Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The London 2012 Olympics: First 3-D Olympics?

Though high-definition 3-D TV sporting events broadcasts is already a technical – and commercial – reality as far back as 2009, will the London 2012 Olympics be the first summer Olympiad to be broadcasted in high-definition 3-D?

By: Ringo Bones

3-D enthusiasts – especially high-definition or HD 3-D enthusiasts – seem barely able to contain their excitement when NBC and Panasonic announced back in July 20, 2012 that they’ll be offering the “infrastructure” to broadcast the London 2012 Olympics in high-definition 3-D. Though HD 3-D broadcasts of top billed sporting events are already a technical – and commercial – reality as far back as 2009, if you can afford to buy one of those top-dollar HD 3-D ready large flat-screen TVs that are more at home in a dedicated home theater set-up than in your typically modest living room, the popularity of broadcasting live events – like top billed sporting events – seems to coincide with the visually stunning success of James Cameron’s 3-D sci-fi epic called Avatar back in 2009. Big league sporting events broadcasters - like ESPN – have billed their HD 3-D broadcasts as “just like being there in the middle of the action” in terms of video quality. But does the reality live up to the hype?

Well, the BBC has a dedicated HD 3-D Olympic channel given that the 2012 summer Olympiad is taking place on their home turf. And so does NBC and ESPN and 22 other that I currently seen so far. On what I’ve seen so far – thanks to our local electronics goods store who used the BBC’s HD 3-D Olympic broadcasts to test out their new batch of large-format HD 3-D ready flat screen TVs. The BBC 3-D broadcasts of the London 2012 opening ceremonies had a nice depth portrayal in them and really make you feel as if you are in the middle of the ceremony – even for a somewhat jaded 3-D movie enthusiast like me. Though, the level of “you-are-there” is only up to a point, given that it is still the main HD 3-D camera’s perspective. Another caveat worth mentioning is the continual swapping to 2-D cameras and the 2-D footage which spoils it a bit.

Given what I’ve seen so far, it seems there is a visually discernable – albeit incrementally - progress in HD 3-D image quality. The HD 3-D London 2012 Olympic broadcasts could be a benchmark of the technical progress made of HD 3-D broadcasts since they became a regular part of atypical up-market satellite dish package back in 2009. The so-called “diorama effect” is now minimal – like swapping from 150 US dollar Mainland Chinese made binoculars to 6,000 US dollar binoculars with Carl Zeiss equipped optics.