad an audience as possible, the audience demand for 3D TV is critical. It continues to experiment across different genres with stereo 3D productions – the latest being the finale of The Proms on 08 September – but is unlikely to launch a dedicated 3D TV channel while potential audience numbers are small.

In the UK, approximately 800,000 (3%) of UK households will own a 3D TV by the end of 2012 and by 2016 the forecast is for a 20.2m installed base. Many consumers purchase the 3D function by default and sometimes are even unaware at the time of purchase, according to analysts Futuresource Consulting.

Another impediment to 3D TV remains the higher cost of production particularly where producers and directors believe they can achieve a more immersive experience in 3D by devising and selecting shots which are not part of the conventional 2D approach.

Slater said: “Unlike the change from SD to HD, where the grammar of TV production was tweaked, the move to 3D requires a more fundamental change. One of the challenges for 3D TV is that you are looking at additional production facilities and a change to the grammar of coverage to maximise the value of certain shots in 3D.”

Ultimately the audience will decide and while 3D will not fade and should be given a boost with the mainstream arrival of glasses-free TVs, it may be that stereo 3D as it is currently produced offers less of that immersive feeling of ‘being there’ than 8K vision.

Barbara Slater is speaking at IBC on 08 September: The London 2012 Debriefing. 

For more information about Super Hi-Vision read What is Super Hi-Vision?


  • Trevorjharris

    This is attitude is typical of the BBC lack of enthusiasm for delivering new technology. They have dragged thier feet over HD and still only have 2 channels which they have only recently changed to full 1920×1080 pixels. No regional programing is in HD and most of the news coverage is in SD.

    The simple fact is that the BBC do not want to spend the money on 3D. I suspect they are afraid of trying to compete with Sky which has put alot of money to 3D. I wondered if the lack of audiance for the BBC 3D olympics was because more 3D enthusiast would be watching the much more extensive 3D coverage on Eurosport. They did not advertize it much either.

    Another factor is that the BBC consider super hd to be along time in the future so they do not have to commit themselves now to deliver a service. Actually I think the BBC has made a considerable error in thier calculations. Super HD tvs are becoming available now and so we can expect demand for services sooner rather than later.

    We must also take into account that the BBC is no longer the major broadcaster in the UK. Just as Sky has be the first to deliver a 3D service I think we can expect a super HD service first from Sky.

  • RoyC

    Well said! I don’t think anyone can predict the future of 3D from the viewing figures for the BBC’s fractured output. The claims they make for Super HD are exactly the claims they made for HD. The reality is we have only two HD channels from the BBC. Most of the people I know still have a SD Freeview box connected to their TV and a standard DVD player. So much for the popularity of HD. I hate to say this to the BBC but I think the future of television is Super HD Glasses Free 3D displays and if the BBC can’t keep up they might as well give up.

  • Todd-AO

    Movies in cinemas are going 4k in both 2D and 3D so why can’t SHV, which is 8k, why can’t it do both? Such a silly article. By the time we get 8k in homes that is affordable the market place will be so different than we have now. TV at that point in time probably won’t even be the main way people access public entertainment.

  • Matt Dowling

    the only reason the 3d coverage of the olympics and wimbeldon didn’t catch on in our house at least was because of the second rate to just awful commentary. would have watched more if they just had the hd sound feed.