“There is no reason why we could not get 3D to every platform that has HD,” observes Danielle Nagler, the head HD and 3D at the BBC, in an exclusive interview with the web site 3D Focus. However, she points out that with only 140,000 3D compatible television screens installed in the United Kingdom, the addressable audience is currently still small. “3D is interesting but it is not central at the moment,” she said, and would not be drawn on what projects the BBC would be backing in 3D.
The executive responsible for the high definition output of the BBC, whose brief now includes 3D, said that stereoscopic coverage of the London Olympics in 2012 is ultimately a decision for the Olympic Broadcasting Authority. “As the Head of 3D of the BBC I think it is important that we explore what big events can look like in 3D.”
The Queen’s diamond jubilee next year was mentioned as a possibility, but there was no reference to the royal wedding this year.
“In working in 3D there are a couple of things that we are looking to find out. One of those is figuring out what 3D can do creatively to enhance the kind of programmes that we make. Around big events, that is about bringing people closer to them — allowing them to feel like they are really there and giving them a front row seat. That is something we try and do in our 2D coverage and we need to figure out whether 3D can help us do that even better.”
“We are also trying to find out what real people think about the 3D we are producing and with only about 140,000 sets currently installed in people’s homes, we have to think about how can we reach a wider more mainstream audience with 3D content so we can understand people’s reactions to 3D and can use that to inform how we go forward.”
The BBC currently sees little demand for a 3D channel. “It is not yet clear to me that a 3D channel with a continuous stream of 3D content which people watch for several hours on end is going to be the way that people actually want to watch 3D content.”
“3D is quite expensive to make,” she notes. “It’s not mainstream yet and it may never become mainstream. We are a broadcaster and our primary business is broadcasting to many people across the platforms and in the ways that the majority of those people can receive. It would be entirely wrong to be spending any significant portion of the licence fee on making 3D content at the moment. Nonetheless it is important for us to experiment and we will be looking to work with partners in order to do that.”
“I am absolutely certain that people will acquire 3D technology in the home. They will acquire it because they will upgrade their sets for a variety of reasons and they may well get 3D as part of that. The real question for all of us is how will they use that 3D technology?”
As far as 3D goes, the BBC appears to be adopting a wait and see approach. “I don’t think broadcasters have to be in the 3D game. I think content producers like the BBC, who pride themselves on looking at new technologies and considering how they can enhance television, do have a responsibility to explore 3D, which we are taking on.”
“That doesn’t mean doing lots. You can do lots and do lots badly. For us it’s really important that if we do 3D that we do it seriously with conviction and with commitment and we work out how to produce the very best 3D we can around core BBC content.”
The BBC has yet to transmit anything in 3D, but there is no real technical reason that they could not do so. Ultimately, the BBC could deliver 3D across satellite, terrestrial, cable and broadband platforms, using existing distribution infrastructure.
“There is no reason why we could not get 3D to every platform that has HD,” she said. “When the time is right we will test that out in earnest.”
Danielle Nagler was speaking exclusively to 3D Focus. Excerpts from the interview are reproduced here with permission. The full video interview can be seen on the 3D Focus web site.