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BBC ditches 3D TV – farewell 3D, you won’t be missed

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The BBC has announced that it’s to suspend all of its 3D programming, with the swan song being a Doctor Who special this Christmas. The question is; does anyone out there really care? I know I don’t.

Being publically funded, the BBC has a responsibility to focus on appealing to the widest audience of viewers and listeners, which isn’t something that goes hand in hand with emerging technology and a small number of early adopters.

It’s fair to say that the BBC gave 3D a decent shot though, with 3D TV’s now easily obtainable (Argos will sell you one for £250) and appearing in many homes, there are enough of them out there. It just seems that people aren’t donning their glasses and tuning in.

2012 was host to the BBC’s ‘Summer of 3D’ – with Wimbledon, the Olympics and Last Night of the Proms getting the 3D treatment. These were all events that attracted massive viewing figures – but only in 2D. It’s no wonder the BBC has decided to knock it on the head for now.

What went wrong with 3D TV?

It’s been apparent for a while that 3D hasn’t been doing so well. When the first commercial sets were being launched in 2010, there was a wealth of marketing and hype surrounding this new technology. I spent a lot of 2010 being handed 3D glasses by enthusiastic PR people in dimly lit rooms – everything else seemed secondary and old hat.

Fast forward a few years, and 3D is mentioned a lot further down the spec sheet, just above the number of HDMI ports.

So where did it all go wrong? We know that people own the TV’s, so why weren’t they watching? Was it that people didn’t want to wear bulky glasses? Was it the lack of content? Did 3D not fit in with our new way of watching TV while checking Facebook or Ebay on our smartphones and tablets? More than likely, it was a perfect storm of all these things…

TV is a passive viewing experience

Watching TV, for the most part, is a passive activity. Having to wear special equipment, and concentrate wholly on what you’re watching doesn’t fit in with how we’ve watched TV for the last 70 years. 3D is also very event driven. Reserved mostly for films and sport, this served to limit its appeal even more. Nobody was ever going to sit down to watch Eastenders in 3D.

Today the focus is Smart TV. Tomorrow it’ll be higher than high-definition resolution 4K TV. The industry moves quickly when there’s something new to sell, and manufacturers want you to feel like your current TV is old news, and that you should really ‘upgrade’.

There was a time when I theorised that 3D would eventually become just another feature of all TV’s, but with the BBC removing support, I now believe we’ll see other content providers following suit, leading to manufacturers removing the feature altogether. Would anyone care? I doubt it.

Do you watch 3D programming on your TV at home?

I don't even have a 3D-capable TV (77%, 818 Votes)

No - I have a 3D TV, but I don't watch 3D programmes at home (16%, 171 Votes)

Yes - I have a 3D TV, and I watch 3D programmes at home (7%, 76 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,065

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Not all technical developments have a long term future. 3D TV has already made more of an impact than quadrophonic records did in the 70s.

Some technology appeals to a fairly small market, and one example is Hi-Fi. Most people prefer convenience and simplicity over improved sound quality and higher cost.

Even if the BBC axes 3D TV, I expect there will be sufficient demand to keep it going, even if most people are not really interested.

It isn’t 3D TV. It is stereoscopic: you simply get an illusion of depth. You can’t view the scene from different angles or even walk round to the other side, as if it were a hologram. Now if they could do genuine 3D….though you’d need a big living room to fit a football ground in!

“Being publically funded, the BBC has a responsibility to focus on appealing to the widest audience of viewers and listeners, which isn’t something that goes hand in hand with emerging technology and a small number of early adopters.”
Thank goodness this is not the case, otherwise we would have more of the mindless programmes churned out on other channels. The BBC has lead the way – successfully. Zoom lens cameras (B+W days), outside broadcasts, colour, stereo broadcasts. It has a duty to keep up or lead technology, otherwise it would lose audiences and you’d be complaining it was not adventurous enough.
The world is full of minorities, who deserve their share of programmes, something the BBC does reasonably. How many classical music concerts do you get on independent channels? (hardly a minority either but pop music seems to predominate).
They will not always get it right, but do we all?

I’m just surprised its lasted this long. Back in the day, you could invite friends round to share a sporting experience or some such, now with 3D you’re limited to only those with compatible glasses.

3D will only truly take off when the need for special glasses goes, and thats quite some way off. As anyone who has used a nintendo 3D and ended up with a headache within a few minutes will testify.

It’s lasted as long as it takes for the novelty to wear off every other time they’ve tried it too.

3D movies have been around for knocking on 100 years, it says here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_film

3D is an easy target for the BBC at a time of looking for financial savings. It is a difficult beast because unlike a 3D film where you go to watch just that, in your home watching TV you may be doing many things at the same time which do not lend themselves to wearing goggles. So a home 3D TV viewer has to commit and quite frankly whether it is a sporting event or a film, although difficult, it can be quite stress free to commit to one activity to enjoy. I was not keen initially and there are plenty of films in the cinema these days that have no right to be viewed in 3D because they do not add to the experience and usually cost more. 3D films produced from original 3D material tend to be better than the many conversions now taking place. I have come to embrace Rugby, Football, even Sky Formula 1 testing and now Wimbledon presented in 3D live. I’m sorry the BBC has chosen to “mothball” their development project for three years as it may never return and we have a lot to thank the BBC for in technical broadcast developments over the years. The industry is jumping on the 4K bandwagon now as some sort of upgrade but it’s no such thing and for now I am content with 1080p 3D. Will we ever see 4K3D?

