Sky 3D, Europe’s first scheduled stereoscopic TV channel, went on-air at 10.00 today (Saturday). After two hours showcasing some of the 3D footage captured by Sky over the last 12 months, the first live transmission began with coverage of the top of the table Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea.
The build up was actually a simulcast of the 2D Sky Sports coverage with only a countdown clock, complete with spinning 3D glasses, providing a hint of what was to come. The match was underway at 12.45, 3D viewers receiving their own director’s cut and commentary, eight dedicated cameras providing the majority of the footage. There was also a 3D commercial, Guinness extending its relationship with Sky Business, the division that looks after the 1,500 pubs and clubs where Sky 3D will be seen for the first few weeks of its life.
After the match Brian Lenz, director of product development at BSkyB, told Broadband TV News that the game compared favourably with the broadcaster’s earlier trials. “The cameramen were excellent, every one of them held the framing and had good panning, had the right pace and did the best job from their position at that point in time. In the first few matches the guys were figuring out how the camera worked. What we saw today was everybody pulling it all together operationally.”
The coverage lingered longer above the pitch than has become the norm for 2D broadcasts, the full benefits of 3D really being seen during cutaways of the crowd or the gum-chewing Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, but Lenz explained the essential requirement was still to cover the match. “If you go back and watch an HD match now you’ll probably notice we’re on that same camera more or longer than we are in 3D… we’ll never sacrifice covering the match solely to frame better 3D exaggerated impact.” Lenz said the 3D director had access to the remaining 2D cameras in their choice of shot. “Every now and then we’ll switch in a close-up and do a 2D/3D conversion on that shot where you don’t have multiple layers on the picture. The 2D/3D conversion really falls apart when you have a lot happening on the screen, but when it’s a close-up you can get away with just a slight offset.”
The next match to be covered will be Blackburn versus Manchester United on Sunday April 11. At least one match will be seen on the channel each week through until the end of the season. A full consumer launch is expected in the autumn.