The good and bad of 3D TV

It's one thing to be working on getting 3DTV into our homes but it's another challenge altogether for the production companies to figure out what works in this new medium and what doesn't. Some of the genres speak for themselves but with tests already under way many of the results have been surprising to say the least. So, what should we be looking forward to watching in 3D from the comfort of our own homes and what might be worth giving a miss?

Used and Approved

Horror
In the world of 3D, horror is a touch on the obvious side but there's no denying it works. The vast majority of the features in the Golden Era were designed to freak the audience out as much as possible by having creatures and deadly objects leap out the screen. Even though you know it's a trick, when things really pop out at you, it still makes you flinch. If it was B-movie heaven in the 50s just imagine how much more effective horror is in the hands of director's like Wes Craven and John Carpenter.

Action
For the most visual of all the genres it's a bit of a no-brainer. Live action 3D has been in the minority since the resurgence in 2005 but there's no reason why it shouldn't work. Imagine films like the Matrix made in 3D with the representation of bullet time, one that actually pops out at you enabling you to look around as it happens. A little slow motion could go a very long way.

Of course, the prime test of this genre will be Avatar when it arrives at the end of this year. Will 3D polarise action into a plotless glut of stunts and explosions or will it bring what the genre was always born for?

Music
Arguably one of the best films in 3D so far is U2 3D and another live performance movie, Hannah Montana, which grossed over $31million at the box office in its opening weekend. The business already knows this is something that works and that's got the music industry licking its lips, with live entertainment heralded as the poster boy in the age of audio piracy. Last year, 3 sent out live video link ups to mobile phones everywhere from cameras at the front row of gigs. Pay-per-views of the 3D version straight to your home can't be far behind.

The Jury's Out

News
It sounds unlikely but the news is something that could work very well in 3D. No one's going to be interested in a stereoscopic view of Trevor MacDonald shuffling his papers, but reports from the field would be superb. There was already the first live satellite link in 3D at last year's International Broadcasting Convention (IBC), so the technology is there, and if a 2D picture can paint a thousand words then 3D images of war zones, natural disasters and other situations so hard to imagine could really be brought to your front room. The only question is whether that degree of proximity is something people really want to see.

Sports
It's not an area that's been fully explored as yet, but Sky's demonstrations of football in 3D were well received at IBC this year. The shots that tend to work are the close ups from the sidelines of throw-ins and action angles from the behind the goal. In contrast, recordings of the Six Nations were not so successful with the camera restricted to aerial and wide shots where there's little difference in the depth of the scene. The biggest wows of all have been saved for boxing with plenty of close-up fast pace movement and punches that seem to leap right out of the screen.

Performance
One surprise to come out of the recent demos was that ballet shot in 3D looked fantastic. One of the major problems with filming anything on stage has been trying to translate a medium that relies on depth to the flat screen. Expect to see more dance and theatre on TV soon. It'd certainly make a change from programs on cookery and property.

Stick to the flat

Dramas, soaps & reality TV
It's one thing to enjoy watching life in Albert Square but the thing here is that it's probably as close as people want to get. With little action on offer in any these genres and the focus on matters less physical, it's unlikely that anyone would bother spending the extra money on producing them in 3D. Sadly, it could see a move away from these genres in favour of more visually appealing shows. Perhaps not such a shame with reality TV.

Subtitles
This isn't so much a never never as something that needs to be worked out. The issue here is exactly where to place the subtitles compared to the rest of the action. Popped out at the viewer might be too uncomfortable to read and would require considerable refocusing to enjoy the action at the same time. One solution would be to place them at the same depth as the person speaking, but it's something that'll take some work before they get it right.

So far, Sky has recorded Usain Bolt running 150m at the Bupa Games, Swan Lake by the English National Ballet, England vs. New Zealand Rugby Union, Liverpool vs Marseilles, Ricky Hatton vs. Juan Lazcano and an entire series of Gladiators. It's not clear when we'll get to see it but what we can tell is how they view the genre to work. We'll let you know Channel 4's take on it as soon as we find out.

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