Wimbledon 3D: The Nadal-Djokovic Cinema Experience

While the 3D Wimbledon broadcasts didn't make it to Australian televisions, Sony and Hoyts got together to bring the Men's Final to a few Australian theatres. As someone who attended a Wimbledon final in the flesh exactly 10 years ago, I thought I'd head along to see how close big screen 3D tennis gets you to the real thing.

I got lucky in 2001 with a 'People's Monday' ticket to see Pat Rafter take on Goran Ivanisevic. An all-time classic final and an amazing live experience. Ten years on, could the 3D come within any distance of giving me the 'being there' sensation?

As someone who is not at all keen on the 3D experience in cinemas, this all got a lot closer than I expected.

At first it still all seemed very subtle. Too subtle? However once we were watching Nadal and Djokevic warm up it was starting to make sense. Tennis may just be one of the perfect sports to watch in 3D on a very, very big screen.

One of the enemies of a good 3D experience is big camera movements. You are in a seat sitting still watching a 'window' into the 3D domain. If your view into the screen can feel as much like a natural window into another 3D space, all the better. With the tennis we are only being asked to focus on three things. Two players and one tennis ball. All moving through a very well defined and, in broad sporting terms, very small field of play. Very little camera movement required.

I watched the first set from second last row of the approximately 300 seat cinema.

More than any other TV experience watching tennis (which I enjoy but wouldn't call myself a serious fan) I had a great sense of ball movement. The subtle feeling earlier was replaced by just feeling like I was watching the ball glide and curve through the air like it should. Where 2D loses depth it forces your brain to interpret where things are in space. Here I got that ideal 3D sensation of watching an object move through 3D space. For example, I'd heard Nadal put astounding spin on the ball, and you get a sense of it in 2D. But in 3D I could truly perceive how far the ball would curve and dip off his racquet and with real kick. I felt I could follow the action in a long rally better than ever before when sitting at home.

The atmosphere in the cinema also built up slowly, but by the end of the first set the theatre was clapping and reacting to the action like we were courtside. Not 15,000 fans worth of Centre Court, but far better than I expected from a random bunch of people up late on a school night.

After the first set I moved to the second row of the theatre. That's when I was hooked. With the pictures taking over my field of view I now really felt I was sitting there in the midst of the action. Amazing pictures giving me a real view of two men at war on a tennis court.

Let's get it straight: no, this wasn't like 2001. Nothing but being there could be. But this cocktail of gathered tennis fans plus very big screen plus immersive 3D perspective plus great match equals something much better than you get at home.

Right now I'm dreaming of a genuine wall TV to get the same feeling at home. But that's a bit too Farenheit 451 for comfort...

For now I'd suggest keeping an eye out for similar events in future. Whatever your sport of choice, if you get the chance to have a shared fan experience on a cinema sized 3D screen when it's all happening somewhere you just can't get to in person, check it out. It's the only 3D cinema experience that is better than 2D.

And don't forget, 3D is nice when done right. But satellites are a miracle. Thanks to AsiaSat 5 and Optus D2 for making the live pictures possible!

WATCH MORE: Entertainment News


    "genuine wall TV" = projector. You can even get a 3D projector if you really want to recreate the same feeling at home.

      A projector needs a throw range. Which means you must leave space for the projection to hit the wall. A 'genuine wall TV' would be part of the wall or a wall sized grid of smaller super thin panels.

        I meant it as far as "you can get pretty close to a genuine wall TV right now" via a projector. Particularly given the experience you were talking about recreating at home (i.e the cinema) is a projection :-)

          Sure. I'm a big fan of all things projector. I just know it's an impractical solution in most households for a fistful of reasons. But you're right. Even more than a wall TV I'd like a dedicated home theatre room. And that's not happening in this decade...

    Loved the Farenheit 451 reference, thought that i was the only one who saw this potential with 3D tech

      Great to read some detailed explanation of why the 3D worked in this case, and what you got out of it compared to watching in 2D. The only way this new wave of 3D is going to survive is for producers to focus on what real value it adds to an experience, rather than gimmicky effects. And nice to see people bringing Fahrenheit 451 into the discussion - I thought I was the only who did that as well! Awesome!

    I had heard this from friends that saw some FIFA matches in 3D at the cinema.

    Sport probably benefits more than anything from the addition of depth.

    As you say though, it's not the same at home unless you have a whopping TV.

    Also - did the cinema allow alcohol? I can't watch sport without beer.

      Yep, they had let people buy alcohol in the premiere lounge section before heading in.

    Its all good to have the whopping big 3D TV at home but when Australian channels dont provide the 3D content then its pretty useless.
    Last year we got state of origin & various other sports broadcast in 3D & all the spruking to get us to buy 3D TV's & then they just drop the format. Hell channel nine dont even give us the footy in Hi-def anymore!!!

      Yeah, 3D broadcasting in Oz is really struggling. As you say, if they're not even giving respect to HD what chance is 3D anytime soon?

      For Wimbledon the biggest hurdle was satellite transmission costs for 3D bandwidth. With 3D unavailable on the main channels I can't imagine many international sports will be broadcast in 3D regularly very soon.

    Sounds exciting. But for the rest of us, it would have been nice to at least get the broadcast in something resembling a watchable picture. The heavily compressed SD broadcast on 7TWO was simply horrible.

    But hang on, I'm supposed to feel lucky I could watch it at all. How about letting us pay to stream international sport in HD? Now that would be too innovative for Aussie broadcasters!

    I enjoyed Wimbledon in 3d, while holidaying in the Uk, however the camera angle was too low. It was not possible to see what was happening at the other end of the court.

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