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BBC Undecided About 3D - Not Getting Into The Hype

David Gilbert


BBC Undecided About 3D - Not Getting Into The Hype

While the technology world has jumped feet first onto the 3D bandwagon in the past year or so with TVs, laptops, tablets, consoles and even mobile phones all making an appearance – one voice is sounding a note of caution.

The BBC has released its technology strategy for the coming years and has decided not to commit wholeheartedly to the 3D phenomenon. Branding the recent 3D furore as “hype” the BBC has said it will not be committing to the platform because it fears it may “fail to deliver/take off.” The statement went on to mention of the success of Avatar, saying: “Much of the current hype has come from the success of recent movie titles and the imminent release of these on Blu-ray.”

One of the problems the BBC sees with 3D on television is the availability of sufficient content of a high enough calibre. Uncertainty over how 3D programmes should be produced and distributed is a major issue for the television industry, compared to “a smaller but better funded number of players in the movie industry.” While not committing itself completely to the technology, the BBC will be experimenting with 3D in the coming months, including at Wimbledon, to “explore the creative potential of the new format, evaluate the different technology options and help us contribute to the standardisation process.”

Sky in contrast has embraced the 3D technology fully and currently boasts 70,000 subscribers to its 3D packages with regular 3D sports broadcasts as well as niche programming such as David Attenborough’s Flying Monsters. The BBC says it will continue to make HD – rather than 3D – the centre of all its activities. With television manufacturers continuing to churn out 3D-ready models, this news won’t be welcome, but has the BBC got it right on 3D or will it miss the boat?

Source: Telegraph


March 9, 2011, 3:53 pm

Couldn't agree more with the BBC. They have to justify value for money, more so than ever. Mass-market 3D is something that is still fairly new and is very much open to debate if it will take-off. Lots of 3DTVs are exactly fantastic with their 3D output and most that have good output are costly.
Many people have also invested in HDTVs over the last 2/3/4 years, as prices for those have plummeted. The masses won't want to spend on an upgrade so soon.

I could see a trial of it, at the Olympics maybe?

Ala Miah

March 9, 2011, 3:58 pm

The BBC has got it spot on. 3D is over-hyped, too expensive and relatively poor in terms of viewing experience in the home!

The Doctor

March 9, 2011, 4:01 pm

I'm not normally the biggest fan of the BBC but on this count they've got it spot on. The only appeal of 3D beyond novelty value that it's proponents have been able to advance is that it makes the experience of watching films more "immersive". That may be true when you see something on an IMAX screen (and after having seen Avatar at the BFI I'd say that's debatable) but on a TV screen it's more like watching a toy theatre with cardboard cut-outs. I'd rather the BBC spent my cash on better programmes instead of gimmicks.


March 9, 2011, 4:16 pm

The BBC is NOT being "CAUTIOUS" just cowardly.

Leaving the monopoly to BSkyB as it did with HD tv. Not forgetting the cuts in BBCi.

Basically the Licence Fee payers from now on will get a second rate service.

Which means the viewer has the NONE choice between the second rate public tv service and EXPENSIVE CRAP from the commercial tv sector.

Tim Wye

March 9, 2011, 4:23 pm

"Licence fee payers...will get a second rate service"? Not in my opinion - I hugely prefer 2D pictures to the gimmicky 3D ones. 3D on a big (cinema) screen can be quite impressive, but on a telly it's pointless. The BBC is spot-on.


March 9, 2011, 4:31 pm

3D suits certain programmes, I for one cant wait for Formula1 in 3D, pity it wont happen any time soon :(


March 9, 2011, 4:39 pm

@Enigma - I too would prefer the BBC's funds to be spent on quality HD programming rather than wasted on shallow 3D content that only a small proportion of the population are bothered about (or equipped to view).

3D is best positioned as a chargeable service at this point - where those who really want it can pay the premium to fund it.


March 9, 2011, 5:00 pm

3D is a gimmick, so it's little wonder it does well on Sky where people are more inclined to buy into such marketry. Thankfully the BBC has higher standards and given their limited budget aren't going to waste money on 3D and I think are more than right to wait for it to mature (or die off).


March 9, 2011, 6:33 pm

The BBC has to think about the majority of people that watch its programs... The article says that there are 70,000 subscribers to skys 3D package, which is nothing compared to the numbers of people that watch normal sky and tv in general. Besides most of these subscribers will be pubs showing only sports in 3D.

Most people understand that 3D is a gimmick, its not new (been around since the 60s) and that because of the ease of mas-marketing Hollywood have only been able to sell it in more reacent years. The main reason for the film industry turning to 3D is because they can charge an extra £1.50-£2 per ticket with no questions asked and also try and increase the amount of people going to the cinema.

3D itself does not portray 3D, we already see films in 3D (remember when computer games went from 2D to 3D) because 3D is the way we see real life, watching a film just means you are watching a window to another world. 3D that is sold to us now is just an increased depth of field, which doesn't look very good because this now gives us more to look at and draws attention away from the focus point.

anyways back to the BBC not jumping on the bandwagon... there are still a lot of people in the film industry that are not convinced by 3D (and rightly so). Even one of the biggest film makers at this very moment, Christopher Nolan, is against 3D calling it a gimmick that will soon fade away. So I am glad the BBC are at least waiting to see if they should wast money on 3D tv.

