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3D for Wimbledon - the future of TV?

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Danielle Nagler Danielle Nagler | 08:24 UK time, Wednesday, 8 June 2011

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


  • 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.

  • Comment number 2.

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Comment number 6.

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

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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...

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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?

  • Comment number 18.

    The BBC is now conducting a streaming 720p HD during the BBC. They have written a blog about it: https://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.

  • Comment number 19.

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

  • 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.

  • Comment number 21.

    Its not 3D? I have samsung 3D TV I have virgin HD box and I am tuned into BBC1 HD but the tennis isn't 3D! I have the option on my remote to turn 2D images into 3D but I can do that with every channel so its nothing that the BBC are doing. I can watch every channel in 3D with this method so how exactly are BBC broadcasting in 3D?

  • Comment number 22.

    ok figured it out and posted back incase it helps others.
    I am with Virgin media and all though BBC One HD is channel 108 you have to tune into the BBC HD channel on virgin 187. Why they couldn't say this on the BBC site is beyond me. So virgin media tune to 187 (and have HD box and activated services)

  • Comment number 23.

    Wimbledon Ladies Final is superb in 3D on BBC HD !
    It really makes so much difference ...
    I've just tried watching it in standard definition, then HD then 3D and you wouldn't believe the difference it makes !
    Maria and Petra look so close and in crisp focus compared to the background.
    Tennis looks like one of those sports that really comes through with 3D :-)

  • Comment number 24.

    Having just watched the womens final I was somewhat dissapointed. For a start the flying logo on replays was annoying, and it was really only the foreground shots that worked.
    It does however confirm my orginal thoughts that 3d doesnt work well enough, particularily on a small screen. I suspect your whole field of vision needs to be filled. I wont be subscribing to any paid for 3d services or buying films, thats for sure.

  • Comment number 25.

    not a sky subscriber have 3d projector for films. have just watched the womens finale on a whole it was good some bits brilliant but it will take time to perfect this format. so i have watched this free on freesat on an 84 inch screen which was cheeper than a 3d tv and think that size does matter. so well done bbc this could be the start of a good future for sport and wild life programs

  • Comment number 26.

    Thought yesterday's 3D broadcast was average at best. Yes, the 3D effect was great (at times breathtaking), but I found the loss of resolution a hard pill to swallow. While not terrible when compared to a SD broadcast, it was very obvious and at times I was wishing I was watching it on BBC1HD instead.

    Could the camera angle be raised slightly? The net was obscuring the service line of the far court most of the time which was mildy irritating.

  • Comment number 27.

    Just watched Mens singles final at Odeon cinema in 3d. We were very disappointed and agree with everything that NickDVL has said above. The resolution on faces and the far distance was very poor. It seemed that there was a middle band where things were clear and anything that fell out of that was blurred including the score in the top lefthand corner. Again the fact that you could not see into the next court lost all the excitement for me, knowing if a shot was in or out. Most of us in the cinema complained to the management who said there was nothing that they could do to alter the resolution. I would have had a better experience watching at home. I had no feeling of anything in 3D other than the wimbledon LOGO that came spinning into the auditorium. Watched 3D films and they are fantastic, never watched any other 3D sport so have nothing to compare with. I am sure the technology will get better!!!

  • Comment number 28.

    I had precisely the same experience as Sw180. We watched at the Odeon in Bath and half the audience left after the first set. I came home and watched in HD - a far superior experience. By way of compensation the cinema ordered strawberries and cream for those who stayed!

  • Comment number 29.

    Thanks for your many useful comments. I'll pass them all onto the 3D team.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, About the BBC

  • Comment number 30.

    Does Danielle Nagler not read and answer these comments which, after all, were addressed to her, not Steve Bowdrick?

    One must suppose that actually dealing with negative comments from the peasants who actually watch her stuff is beneath her salary scale!

  • Comment number 31.

    To follow on from the cinema experince of the two users above I have to say that I watched the men's final in a cinema in Vancouver, Canada and I thought it was absolutely fantastic.

    I didn't notice any problems with the resolution as mentioned above. I have no real knowledge about the technological side of things but I wonder if the experiences above may have been to do with the particular cinemas?

    I will agree that the lower camera-angle took a little getting used to, but I would have to assume that this was deliberate. A steeper angle would reduce the impact of 3D because there's nothing 'behind' the floor, whereas shooting from the low-angle made the depth come through.

    Thrilled that I made the effort to get up at 5:45am and I would definitely plan to go again if there will be similar broadcasts during Wimbledon or the Olympics next year.

  • Comment number 32.

    P.S. I don't know if he's been doing commentary for a few years back in the UK, but that was the first time I've heard Greg Rusedski commentating and I was very impressed.

  • Comment number 33.

    I assume that the cinima took this offair in which case it will be using the side by side method of transmission. This reduces the horizontal resolution by half. The BBC did upgrade to 1920 which results in a 3d picture of 960x1080. I guess this is just not good enough for a large cinema screen. The other issue is bitrate of course. The BBC did increase the average bitrate by about 2 Mb/s but this is still far too low quality pictures.

    We must remember that this was produced by Sony and not the BBC. The BBC has very little experience in 3D production and from what Danielle has said will not start to get experience until 2012. It looks as though the Olympics will be their first attemt so don't expect a very good production.

    Sky is at the opposite of the spectrum and have alot of experience in a wide variety of material. ITV is transmiting a test channel and so I expect they will start a 3D service soon.

  • Comment number 34.

    I have to say that I am amused that my comment has been removed for 'consideration'. It mildly scolded a BBC employee of some, it seems, significant seniority. I assume expensive meetings will take place before a decision is reached and the customer's hand is slapped..

    It is time all you people understood that we are forced to pay your premium in order to watch TV. I, therefore, also assume that answers will be available from the perpetrators...in this case a certain Ms. Nagler. So far they are not.

  • Comment number 35.

    I do hope the BBC is not planning to waste any more of our funding on this experiment. Please concentrate on better HD coverage on Freesat instead, eg, all channels in HD, with proper DD sound and not just upscaled SD with stereo.

  • Comment number 36.

    Dear trevorjharris - we cannot escape each other! The cinema feed was a completely separate output from the OB truck, converted to 720p/60 and RealD encoded. 720p/60 had to be used for projector compatibility world wide.



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