Sky Sports 3D Review: Chelsea v Wigan 2010-09-05
The venue for my first foray into the wonderful world of 3D broadcasting was The Rising Sun on Tottenham Court Road, London. The pub itself is a traditional Victorian corner house with wooden floors and high desk tables and seats in a long galley. Like many boozers these days the sale of food is foregrounded, and on the occasion I visited, a few punters were tucking into nachos and dips.
The event was the final round of Premiership games for the 2009/2010 season, and the Chelsea v Wigan game had been selected by Sky Sports. The pub has just one 3D television, although there are many other 'regularly aspirated' sets dotted about. The set being used for 3D broadcasts was the 47" LG LD920 (formerly LD360) - a passive 3D 720p which was intended to be LG's first 3D consumer level television to market. However, a change of direction by LG means this is no longer the case and the model is now only available for commercial installations.
This is where we got lucky. The two most prestigious seats in the pub, right on top of the 3D screen, became available just before kick-off when a lumbering 20 stoner fell off his bar stool, dusted himself down, and staggered towards the exit. We paid £5 deposit per pair of polarising glasses and waited eagerly for the fun to commence.
Sky Sports are capturing all their games using both the passive and active 3D systems, although currently only passive are being demonstrated in pubs across the country. The passive system uses polarising lenses, whilst the active system has powered spectacles that sync in time with the television.
On to the experience itself. The scorecard in the top left of the screen jumps straight out at the viewer, but mysteriously, the Sky Sports Live logo in the top left actually reads 'L L I I V V E E'. The camera view for the match is much lower than is normal for sports broadcasts; just above the dugout. This is presumably to highlight the 3D capability, but in reality the entire image lacked sharpness and clarity. The camera position was in line with the centre line - sorry, the center lineS - the system actually split the centre line into a large 'V' disappearing into the background which is extremely disconcerting. Ditto the fact that all the players appeared to be marginally out of focus so there were two slightly overlapping cardboard cutouts of each player.
The 3D effect is most noticeable when the action is near to the camera, and becomes less pronounced (i.e. non-existent) the further away the players are - so for instance any player at the other side of the pitch will not have any 3D effect. On an all too infrequent basis the 3D effect worked for a passage of play of a few seconds, then it would disappear and the viewers' eyes would have to endure out-of-focus double images.
This was totally bizarre - the 3D effect did work - but only fleetingly. The centre line, for 99% of the game a 'V' shape diverging into the background, did occasionally snap back into the correct '|' shape. This leads me to wonder under what circumstances the system worked and what circumstance it didn't. There was no clear correlation, making me wonder whether the success of the broadcast is contingent upon the skill of engineers who patch the signal together.
To summarise, this technology is nowhere near perfected, and I would suggest is years away from being anything other than a curio and a pub discussion point. Furthermore, the constraints of the system, from the lower camera angles to the awkward polarising spectacles, reduces the enjoyment of the game and far from mitigates against any 3D effect.