The 3D Wimbledon experiment - your reactions

Tuesday 30 August 2011, 11:00

Danielle Nagler Danielle Nagler Controller, BBC HD

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Earlier in the Summer, I led a team which delivered our first live 3D broadcasts to homes around the UK. We wanted to get this year's Wimbledon finals out to everyone who has so far bought a 3D set (and the glasses that go with it) and so we used the BBC HD channel to show the matches - free of charge - on Freesat, Freeview, Sky and Virgin. As well as testing to see if what seemed possible in the lab could be delivered in practice, and trying to ensure that we could offer really high quality 3D in production terms, we also wanted to understand what people really think about seeing television content that they are familiar with in 2D in 3D. By doing so we hoped that we could make better-educated guesses about where 3D and television might go in future, and plan what the BBC's response to developments should be.

It seems obvious that in the end it is you - television viewers - who will decide whether 3D TV sinks or swims. There's a long history of technology innovations that haven't made it, because the public just hasn't wanted them. 3D may or may not be one of them. But there's been little if any research so far to understand how people relate to 3D pictures, so we wanted to start to fill that gap in understanding.

We focussed work on the Men's Final, and having invited people in to watch our 3D coverage at a number of cinemas around the UK, we asked them for their thoughts. We also provided people who came to our London screening with the opportunity to watch on the most up-to-date 3D televisions which you can find for sale at electronics shops now. And of course we looked for ways to find out what people who were watching in the comfort of their own homes thought.

People found the 3D very different from watching in 2D - and it provoked a mixed response: a lot of them loved it, and some loathed it. On Twitter, people said "it's like you are there as a line judge", "much better lower angle dynamic shots", "looks awesome... probably as close to courtside view as I can get", but there were also reports that "my head went fuzzy", and a certain frustration that because the cameras offered a courtside seat, it wasn't always possible to track the ball right across the court and see exactly where it landed. 60% of people said that their expectations were either met or exceeded, and a third of those who had never seen 3D before gave the experience 10 out of 10.

Most people we surveyed wanted to watch Wimbledon in 3D because they love Wimbledon, and they hoped that seeing it in 3D would make them feel more a part of the action. Of those who attended the screenings we held, 76% said that the 3D view did make them feel as if they were more involved in the match and many of the cinema screenings had people applauding, hushing others, and gasping at individual points as if they were really sitting in SW19.

Quite a few people told us that they had been sceptical about 3D television, and thought it was a bit of a gimmick, but that our coverage of Wimbledon had persuaded them otherwise - but another important message to emerge was that even for those who enjoyed the 3D, it's "good old-fashioned HD" (as one viewer put it) that really matters and adds to the television experience. We will be doing more - not least the final of this year's Strictly Come Dancing in December. And we'll be using these further experiments to try to understand more about the potential extra value that 3D can add for you as viewers. We want to understand the part 3D should play in the future of what we offer to licence payers, and my conclusion from our analysis of Wimbledon is that at the moment the jury is still out.

If you are interested in understanding more about how we filmed Wimbledon in 3D, the film tells the story of the production and the partnership behind it.

Danielle Nagler is head of HD and 3D at the BBC

  • You'll find a number of interesting blog posts about 3D TV on the BBC Internet blog - mostly of a more technical nature.
  • Danielle is also a regular contributor to the BBC Internet blog. Read all of her posts here.

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    Comment number 1.

    Danielle, I wil miss you. Good luck in your new job!

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I started watching a rugby union international in 3D - hated it - all wrong. Watched about 5 minutes then abandoned it for conventional HD.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.


    I regret you are mistaken about showing 3D free of charge via various carriers. One does not receive BBC tv through Virgin or Sky, for example, free of charge and, in any event, one is not allowed to own a functioning televison receiver without a compulsory charge being paid to the BBC.

    I am most surprised that the BBC can afford to conduct experiments at this time considering its self-induced (and proclaimed) penury.

    As it, self-evidently, could afford such experiments what a pity the experiment did not extend to showing some faster and more open sport, perhaps motor racing.

    Ah, sorry, forgot all mention of anything to do with live sports other than Wimbledon Tennis (all other tennis only being available on other channels) or the Olympics (all other athletics of any consequence again only being available from others such as Channel 4) and certainly of anthing to do with motor racing is forbidden unless sanctioned by senior management.

    Nevertheless an interesting experiment but it will not persuade me to invest in a 3D capable televison unless there can be some assurance the BBC will not be "sharing" the rights to Wimbledon next year. e.g only showing the matches on the outer courts.

    This comment is entirely on topic (for the assistance of the censor).

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Regarding 3D broadcasting, will it catch on or will it just be a fad? Are people rushing out to buy 3D TVs as expectred?

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I found the 3D Wimbledon experiment most interesting. In my opinion the results on Freesat seemed beter than Freeview, movement seemed smoother on Freesat. I'm not a tennis fan but the 3D produced a greater feeling of involvement and realism. Well done BBC, can't wait for more content!

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    #8 while we're on-topic....:-)

    It would be a shame for the BBC to cease testing new technologies just because upper management has wasted an absolute fortune on projects like Salford Quays. 3D technology or its derivatives may be the way ahead for viewing, and its technologies may be used elsewhere too. I remember quadrophonic sound in the 70s which led to the development of better stereo records.

    I think this BBC department needs to be retained and encouraged to push the technological envelope. I bet it doesn't cost all that much in proportion to the other BBC waste and overspending to keep up with developments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Nice to see the BBC have been wasting our money again on the 3D Wimmledon experiment (see this is 'on topic', just to be clear) well, at least they can afford it now they have saved X number of million quid by selling off their most popular sport, won't mention the sport (though it begins with F and ends in 1) for fear that might compromise the 'house rules'. What next, 'Snog, Marry or Avoid' in glorious HD 3D - can't wait.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Imagine if you you this weekend's most watched sport on BBC1 in 3D, it can only benefit the award winning coverage the Corporation has already achieved with it's Broadcasts and coverage. If a programme is out stripping the viewing figures for the whole weekend it is on then it's seems credible to consider improving the the coverage for the licence fee payers.

    I'd hate to think that a sport attracting millions on a Sunday afternoon would be discharged to a pay per view channel.

    I'd also hate to think that investing millions in an American singing competition would be seen as a credible investment of the licence fee just to compete with the other side, even worse if it's a celebrity dance competition...

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Again this is the BBC completely wasting money, most people do not have 3D TV's nor wish to.The BBC should be investing this money in keeping it's highest rating sports coverage, which involves cars racing around the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Wimbeldon is the most boring sport going, shows how much the BBC know what they are doing, keep wimbeldon but get rid of a program that gets viewing figuers of 6 million twice a month for 10 months. BBC dealing with Sky is a disgrace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    3D...why bother? Its a waste of time plus if the BBC is apparently got no can it do 3d broadcasts yet get rid of the sport which gets 6m+ viewers when its on? I bet this 3d experiment could only dream of those viewing figures!
    I mean 3D for the Olympics? No No NO.
    We want the Olympics in HD! Isnt that enough? Plus keeping the Main Motorsports Series on would be a good thing too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Please do not waste money on 3D TV. It is a fad. I am in favour of the BBC investigating new technology, but I think this is a dead end. Sales of 3D cinema tickets seem to have peaked already - time will tell if they pick up again. Save the money and use it to maintain quality programming, particularly BBC4.


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