3D for Wimbledon - the future of TV?

Wednesday 8 June 2011, 09:24

Danielle Nagler Danielle Nagler Controller, BBC HD

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Roger Federer in a test image for the BBC's 3D coverage of Wimbledon

The first time I visited Wimbledon I expected it to look and feel exactly like it does on television. After years of sitting in front of the screen watching the balls, and spectators' heads, swinging backwards and forwards I thought I knew what sitting on Centre Court would be like. I realised that I didn't, and that while TV can do a great job it can't capture the magic of actually being there.

Like most of us I've never been lucky enough to sit and watch a finals match on Centre Court. But this year - the Wimbledon Championships' 125th anniversary - I've been working with others inside and outside the BBC to try to bring you the next best thing - the Wimbledon Singles' Finals, in 3D.

Wimbledon always feels timeless - but actually it has been home to successive TV sport innovations from an early appearance in colour, through to Hawk Eye technology.

We know that tennis can look thrilling in 3D - it can really bring the power players put into shots to life. I've been lucky to see some of the incredible test shoots we've been running, as the team are busy working behind the scenes to get everything in place for the broadcast, but I can't wait to see what a real match played by two of the world's finest will look like.

The broadcasts will be available to everyone with access to an HD service and a 3D TV set, via BBC HD, whether you get your TV from Freesat, Freeview, Sky or Virgin Media. And if you don't have a 3D TV, there are some opportunities to watch the broadcast in the cinema.

The BBC's been experimenting with 3D for decades - but as we all know the latest developments in 3D technology have made it much, much more sophisticated as a viewing experience, and we've been working with the All-England Club and Sony Professional for this BBC first. It will also be the first time that 3D broadcasting has been tried out across all the different TV providers so that it's accessible without subscription.

For all of us who don't have a 3D set at home, or a Centre Court ticket, the finals will of course be shown on BBC One and in HD on BBC One HD, as well as all the BBC's regular Wimbledon coverage - on TV, radio, and online.

I don't know yet whether 3D will be the future of television, or the future of Wimbledon: that's why we're doing this experimental trial. But I am really excited to experience the finals this year in 3D. And if you are able to watch in 3D I'd love to know what you think.

Danielle Nagler is the Head of BBC HD and 3D

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Danielle: While I am pleased to learn that the BBC is keeping tabs on advances in TV Technology and I guess you have to produce in 3D to meet export needs of the events you have been given coverage rights to, may I remind you that you and Andy Questead have convinced me that I should not expect BBC HD to maintain the bit-rated needed to provide us with what HD technology can achieve as to do this is not practicable given the constraints you have to work within. There are so few of us with the home technology needed to display the high definition that the limitations you have imposed on bit-rate and best compression technology you can deliver is an acceptable compromise (this has been agreed by the BBC Trust).

    Yes it still hurts, but my fear is that to provide a 3D service you will have to make even more compromises.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Having heard Chris Hollins on BBC Breakfast saying that Wimbledon would be transmitted in 3D and that this could be viewed with a plain HDTV if one had a Converter Box to change 2D to 3D. I have inquired around TV shops and none know of this Converter Box,

    Does anyone know of this and can they supply me with any information? My email add. is [Personal details removed by Moderator]

    Anyone please.


  • rate this

    Comment number 4.


    The contraints the BBC places itself under self imposed. It is a case of the suits triumphing over the nurds. Instead of providing an reasonable HD service the BBC has been embarking on a multibillion pound building project. BBC now stands for the British Building Company.

    The BBC is only providing commentary and delivery for this project. It is Sony doing all the difficult video production. Its value seems mainly to be a publicity stunt as the BBC has no plans to introduce a 3D channel. People are not going to invest in a 3D television for the occational programme.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.


    No yet more missinformation from the BBC. You need a 3D television and either Freeview HD, Freesat, Virgin or Sky. Make sure Freeview HD is available in you area.

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    Comment number 6.

    Will BBC ONE HD be available to Sky subscribers in Ireland for the Final.?

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    Comment number 7.

    Great, looking forward to the tennis finals on my 3D TV, got in October last year after seeing a demo in a retail outlet. I am very pleased with it, Avatar in HD 3D is as good as the cinema version.

    Its tecnically possible to tansmit 3D with no problems it seems at the BBC, can we have some more please.

    Any chance of getting my grubby hands on the test programmes you have made in 3D and I am prepared to give feedback as a consumer / licence payer.


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    Comment number 8.

    Thanks to the BBC for wasting more of my licence fee on a minority of '3d gotta have it's'. I will now be boycotting the BBC's coverage of Wimbledon. Why is the BBC getting into this anyway, don't you realise that 3d images make a lot of people feel sick. Anyway, don't come whining to me when you're short of money again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    tb23ahigh, treorjharris is right. There's no such thing as a '3D converter' for your TV so I think that was probably a mistake. Chris may have been referring to the HD box you'll need to connect to your TV to received the signals. And whichever service you choose you're going to need a TV that can display 3D signals. You might be interested in Andy Quested's two posts from the BBC Internet blog about getting 3D pictures to your TV: Gearing up to deliver Wimbledon 3D and So what is 3D TV?

