3D a possibility for 2012 Olympics

A London conference on Sports Broadcasting* heard a clutch of speakers praising the progress being made around the world in terms of 3D broadcasting. One speaker said that home 3D viewing could happen by 2012.
Peter Angell is Director of Production & Programming at Host Broadcast Services (HBS), and one of the team that that brought the world the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World (soccer) Cups. He was project director for the 15th Asian Games in Doha in 2006. Angell is a self-admitted enthusiast for HDTV and its natural successor 3D. He says that 3D is already a reality for closed circuit transmissions to cinemas and theatres, including sport, rock concerts, opera and such like. He said that the 2012 London Olympic Games is the biggest event on the sports horizon, but urged broadcasters to get the HDTV habit. “I am a bit disappointed that UK and European broadcasters have not embraced HD. Flat-panel sales have gone through the roof. The bit that’s missing is the broadcasting [of signals].”

Angell rhetorically asked whether HDTV was good enough? “Has too much emphasis been put on squeezing ever more channels into the available bandwidth, and as a result delivering channels that are near-unwatchable in standard definition,” he asked. “Sport in particular comes across especially badly in low-bandwidth environments.”

“What I see when we go out on productions is that the equipment is all HDTV, even if the transmission is going out in SD. The paradigm has shifted. The factories have done their job. Everything is HD, from acquisition to consumer equipment. This missing link is the broadcaster. There is a responsibility upon broadcasters to deliver more HD channels to consumers. A dozen or so HD channels on BSkyB doesn’t stack up out of 400 available channels.”

“The industry must look ahead,” urged Angell. “MPEG4/H.264 is the route to success. It is now a standard in the broadcast world, and the internet world. 3D high definition is embryonic today. The USA is leading the way in terms of 3D production. But we are already on the cusp of jumping into a 3D high-def world, perhaps before having sorted out the conventional HD technology. I’d ask that our industry address HDTV very quickly so that we can then move forward quickly into 3D. It feels sexy, and looks good. It can also make you want to throw up, so there’s more work to be done before we release the technology on an unsuspecting public.”

Assorted test transmissions have taken place around the world, but Angell said more work needed to be done on discovering whether the public really was ready for a 90 minute soccer game in 3D, or 2 hours of Formula 1 in 3D, without getting a headache.

“Vince Pace in the US is doing great work with studio rigs, but they’re too big and cumbersome for the broadcasting world. On transmission, get a frame out and you are in deep, deep trouble. Display prices need to come down for 3D display. Just at the moment home viewing of 3D doesn’t seem to be an option. Out of home viewing, perhaps in a ‘tribal’ environment on the big screen is the way forward in the short term. Then perhaps transmissions to the home will be an option by [the London Olympics] in 2012.”