3DTV: The Olympics were no “Avatar”

Almost a year ago Panasonic hosted a large press event to tell the press how great was 3DTV and how the 2012 London’s Olympics would be it’s “Avatar”. Now that the Olympics are done, I see no parallels at all!

The event was held one night during the IBC 2011 (International Broadcasting Convention) in Amsterdam and the Panasonic folks were not measuring their words: “The 2012 Olympics will be the watershed event for 3DTV similar to what “Avatar” has been for theater”.

With a few hundred hours of 3D production why did it missed? Why did it draw so little attention?

I don’t pretend to be able to explain that all by myself but I can offer some thoughts:

  • Production value: The number of available views and their positioning were far inferior to those of 2D. A large number of 3D camera were small single camera with fixed “inter-ocular” distance that produce lesser quality 3D. Team on 3D production seem to lack experience and the result were inconsistent.
  • Distribution: 3DTV signal were not as widely available as 2D and in some regions available only the next day.
  • Advertising: While Panasonic made a big deal of it last year at IBC, there was little public advertising campaign to make people aware of the broadcast and how it would be fabulous to watch it.

If you want to make a compelling case for people to spend more and to wear glasses during a broadcast, the experience have to be substantially better… you have to deliver more not less.

When paying a few extra bucks and putting glasses to watch “Avatar” in theater, what you did experience was better. There was nothing less in the 3D version of “Avatar” in relation with the 2D one.

For the Olympics, the 3D broadcast had some enhancements compare to the 3D, you can feel more part of it, more emerge, but you had a lot less. Less choice of broadcast, less timely broadcast, less camera angles and not the best production teams.

In 3D you had to compromise. It was not a better overall experience. I would guess that most people that went out of their way to watch it in 3D despite the shortfalls were those already sold on 3D, I don’t think that it did gain much new fan at all if any.

We will need to find something better and we will still have to wait for the “watershed” event for some more time.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Laurent Daudelin says:

    One more reason that IBC is overrated!

  2. spencer says:

    I think the idea that 3D was or could have been the big change at the Olympics was misplaced. I was in the UK during the Olympics and found the greatest difference was the 24 extra channels (most in HD) that appeared on my TV the day before for free! That meant huge choice in what to watch and meant the TV was on most of the time. We watched the 3D coverage of the 100m but in a living room environment 3D is really a gimmick, the need to wear glasses (especially if you already wear glasses, leading to a Professor Branestawm effect!), the flickering in peripheral vision or when looking at other electronic displays means for casual viewing while doing other things (perhaps the way most of us watch TV most of the time) the technology doesn’t deliver.

    1. I am curious, what type of 3D display do you have? By the comment on the flicker I will guess it’s an active display. From experience and what I hear from people I trust, passive displays seem to be better adapted at least for the home market, if not all. True, you loose half the resolution currently but it’s far more comfortable especially for extended viewing.

      For the Olympics, I would agree that the watching environment was not very compatible with 3D, at least for me. I had at least two TVs on at all time on different competitions plus live streaming on my computer (not to mention data access on my iPhone), so yeah, wearing any kind of glasses would have been an impairment… and indeed, I wonder on what planet do people that was expecting the Olympics to be a “watershed” event do live and who their target audience is.

  3. The company doing the 3D were all using the fixed camcorders as you say. I do not think any other method would have given better 3D. The advertising for it was virtually non-existent – the only way I found out was by accident when I scanned the Sky broadcast menu and found a 3D version of the opening ceremony. I have yet to watch any of it in 3D, although as I commented to an old friend from BBC days who was involved in the NBC broadcast, the way the 3D was being shot left a lot to be desired. He did say there was control processing going on behind the control desks … but essentially those cameras are sending an interlaced 3D signal I believe which is a definite nono for me. I shoot 59.94P full definition streams and it works like magic compared to a 50i 3D presentation. The compression in broadcast doesn’t really help either.

    However – the MAIN problem apart from the transmission chain, was the totally bland presentation and lack of loud pre-announcements.

    If you compare the amount of 2D coverage with expensive lensed cameras with the paltry cover by 3D with the consumer camcorder lens arrays, then it’s no surprise that there is such a difference in output?

    1. As far as the equipment used, I believe that it was actually a mix. The opening and closing ceremonies were shot with larger cameras and 3D rigs (from 3ality Technica) as well as some event and the rest (the bulk) was shot with Panasonic integrated camera.

      I found this article (see link beloe) from a few months back that talks about it… note that they were saying:

      “The 3D Olympics needs to be more than technically perfect,” he added. “If the 3D feed of the Opening Ceremony, for example, is not more compelling than the 2D feed then people will switch back to the 2D. Our concern is about generating compelling content.”

      I don’t feel that the host broadcasters did deliver on that…


  4. W. Sweeney says:

    We wished we could have watched ALL of the Olympics in 3D with our 3D TV. We did watch the “edited” Opening Ceremonies the day after, just to see what it was like. However, why would we watch an event after we knew who the winner was? At the next Olympics, we are hoping it will be in 3D again, but that we can watch ALL the events and the Opening and Closing ceremonies as they occur, and NOT A DAY LATER.

  5. Bob says:

    I was going to respond on technical aspects and then I saw that:
    “Mr. Savard is a technology genius with exceptional management skills. A Creative thinker able to turn vision into reality.”


    1. Hi Bob,

      I respect your right to ironize… do you have a point?

      I also would guess that you know what I have done in my career and that you might have an opinion about that also?

      Looking forward to read your insights!

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