Michael 2

March 9, 2011, 7:51 pm

Agreed, 3D = Gimmick

What's more......

Around 12 per cent of the UK population has a visual impairment that prevents them from seeing 3D images, according to the telegraph anyway:



March 10, 2011, 2:13 am

Great decision. As I've always said, 3D is a gimmick. Public opinion will turn against it soon enough to the point it will be a sparingly used technology. Like 4d cinemas. 3D feels like when every media outlet was singing the praises of vista and giving it 10/10 ratings everywhere (TR included :p). Now vista was no means bad and a great springboard to 7. However I think the future is super-thin tv's and embedded displays (e.g. microsoft surface) that's where firms should be putting their money.


March 10, 2011, 2:23 am

@ KultiVator

Totally agree. They're right to wait it out. The gear shift at CES from active to passive technology, at least indirectly, tells the BBC how unstable this market is - everyone fumbling around in the dark while cramming it down the consumers' throats before they decide what to standardise. Right now HD is where a truly 'immersive' experience is at - it's why Chris Nolan is focussing on IMAX instead - that creative decision has done him any harm. With that great Trusted Reviews round up reminding us how some 3D technologies are cutting resolution in half, it's a step backwards in many respects. Sure, if there's more unity in the 3D market (screen tech, broadcast type, increase in adoption, demand for more cinema content) then I can see why they'd move on it some time next year. Better later than sooner IMHO - give this dog a chance to die first before betting half our licence fee on it. Say it's on every second tablet and smartphone screen, and starts to infect the sub-£750 TV market by June 2012, then I guess they'd have no choice.


March 10, 2011, 4:01 am

"Around 12 per cent of the UK population has a visual impairment that prevents them from seeing 3D images, according to the telegraph anyway:"

Ah, that explains why they read the Telegraph/Mail/Express and subscribe to BSkyB? ;-))

"The article says that there are 70,000 subscribers to skys 3D package"

That's huuuumongous for BSkyB. Clearly STRONG evidence of keen interest in 3D tv.

3D is not a GIMMICK any more if you've seen it proper and that is from ME as the former supersceptic who had refused to see a 3D movie until Avatar. Especially, when you have the large flat screen tv technology now common as muck and prices falling and technology getting ever better. Try viewing proper 3d tv filming on one of Panis 5Oinch and above size tvs in glorious surround sound.

As for the fluid situation on the standardisation of 3D tech well NO different from the usual (STANDARD) consumer tech standardisation wrangles.


March 10, 2011, 4:22 am

3D is currently bleeding edge technology. In an environment where the BBC is increasingly having to fight to rationalise the licence fee, putting investment into an area where a minority of payees can take advantage doesn't make sense.

Good quality HD programming is where it's at. Having seen Avatar in HD (on an HD projector throwing 103'), good quality HD can be nearly as immersive as well executed 3D, with much more mass market appeal!

The Doctor

March 10, 2011, 5:30 am

"That's huuuumongous for BSkyB. Clearly STRONG evidence of keen interest in 3D tv."

That's 0.6% of Sky's total customer base and 2% of their HD subscribers. Whoopee-doo.


March 10, 2011, 5:46 am

Totally agree with the BBC.

3D is not there yet. It's apparent success is mainly due to the press, magazines, etc ramming it down your throat and manufacturers selling a half-baked technology just to try and get your money.

The current 3D techology needs to sort out it's glasses comfort and have a common standard. 3D is yet a couple of generations away from being ready for the mass public.


March 10, 2011, 6:19 am

Granted BBC is FORCED to work on a shoestring budget but whose fault is that?

Martin Daler

March 10, 2011, 2:06 pm

Occasionally I do trawl the g-zillion odd channels available, and it always reminds me of just how fortunate I am that the BBC is there. Sure, I grumble at the £150 odd it costs every year, but as I sit through 10 minutes of ads before the last 2 minute denouement of whatever drivel I mistakenly decided to watch I have time to reflect on just what good value that is, really. Damn it, even the ads aren't any good these days!
So, Auntie, keep my £150 in programming - they can push all the drivel they like in HD3DTV or whatever alphabet soup comes next, but there is no substitute for a good programme.


March 11, 2011, 12:27 am

Enigma: Depending on your preference, it's the fault of The Tories, The Previous Labour Government, or The Bankers (all registered TM). Ultimately though, it's the fault of every ignorant pillock who whines about the licence fee because the Beeb tries to provide quality programming over a broad range rather than focusing exclusively on what THEY want to watch. P.s. this is not aimed at anyone here, just a general statement.

Martin Daler: Amen. Now that the other channels are allowed even more ad minutes AND product placement, I will be watching the BBC more and everything else less.

P.s. I am in agreement with the majority of the comments here; yes 3D can be done well on both the large and small screen, BUT frankly this is rare compared to the majority of cases where it is unnecessary or not used properly, i.e. where it is a gimmick. Until filmmakers and broadcasters start being more sensible about their use of 3D, I will be happy for it to remain a niche product (which judging by the numbers it is) for wealthy early adopters; I see no reason for the BBC to invest heavily in the technology now when it would inevitably be at the expense of other programming.

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