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!

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