Face to face with Sky's 3D TV service

A couple of days ago I was invited into Sky TV's HQ to witness one of the first demonstrations of Sky's 3D TV service. I've never been a bi

A couple of days ago I was invited into Sky TV's HQ to witness one of the first demonstrations of Sky's 3D TV service.

I've never been a big fan of 3D, mainly because my squiffy eyes have a hard time perceiving depth in the real world, let alone on a screen. Magic Eye pictures don't work for me, nor do old-fashioned blue-and-red 3D movies.

The only thing that has worked for me is the IMAX 3D technology that uses polarising glasses. And the good news is that that's exactly how Sky's system works, too. Good news for me, that is - not such great news if you feel like a lunatic sitting in your living room with a pair of oversized Raybans (as beautifully modelled below by Dominic Dawes, deputy editor of What Hi-Fi? Sound And Vision).

The actual technology works a lot like the old blue-and-red theory - basically two cameras record two slightly different images. Both these images are shown on the screen - which is why you'll see a double image on the TV screen in the video video. But by wearing polarising glasses you can filter a different image into each eye - fooling the brain into thinking its seeing something that's truly 3D. Which is why you only see one image on the video when I put the polarising glasses over the camera lens.

This stereoscopic technology isn't new, but what's impressive about Sky's demonstration - which included footage shot at a football match and the latest Ricky Hatton boxing game - is that it works with the current broadcast technology and an unmodified Sky HD box. You'll need a 3D-compatible TV, but these are already on sale in Japan and the price premium is only around £250 (unlike Philips' lenticular 3D TV technology, which requires no glasses but costs tens of thousands of pounds). The one used in our demo was made by Hyundai and featured Arisawa 3D technology.

Sky was also showing off the camera rig that's used to record 3D. Amazingly, it requires almost no new equipment - just two standard cameras mounted on a single rig capturing two similar images from a slight distance apart (one is mounted at the top of the rig, and shoots down into a mirror).

The simplicity of the solution means that Sky could very quickly begin shooting and broadcasting in 3D without requiring much in the way of additional investment.

Will it happen? Possibly. But I can't help feeling that 3D is a gimmick. Not least because after 20 minutes of watching 3D my eyes started get tired.

However, with Pixar now making all movies in 3D and George Lucas reworking star was in the format, it seems that if you do choose to enter a new dimension, you won't be stuck with watching endlessly reruns of Jaws 3D. Add 3D on Blu-Ray and gaming into the mix and I can see a small but significant market going. As long as you don't mind upgrading your TV again, that is...

3DTV - would you? Discuss it in our forums