BBC: 3D is a distraction from HD

3D through the BBC's eyes
3D through the BBC's eyes

The BBC outlined its 3D stance at the 3DTV World Forum in London this week, highlighting concerns that its recent popularity is taking away the focus from HD.

Danielle Nagler, head of HD at the BBC, noted that there may well be an interest in 3D at the moment but the BBC was remaining cautious about what the format actually brings.

"We are excited about the developments of 3D but we need to see what the long term benefits of 3D to broadcasters is, before we commit," she explained.

"We are not clear on what makes good 3D and are certainly not clear on what makes good 3D television. The trials we are doing are a bit like early colour – it looks interesting but there is a long way to go."

Nagler added that the BBC's approach was much more pragmatic than that of other broadcasters, saying: "At the moment, 3D for us is a distraction from HD. There is still a lot of work to do in explaining HD to consumers and getting them to invest in it.

"The focus on 3D technology in that sense is not helpful."

As for the BBC getting its own 3D channel, Nagler was quick to explain that: "We are not even remotely planning a 3D channel. What we will do is show off a variety of 3D content over the next few years. We are aiming to deliver proper grown-up 3D, not looking to cheat or take short cuts."

3D projects

The BBC's line on 3D is certainly a grounded one, with the broadcaster looking to watch the consumer response to 3D rather than take a gamble. This is not to say that it isn't focused on utilising the technology as Nagler is keen to point out: "We are doing a small number of projects and are teaming up with others. We have done work in 3D – the cinema trailer for Doctor Who was 2D plus depth, and Street Dance 3D is a BBC Films project.

"We are also involved with the offering 3D rugby at the 02 and we are doing some natural history content.

"But what we need to ask is: is 3D television something which helps realism or offers a hyper reality?

"HD and CGI have enhanced storytelling, but we do not yet know what the answer is for 3D. Regular consumption of 3D television on a regular public access channel is something which is still open to question."

Olympic 3D effort

We may not get a 3D channel from the BBC anytime soon, but big events are going to be filmed in the format, even if it is for posterity's sake.

"3D is about theatre.," says Nagler. "We are keen to capture some of the Olympics in 3D and we would like to do the first ever live Olympic transmissions, including the opening ceremony, in 3D but delivery of that is all down to whether our partners want this.

"We want to preserve the Stratford stadium for the archives."

Despite reservations over what the 3D format brings, Naglar notes that it is also budgetary constraints which is stopping the BBC from shifting focus on 3D, adding:"We have virtually no money to spend on 3D television, our core commitment is on general programming.

"So we have to say that, at the moment, 3D is not the best use of limited license payer money."

With companies like Sony and Samsung piling money into advertising 3D as not just the format of the future but of now – and this is despite the economic downturn – the BBC's restraint is quite a refreshing riposte.

This article has been updated

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.