3D TV: Sky 3D

I turned next to Sky’s new 3D channel. And I have to say that this actually got me much more excited about 3D than the Monsters Vs Aliens Blu-ray.

For the most part, the channel is currently showing a show-reel culled from content Sky has shot in 3D, including a Ricky Hatton boxing match, Premiership football matches, a golf tournament, a rugby match, a tennis match, and a ballet performance of Swan Lake. Though last Friday I was also able to watch and record at home the full Chelsea versus Manchester United game, first shown to pubs and clubs on April 3rd.

On a technical level, the Sky footage seems considerably less affected by the ghosting problem than the Blu-ray film. I really don’t know why this is the case; it could be a result of Sky’s seemingly already well-developed sense of how to film for 3D; it could be down to the slightly reduced resolution of the Sky image; or it could be down to the way the Sky images use a side-by-side 3D approach rather than the alternate frame Full HD approach used by the Blu-ray. But whatever the cause, it’s definitely less glaring a problem.

That’s not to say it’s not a problem at all, though. Golf, in particular, with its huge depth of field shots as players look down fairways, found some distant trees appearing with ghostly echoes of themselves that were as much as an inch out of sync with the main image.

Even so, I generally found watching Sky’s 3D content less tiring and more engaging than I found watching the Blu-ray. A sensation probably due to the 3D effect actually adding more to my enjoyment of sport and stage productions than it did to my experience of Monsters Vs Aliens.

The 3D effect on sport, for instance, truly improves your understanding of what’s going on. If somebody crosses a football over from the side line, in 3D you can tell exactly where the ball is going and who is likely to get on the end of it. Or in tennis, you get a much greater sense of ball speed, spin and angles with 3D than 2D. Or if someone kicks for goal at rugby, you almost feel like you’re flying through the air with the ball as it loops toward the posts.

3D also delivers big-time when it comes to the sense of scale of a sporting or arts venue. The first shots you see of Old Trafford, for instance, will take your breath away. And the effect gets even stronger during shots from pitch level showing the players foregrounded against the vastness of the stadium behind them.

Of course, so long as there’s any ghosting to be seen in Sky’s 3D images, for whatever reason, there will always be plenty of people who might rather just stick with their tried, tested and clean as a whistle HD sports and concert footage. So let’s hope the ghosting can be ironed out as 3D technology advances.

But for real sports and arts aficionados, even with a little ghosting to contend with, on the evidence of what Sky is already achieving, 3D is capable of being a terrific addition to your home entertainment experience.

There are a couple of side points to mention here. First, despite Sky’s signal not being Full HD in resolution on account of it having to use the side-by-side 3D approach rather than the Full HD alternating shutter approach, the images I watched still certainly looked HD, not standard def.

Second, Sky hasn’t finalised its system for embedding - into HDMI v1.3 data packets - the data necessary to tell a TV to automatically turn to its side-by-side 3D display system. So you have to select the correct 3D mode on the TV manually. But Sky believes it will have sorted this out by the time the 3D channel goes properly live to home users by the Autumn.

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