My SMART TV has 3D – no choice in the matter all top-end ones did !
Never gets used – it doesnt work for me anyway as I dont have good vision in one eye.
My local independent cinemas has also dropped 3D in the switch to digital projection, many customers didnt like it and the extra cost made it uneconomic.
So I think the question is how long before film producers drop the production of 3D films ?

3D TV has never appealed to us because of slightly bad eyesight and having to wear special specs.

We were in Currys a few days ago and saw what might have been a 4K TV as it was about 80″ and cost £20,000.

The picture was stunning, and had depth almost like 3D but without the need for special specs.

One day………….

Vynor Hill. says:
10 July 2013

Having watched 3D TV for an hour and a half, on someone’s posh telly, I was not impressed. I ended up feeling slightly nauseous and the effect, though realistic enough, was not that exciting. I came back to my own television happy to watch in 2D. I have high definition if I choose to watch it, but, again, the “standard” picture is so good that I don’t notice much difference. It is the content that matters. There must be many who enjoy 3D television, but the ultimate test will be whether enough are prepared to buy and subscribe. It seems from the above that this is unlikely.

Dave says:
11 July 2013

I’m afraid that if you can not see a difference between HD and SD broadcasts on your TV then either the telly is faulty or your eyes are. Meant in the nicest possible way to assist you. Apparently 3D images can cause headaches and vision problems in a significant portion of the population. Research suggests that around 1 in 10 people can’t actually see 3D images, Another study showed that about 18% of people can’t see a difference between High Definition and Standard Definition TV broadcasts. For my part I can easily tell if I am watching HD or SD content and I enjoy the 3D imagery on my TV. See the SKY TV 3D video test card and set up introduced by Zoe Ball to get really excited about the potential.

I’ve got a good television – and reasonable sight. Yes, I know HD from standard, but the difference isn’t that dramatic – for me, at least.

At a distance on a plasma or LED TV SD can fool the brain regarding quality. There is an optimum distance for viewing HD and within that range (depending on screen size) SD will look pretty terrible. The same SD signal actually looks very good on an old CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) TV. The early monitoring of HD production in BBC studios was carried out on wide screen CRT televisions and actually looked fantastic compared to plasma and LED screens. I agree with you regarding the difference between SD and HD and always felt that introducing HD simply put us back to the position we were at with SD analogue viewed on a CRT TV receiving a good UHF signal properly set up. I have seen many examples of 4K both projected and on a suitable TV screen – all big – and the images are impressive and you feel that you are immersed in the content but I remember Cinerama (fore-runner to IMAX) and also the first 1000 line video recording. They could all be described as impressive as well.

We’ve bought a 3D TV in 2010 which came with a set of Shrek DVDs to give an experience of 3D content. I still have not managed to watch the entire set. I found that watching for any length of time made me feel nauseous and strained. I finally put this down to the fact that one’s brain is constantly having to cope with contradictory depth information. The eyes are focused on the TV which is a fixed distance away, say 2-3m. But the stereo vision is giving different depth information dependent on the scene being viewed. The result is an inconsistency which results in viewer fatigue and strain.

I can’t see this issue being fixed by any new technology in future because it’s a direct result of our physiology.

But I think the BBC was absolutely right to produce content to test the 3D proposition and I hope it continues to produce content for the next generations of TV technologies.

Thanks for all your comments – we’ve rounded them up here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/3dtv-is-there-any-future-smart-tv-bbc/

And one of you got our Comment of the Week… 🙂

I seem to remember that a couple of years ago one manufacturer (I believe it was Toshiba) had developed a 3d system that needed no glasses and that they had displayed it at one of the tech shows to rave reviews !!!!! Now that’s worth waiting for. If it happens mainstream it will no doubt be BETAMAX again although to me it’s a no brainer. !!!!

So, only 7% of more than 1,000 voters are actually watching 3D programmes at home

Doughnut says:
30 November 2013

and what is the % of 3D broadcast programmes to non-3D broadcast programmes…?
It might put your leading comment in perspective….come on guys this is statistical rubbish….you cant watch if next to nothing is broadcast.

Doughnut says:
30 November 2013

Ah…but then is it the chicken or the egg…

You have created a survey question to give the answer you want ie to support your opinion.

It would have been good to ask if decent/good 3D coverage/progamming was provided, would you watch in 3D.

Not many people complain about the pink elephant walking down their high street so does that mean we can fill high streets with pink elephants or erm that pink there aren’t any pink elephants.

The 3D experiment was poorly handled and frequently screwed up. The BBC couldnt even get Dr Who right and go out on a success…so I guess there is no choice…mmm…ho hum

I would rather see money spent on producing good quality interesting programmes rather than 3D TV. A lot of what is broadcast at present is probably primarily intended to produce good audience ratings.

I thought Dr WHO was really good in 3D (at least the original broadcast and simultaneous cinema distribution) and it made the BBC a stack of money.

As part of a 3D case study David Wigram, stereo3D consultant on Dr Who stated:

“What does the future hold? Nobody really knows, but over the short term expect to see the top-grossing films of each year to remain being 3D, but the majority of releases to be 2D. Expect further innovations along the line of HFR as the theatrical industry invests in keeping the cinema a high-value experience, to compete with TV, tablets and phones as a way of consuming media. But of course experience has shown many times that where cinema leads, TV follows.”