Peter Savage wonders if the buzz around 3D is really justified – despite his willingness to don some 3D specs and head to the big screen in his local pub
Last Saturday night I sat and pondered the broadcast question of the moment – 3D or not 3D?
Not unlike poor Hamlet, unable to reconcile his mind on life, I was torn between the hype and the reality when it comes to 3D. Is it really a format that is taking off? Am I missing something – or is it simply a gimmick?
Of course, I had been to the cinema to watch Avatar – in 3D – but cinema is different from everyday life. It’s a special outing, and the big screen is not your standard content format. I wanted to experience 3D in everyday life, to see if it would impress me on the small screen. With that in mind, I decided it was time I experienced WATCHING FOOTBALL in 3D.
A good excuse to go to the pub?
I surfed the web for pubs that offer 3D from Sky and, to my delight, the Red Lion in Wooburn Green, a stone’s throw from my house, was on the list. So, I checked that Sky would be transmitting in 3D and then, early in the day, drove past the pub. With no sign outside saying “Football in 3D” I decided to drop in.
Now, it’s not really a pub that I would usually frequent, but it seemed that most of its locals were already settling in for an afternoon’s pre-game preparation. “Are you showing the match in 3D?” I asked. The landlord queried whether the game would be transmitted in 3D and, when I assured him it would, said I should come back later; I would need to leave a £12 deposit for the 3D glasses then I could watch it on the big screen at the back.
Back to the pub
Off I trooped and returned later, at 7.30 p.m. in readiness for the match and looking forward to joining other local 3D enthusiasts for the big game.
The pub was heaving, so I grabbed a drink, before nipping round the back to the biggest screen. Another dilemma: a large crowd was watching the football…in HD. Not one of my fellow revellers had 3D glasses on. Should I pay £12 for a set of 3D glasses and then ask half the pub if they would mind if I changed the largest screen over to 3D – that only I could watch? No chance, I was far too intimidated by the prospect of this challenge. So, alas, as a consumer, 3D is yet to make its mark on me and I remain sceptical about widespread consumer demand for the format.
Are we making something of nothing?
This raises the question, if 3D was so far ahead in viewability, then surely the whole of the Red Lion would have embraced this new technology? All it required was a £12 returnable deposit and no other extra cost – but no one cared. Perhaps it’s simply that technology alone is not enough to break the consumer viewing habits of a lifetime.
A summer festival of 3D sport is now upon us. Virgin is streaming the French Open in 3D; Wimbledon will be broadcast in cinemas across the country in 3D; and the biggest game in football, since the World Cup – Barcelona versus Manchester United – has been streamed in 3D…yet despite Broadcasters clearly championing the format, my experiment showed that, when it comes to 3D in everyday life, the format still has a way to go before it’s something that consumers desire, expect or demand.
There’s no question that broadcasters believe this format will ultimately revolutionise the sports viewing experience, because producing quality live 3D content is no small investment. Yet, whilst the quality of 3D content production has come on apace, it’s clear that, as with any new format, broadcasters still have a job to do creating that demand with the general public.
Should we invest?
Yes - the reality is that, the format is in its infancy and irrespective of widespread public demand, in the production community, 3D commands a premium. Ultimately, content is king for broadcasters looking to drive public interest in the format, and the market for 3D projects is booming. We have numerous clients working in the 3D space at the moment. Stereoscopic experts are in high demand and they are receiving top dollar for their services.
The past informs the future?
Let’s not forget, Sky has a history of backing and driving successful formats. It almost single-handedly changed the way that television is made in the UK while, at the same time, wrestling the control of sporting rights away from the terrestrials.
15 years ago, when I first signed up to Sky, it was the only place to watch the England v West Indies test series in the Caribbean. Content exclusivity is a huge driver of technology adoption and Sky understands that better than anyone. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the near future, Sky starts transmitting some sporting events on an exclusive 3D basis – driving sports enthusiasts to experience 3D first-hand in their everyday lives – then and only then will the regulars at the Red Lion in Wooburn Green become takers.
As for now, let’s sit back, turn on our televisions and enjoy the summer sporting fest that’s about to start: the French Open, test cricket, various Grandprix, Epsom, Ascot, Goodwood, Wimbledon…and wonder if this is the last summer they are transmitted in 2D?
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