Content will be key to success, as this week’s 3D special issue proves.
Forget Alex Ferguson and Carlo Ancelotti, next week’s Man Utd vs Chelsea fixture is absolutely crucial for Sky’s Jeremy Darroch as well.
The business case for 3D TV has yet to be tested, but by the end of the year at least 10 3D channels will have launched worldwide, with the first being next week’s Sky 3D premiere in pubs.
Consumers may yet baulk at paying £2,000 for a 3D-capable TV on which they will be able to view only a limited amount of, mainly, sports and feature films. They may decide that having to wear opaque glasses is an anti-social experience. There are warnings that ‘bad 3D’ - the sort that causes eye strain and even nausea - will see this new media sent to an early grave.
Then again, the inexorable marketing pressure from Sky, coupled with consumer electronic giants such as Sony or Samsung, may just force us all to bow to the inevitable. If the projections of these and other manufacturers are even half right, in a few years we may be hard pressed to buy any screen - PC or TV - that is not 3D-ready.
Of course the content might actually be worth watching - even revolutionary. The high-quality mark is something that BSkyB is at pains to stress. Training in the basics of the techniques and the technology, which is changing at a very fast pace, is essential. The trouble is that those with hands-on experience of working in the third dimension are rare. There are just four stereographers trained to handle live broadcasts in the UK - and the UK leads the world in 3D TV.
There’s no denying that 3D production is expensive, but the international market for 3D content is expanding. Sky has urged producers to come to it with ideas across all genres, promising to fund the 3D increment. Like other broadcasters, such as Discovery and ESPN, it needs content to flesh out its 3D plans.
Neither should digital cinemas be discounted. As a sector in its own right, alternative content such as opera, theatre and music is forging a small but significant revenue stream, worth $526m globally by 2014, according to Screen Digest.
Given the right environment and the right material, audiences have an appetite for 3D. Producers looking to tap into this will need to begin with some sound business decisions. Do you future-proof production by creating a 3D version as well as a regular 2D one, bearing in mind that in 3D, one size does not fit all? It will need reversioning, even re-editing, according to the size of the screen on which it is displayed.
Some analysts argue that 3D will follow the same path as HD. When Sky introduced the UK to HD channels in 2006, few would have predicted that five years later it would be broad casting nearly 50 channels in the format, including the forthcoming launch of Sky News HD.
News in 3D: it couldn’t happen here, could it?
Lisa Campbell is editor of Broadcast