The many dimensions of Moscow

With the 2014 Winter Olympics set to be broadcast in 3D for the first time, Russian broadcasters are keen to learn about the kind of 3D production techniques being employed at London 2012. The BBC Academy’s Mark Jacobs travelled to the CSTB media forum in Moscow to give them a sneak preview.

There are many dimensions to Moscow, some more obvious than others.

The first I encountered was the US dimension, which was a surprise. My taxi was overtaken on the way into town from Domodedovo airport by a giant 4WD American Hummer, and I must admit I hadn’t expected to see a Starbucks five minutes’ walk from the Kremlin.

The second, Arctic, dimension hit me the next morning as the freezing weather front arrived in town. I can now confirm from personal experience that minus 26 degrees is very, very cold.

And the third dimension? That, of course, was the reason I was here in Russia: 3D TV.

"In 2010 Russia became the second country after Britain to launch satellite 3D TV broadcasts." – Mark Jacobs, BBC Academy

The 2014 Winter Olympics, officially the 22nd Winter Olympics, will be held in Sochi, Russia, on the Black Sea. It will be the first Winter Games to be broadcast in 3D, and the organisers stated recently that they are already “working very closely with our colleagues at Panasonic to ensure optimum technical delivery”.

They will also, as you might imagine, look carefully at the results of 3D broadcasting from London 2012. It was in this context that I was invited to present a BBC Academy introduction to 3D at this year’s CSTB international exhibition and forum.

Over 20,000 delegates attend the media event, which is hosted at the massive Crocus Hall on the outskirts of Moscow and is very similar in format to the Broadcast & Production Show at Earls Court. There are the usual displays from broadcasters and camera manufacturers, studios and distributors, and break-out conference rooms for sessions such as mine.

Before my session began I took some time to find out more about the state of TV in Russia. According to the conference organisers, digital television is one of the country’s premier issues. Data from the Ministry of Telecoms & Mass Communications suggests that by the end of 2015 digital broadcasting will cover the whole territory of the Russian Federation.

I also learnt from Russia's Cable TV Association that the average Russian watches far more television than his or her west European or US counterpart. Growth in personal incomes combined with scepticism about state-controlled channels has made pay-TV increasingly popular, despite the 18 free digital TV channels (including an HDTV channel) currently on offer.

And what about 3D? Well, it’s a growing part of the picture. About 800 of Russia’s 1,800 cinemas are already equipped to screen 3D films, and in 2010 Russia became the second country after Britain to launch satellite 3D TV broadcasts.

With the Olympics on the horizon, there was no shortage of interest in my session, and the translator kept up superbly.

Some of the attendees whose appetites were whetted after my two-hour taster may now join us in the UK for the BBC Academy’s two-day introduction to 3D production course at Wood Norton. Perhaps that will add another new dimension to our relationship with the Russian broadcasting industry…