With the NFL about to embark on a test broadcast of a live 3D American Football game, the interest in stereoscopic telly is really starting to grow, suggests Will Strauss.
  • "What's that coming over the hill? Is it a monster? Is it a monster?"
    The Automatic ‘Monster' (2006) Copyright EMI Music Publishing.

I suggested back in April that stereoscopic 3D was not a gimmick.

Since then I've also discovered that a number of broadcasters have been sounding out technology companies about doing stereo 3D broadcasts.

And now, another test is due to take place. Momentum is certainly starting to build.

3Ality Digital will next week (December 4) produce a live 3D ‘broadcast' of an American Football game between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders.

I've put the word broadcast in inverted commas because to me it seems like a narrow cast: It will be presented as a test to invited guests at three theatres, one each in Los Angeles, Boston and New York.

3ality Digital is overseeing production and transmission. Technicolor Digital Cinema is providing the satellite transponder time and digital downlink services. RealD will be providing the 3D-enabled theatres and contributing 3D-capable television monitors.

This comes on the back of other examples of 3D broadcast tests including:

  • The National Basketball Association experimenting with the format with a few 3D broadcasts for test audiences.

  • The BBC testing the waters with a broadcast of Six Nations Rugby.

In the last few months there have been whitepapers on the subject too, including one from Quantel (PDF).

Interestingly in that document Mark Horton from Quantel answers lots of the usual objections to stereo 3D:

  • OK, so what are the objections to Stereo Broadcasting? One statement that you'll hear is ‘not all material is suitable for 3D'. I find that rather hard to understand. During the course of a day, how much time do you spend with one eye closed? Another one is the ‘you'll never get people to watch 3D at home with glasses'. I really don't know how we can be so certain about that - many of us wear spectacles - or at least sunglasses - without objection. Sales of walkmans or iPods doesn;'t seem to have been affected by the need to wear earphones. People will happily go to a 3D movie and wear special glasses - the same may soon go for computer games. So while of course glasses - free viewing
    (autostereoscopic) would be ideally preferable, it doesn't seem to be mandatory and in any case auto stereo TV sets using picket or lenticular display methods are coming on the market as a possible future choice for Broadcasters to use.

Another whitepaper, this time from Autodesk (PDF), suggests that: "Sports broadcasting to theatres seem to be an area where S3D is gaining wide acceptance."

There does appear to be a real interest in 3D, not least from broadcasters. Which makes me doubly sure it's not a gimmick.

My only worry is that stereo 3D will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you mention it enough, people will make it happen. I hope I'm wrong. Because that would suggest that there is no real business reason or viewer demand.

I really hope that people are conjuring up plenty of realistic business reasons for going down the stereo 3D broadcasting route.

Otherwise all the lovely new toys, the exciting trials and the great promise will go to waste.