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, About the BBC

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    9. At 09:03 14th Jun 2011, Steve Bowbrick

    There are professional ones, but the results are, as you would expect, usually poor. A 3D effect can be created but a lot of weird errors come with it.

    I saw a demonstration of one that apparently has been bought by Sky so that in emergency (say a loss of 3D feed) they can switch to the box for a bit of face saving.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Thanks Kit. Useful clarification. Sounds a bit like one of those magnifying lenses that people used to roll in front of their tiny early TV sets in the 1950s!

    Steve Bowbrick, editor About the BBC

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    Comment number 12.

    11. At 09:15 16th Jun 2011, Steve Bowbrick

    I have found details here:

    I am not selling this so hope the link is OK as general interest!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Amazing that the BBC cannot increase the resolution and bitrate of BBC HD to match other broadcasters, until a commercial sponsor Sony comes along and no doubt twists their arm, and suddenly that extra resolution and bitrate is magically found...

    I guess the spectre of Sky being given the 3D rights was too much to bear.

    Still the only people who are going to benefit from this are pay TV viewers, as who else has a 3DTV? Industry figures show that the overwhelming number of 3DTV owners are also pay TV subscribers.

    Why would someone who doesn't subscribe to pay TV buy a 3DTV for this seemingly one off event? What else do the BBC plan to show in 3D before the 2012 Olympics? Very little I will wager given that both Wimbledon and the Olympics are only being covered in 3D thanks to the actions of sponsors - Sony and Panasonic - and nothing to do with the BBC.

    So there we have it. BBC broadcasting 3DTV for the benefit of pay TV subscribers and commercial sponsors, and no one else...

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.


    Actually JD3 this is not costing the BBC much money. All they are doing is transmitting Sony's 3D feed. It is true though the BBC has been waisting billions licence payers money mainly on buildings and the Salford move. The refurbishment of broadcasting house was 200 million over a budget of £800 million. Sky are spending £380 million on 3D production this year so the overspend would have paid for a 3D channel for 6 months.

    This "experiment" is of little value as they are using technology which Sky uses every day. They are not even geting production experience as it is Sony which is doing that.


    Yes the only logical reason for doing this was to stop Sky from doing it. I think the BBC were relieved when 3D cameras were not alowed in the Abbey for the royal wedding. As it happens Sky did record all the outside scenes in 3D and they can now transform the Abbey scenes into 3D and have a complete 3D archive.

    The resolution and bitrate issue is a very sore point with viewers who would like to see better quality HD rather than 3D. Looking at BBC HD now I would agree with them particularly considering the BBC does not want to start a 3D service. The BBC consider this issue done and dusted but it is still very active in the technical press and on the internet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.


    "Who else has a 3DTV?"
    "Why would someone who doesn't subscribe to pay TV buy a 3DTV for this seemingly one off event?"

    Last year, 3D was only available on top-of-the-range TVs. Already this has changed, with 3D being provided on mid-range models, whether you want it or not.

    Owning a 3D TV has nothing to do with being a Sky subscriber.

    3DTV isn't just limited to broadcast services: there are already a number of movies and documentaries released in 3D, and more due for release this year.

    Watching 3D has nothing to do with being a Sky subscriber.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    @ 15 brian_damage wrote:

    "Owning a 3D TV has nothing to do with being a Sky subscriber.

    3DTV isn't just limited to broadcast services: there are already a number of movies and documentaries released in 3D, and more due for release this year.

    Watching 3D has nothing to do with being a Sky subscriber."

    I realise that owning and watching a 3D TV has nothing to do with being a Sky subscriber.

    However, the BBC estimate there are around 200,000 3D TVs in the UK.
    Funny enough, Sky say they have 200,000 subscribers to their 3D service.

    The point I made is that whilst watching 3D TV might have nothing directly to do with being a Sky subscriber, the fact is almost no one other than Sky subscribers has a 3D TV!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I've just finished building a new computer on which I have installed the NVIDIA 3D system. Using it I can watch Blu Ray 3D movies, games, and 3D pics and clips I record on a 3D camcorder that cost £130-00 from Maplins.

    Please, please can you make the broadcast available for download from the i-player site in the NVIDIA 3D format as I think it will be incredible?

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    The BBC is now conducting a streaming 720p HD during the BBC. They have written a blog about it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2011/06/wimbledon_hd_http_streaming_tr.html
    Try that group, maybe they will test 3D also at the end of this trial.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Another call for a download suitable for nvidia's 3d vision please!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Just been watching. My first impression is that tennis is NOT "the only sport whose coverage is fundamentally altered for the better by the introduction of 3D" as stated in the Telegraph. In fact it makes very little difference at all. That honour remains with Golf. Even football and rugby are better.

    The coverage also has a very irritating Logo that periodically leaps out of the set to remind you that it is Wimbledon in 3D. Also the score 'logo' irritatingly sticks out in front of the screen. It should be at the back because it messes with your focus. Sky also have these irritating logos.

    A good but somewhat misplaced effort in my opinion.

    I have a Cinema LG that uses plain polarized specs as in the cinema.


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