Our obvious focal point for an analysis of how Sky’s 3D service delivers, both on its own merits and against Sky’s own non-3D coverage, is The Ryder Cup. This gave us four days of material to work with, and provided some real insight into the pros and cons of Sky’s 3D broadcasts as they stand at the moment.
First, the positives. Starting with the simple fact that the 3D coverage really does add something to the experience of watching golf on your TV.
For the most part, it has to be said that this extra something is mostly merely an enhanced appreciation of the topography and design of the golf course. Being able to see undulations, lakes, trees, crowds and, of course, the players etched out with depth perspective is a genuine thing of beauty, especially if you’re watching it on a very big screen. The sense of ‘being there’ is undeniably more pronounced than it is with even the excellent quality of the HD coverage.
We were also startled by how much depth Sky has managed to get into the picture without throwing up focus issues. The stuff in the far distance mostly looks as sharp as the stuff in the foreground, which is of course essential to creating a believable 3D experience of such a ‘big’ venue sport as golf. This achievement is made to look all the more impressive by the way that HD, by comparison, has to resort to making background elements look slightly out of focus in order to create an impression of depth.
It was great to see, too, that Sky continues to stick to its guns of not having lots of 3D material exploding out of the screen. Instead all of the Ryder Cup footage starts level with your TV screen, and then stretches back from there. This is much more realistic and much less tiring to watch than stuff that tends to try and start its depth impression in front of the TV screen.
To some extent the 3D Ryder Cup coverage also achieves the holy grail of enhancing our understanding of the sport being shown - or at least, that’s the case off tees and fairways. The depth of field gives you a better understanding of the different challenges and distances facing the golfer as they take their swing. Consequently, you also get a better understanding of the skill involved when a long range shot works well.
Where the 3D coverage isn’t as successful as we might have hoped is with golf’s short game. Hardly ever throughout the 3D coverage did we really feel we had a better idea of how the golf ball was rolling towards the hole when people were putting on the greens.