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The 3D Wimbledon experiment - your reactions

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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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