BBC puts Strictly Come Dancing in 3D
By Julian Clover
Published: October 18, 2010 11.30 Europe/London

The BBC has recorded a three-minute sequence featuring a dance by performers from Strictly Come Dancing in 3D as part of an ongoing experiment into the format. The three-minute film featuring an Argentinean tango was recorded on Friday evening and will be shown in selected UK cinemas TV retailers in the run-up to the annual Children in Need appeal on November 19.

Mindful of not wanting to be seen to be endorsing a particular manufacturer, the BBC has offered the short film to all four display manufacturers currently selling product in the UK and has received a positive response from the three that have so far replied.

The method emphasises the BBC’s role as a public service broadcaster away from the demands of pay-TV.

Earlier this year the BBC produced a 3D trailer for the new series of Doctor Who.

“The message is that we’re transforming Strictly by doing it in 3D, now we’re asking you to transform the lives of children and young people by donating to Children in Need,” the BBC’s head of 3D and HD Danielle Nagler told Broadband TV News.

Nagler said the format of the film would make it clear the BBC was not going to be producing a dedicated 3D channel for which there are currently no plans. “It is going to be very clearly packaged as an event for Children in Need and we wouldn’t want to suggest in any sense that we’re doing a 3D channel. I think channels are a very different proposition to individual pieces of content.

“When you produce a channel you’re pushing content out to an audience and everything you know about 3D at the moment is that people select to pull it, selecting the film, and putting on the glasses and that’s very different to watching Strictly on a Saturday night”.

There is however the future possibility of 3D being delivered to the licence fee payer through the BBC iPlayer, though Nagler says to do so would require some reconfiguration. “Part of our thinking around a pipeline of projects is how we can distribute content as widely as possible. It is quite important as consoles have 3D and more and more people have laptop and smaller screen capability and connected TVs that we think about how we can use iPlayer as a way to get limited pieces of content to people.”

The Strictly Come Dancing work has been funded in part by the BBC Worldwide dividend, which provides limited assistance on new projects, together with BBC Studios and Post Production and their partners, which are also interested in 3D development work.

Three separate 3D rigs were brought in by BBC Studios as was stereographer Scott Mednick, whose earlier work has included the 2007 production U2 3D. US producers 3Ality also assisted in the production.

Significantly, the film was directed by Nikki Parsons, who regularly directs the Saturday night show, rather than flying in a dedicated team. For the BBC it is important to work with its own brand and ways of making and showing content.

The routine, Tango Unleashed, choreographed by professional Flavia Cacace and featuring the dancer and four of her male counterparts, was recorded a number of times in order to get the best shots from the three 3D rigs.

Given that there is no funding from the licence fee, it has not yet been necessary to approach the BBC Trust, which would have to approve any long term ‘channel’. However, the BBC Executive is committed to a small number of content experiments, potentially as many as five over a 12-month period.

“For us the goal is what we make in 3D can be accessed by audiences, without paying a premium for it, I would bet that in five years time that will be possible,” says Nagler. “I think it will be one-offs, we’re starting with three minutes, it could be in five years we choose to make a whole series in 3D but I don’t think it will be every night of the week peak time on BBC One is in 3D”.