The promise for the living room of the future. One where rugby players would leap out of your television to ground a winning try on your living room rug. That future was a false start: Australia’s major TV networks are killing off 3D broadcasting. But take a knee, for not all is lost. Here is the future of 3D and high-definition in Australia.
When the 3D revolution first kicked off, terrestrial broadcasters were excited to jump on board. However, it wasn’t just a matter of pointing a 3D camera at a sports event and throwing out the result to Aussie televisions: networks required new licenses from the authorities to proceed.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority was handing out test licenses to the likes of Channel Seven and Channel Nine to figure out whether or not 3D was for them.
Channel Nine used its license to run a dedicated 3D channel for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, nailing down additional signal spectrum to broadcast events in the glorious third-dimension. That was thankfully made possible by the BBC producing the games in 3D, making it easy for the network to rebroadcast it. Channel Seven, however, decided to test the 3D technology on a more piecemeal basis, throwing it out to fans of the AFL as it was able.
Even pay TV provider Foxtel jumped on board, offering 3D test channels for its own Olympic coverage, as well as several other high-profile sporting events. 3D transmitters were also used to beam the X-Games, the FIFA World Cup and the State of Origin rugby league games to people’s homes.
The revolution was happening, but viewership of dedicated 3D channels started to fall. In a TV economy where every ratings block is crucial, networks couldn’t afford to throw money at a pie-in-the-sky technology, and started to slowly back out of 3D broadcasts.
3D broadcasting equipment was removed from broadcast towers around the country, and special ACMA licenses expired with no calls for them to be renewed. The cry from 3D TV owners for dedicated content wasn’t heard, and it wasn’t long before networks stopped carrying 3D events.
Foxtel wouldn’t show the Rugby World Cup in 3D, despite the fact that it was filmed in the format, and slowly but surely, 3D broadcasts began to slip aside.
The final nail in the coffin of 3D broadcasting in Australia came a few weeks ago when Foxtel confirmed it would close its 3D channels, citing a lack of demand. That trend was echoed around the world, with BBC shelving its 3D technology in the UK over lack of interest, as well as ESPN in North America.
The Answer: Technological Progress
When the 3D revolution first kicked off, we were all buying 3D TVs that only worked when they had a dedicated 3D source: a 3D broadcast or a 3D Blu-ray, for example. Today’s 3D TVs can convert anything into 3D: from your crappy standard-definition DVDs, right through to, in some cases, beautiful 4K content. Even TV broadcasts can be converted into 3D through the magic of post-processing.
It’s this advancement that has given 3D TV its greatest achievement yet: despite the fact that terrestrial broadcast networks have cooled on the idea of eye-popping imagery, it doesn’t mean you can’t have it in your own home.
Now anything you like can be 3D. Sports, movies, Days Of Our Lives. Anything you want, and for that reason, the future of 3D is brighter than ever, because now everyone who wants it can get it, without TV networks having to shell out for the broadcasts.
Big Screen Influence
All this time, the film industry has consistently invested in ways to make 3D look better than ever.
From Peter Jackson’s efforts to shoot The Hobbit into 48 frames per second to make 3D look more natural, right through to studios around the world creating amazing 3D worlds like the award-winning seascapes from Life Of Pi. People still happily don their 3D specs to watch a great movie, both in the cinema and in the home.
Now with the incredible advances in post-processing, high-definition and the introduction of consumer-grade 4K panels, the future of TV entertainment content has never been brighter.
3D TV image via Shutterstock