IBC brings together more than 1300 manufacturers, from giants like Sony and Panasonic to small specialist companies offering obscure widgets or ‘solutions’ – a word that offends all my journalistic instincts when reporters try to sneak it into the programme.
This year IBC went 3D mad. Every camera seemed to have two lenses and wherever you looked there were geeks in goggles staring at giant screens. But despite all the hype, most of the people we interviewed thought it would be many years before 3D content was widely viewed at home.
When the move to high definition got underway, broadcasters found that HD only marginally increased production costs. But 3D is much more expensive. It is also problematic.
Take football for example. In conventional coverage, 90 per cent of the pictures we see come from two cameras placed high above the halfway line (wide-shot and close-up). But in 3D these cameras provide almost no depth perspective as the action is too far away.
Touchline cameras give better results, but are useless when play is on the other side of the pitch. Cameras behind the goal get great pictures when a 30-yard screamer hits the net. But most of the time they have nothing to shoot.
What’s more, cutting between widely different shots is uncomfortable for the viewer in 3D, and this is a serious issue. The brain is being fooled and headaches are quickly triggered if the coverage deviates from a rigid production formula.
3D football has been trialed, and 25 World Cup games were shot in stereo. But the results were unconvincing and it remains a directors’ nightmare. The best 3D sports are darts and snooker as the action is predictable and confined to a small area. Tennis also has potential. But are viewers going to pay big bucks for these?
Natural history looks terrific in 3D, but getting up close to skittish animals is difficult enough. Adding a third dimension will be a big challenge for wildlife film-makers if the results are to be worth watching.
Dramas and studio programmes pose fewer problems as every shot can be planned. But what about the biggest issue of all? Will people mind wearing glasses for everyday viewing? A night out at Avatar has novelty value, but how about Corrie while you’re doing the ironing? For this reason alone, most industry experts believe stereo 3D TV will remain a niche market for at least the next decade.
Beyond that we may see holographic 3D which requires no eyewear and allows viewers to look all round objects. The Japanese are on to this. So far they have only produced it on a three-inch screen, and the picture quality is poor. However, it is a realistic prospect for the future.
Sky launches its first dedicated 3D channel on 1 October and it’ll be interesting to see how many people rush out to but ‘3d ready’ televisions. If you really want to impress your friends the first 3D camcorders have just come onto the market. But don’t get too excited. The cheapest one I saw at IBC costs £16,000.Graeme