3D in the round

“…and you don’t get Andy Gray as a commentator…”

The marketing bods at SKY are doing an alright job pushing their 3D television coverage of Premier League football, seeing as the technological limitations are still quite notable.

(Not least, I must say, the fact that the Guinness branded shaded glasses caused the 40 of us watching the single television screen look like we were hanging around for the first rehearsal of the “television scene” from Willy Wonka…)

The negative points first, then. Unless you’re one of those rabid anti-everything types, SKY are not to blame for the Manc derby being such an underwhelming match, notable only for the midfield keep-ball and plentiful Zamorian chances on goal. Well, okay, maybe in the broader sense they are, but that’s a topic for another day…Negative points, then, and I start with the general selling point of 3D broadcasting; that an entire ninety minutes of football can be viewed as though the sci-fi futurists of the 1960s have finally been proven right.

More often than not the effect did not work. Some people have suggested it may have something to do with my short-sight, or the difference in shape between the Guinness branded 3D specs and my own, so there’s a technological issue right there that could be more prohibitive than the developers imagined. I am not entirely convinced, however, for I cannot put my hands on acres of newsprint from similarly disadvantaged glasses wearers moaning about not getting the full Avatar experience, so until then, I reserve judgement…

Football has never suited single fixed-cameras (I’m looking at you, ITV FA Cup coverage directors). It became pretty obvious that swift and often camera movements took away some of the effect; for example just when I saw a group of players on the left wing float above the screen, an unconscious correction of my eye-line took the image away. The only very impressive effects came from fixed camera shots of corners and free kicks taken just outside the penalty area, with the goalposts and corner flags seemingly aiming themselves at pint-glasses and within door frames.

The positive conclusions come from all these decently received experiences – above all, the team sheets and team layouts, which floated above the screen looking more decent and convincing than just about anything else until the final whistle.

(No, I don’t mean that ruddy kiss…)

3D broadcasting has not made any great strides. More a few uncertain side-steps. It seems to currently be at its best with static and slow tracking shots. Any sudden and swift movement loses the magic (and how many times has that been a problem in my private life…)

To ensure 3D doesn’t go the way of Minidiscs and Sodastream, I would suggest more work be done to improve both static and swift motion camera movements. And with a the Leaders Debate coming up on Thursday, SKY have a great chance to try it out this week.

We’d all tune in to see Gordon Brown appear to float under our front room lights like a hanged banker….wouldn’t we ?

BBC Three is top-slice lamb

James and Rupert Murdoch are increasing their attacks against rival media and things will not get very pretty between now and the next UK general election in the summer of 2010. In the eyes of News International, the BBC is ripe for picking apart, not least because of the amount of “free” services from on-line news to original childrens’ programming for an ultimate cost to the consumer far below that of a typical Sky subscription package. If the senior Murdoch’s threatened court action against copyright fraud is successful the “news” tab on the top of peoples’ iGoogle pages will be one of the most high profile casualties in this fight against media rivals.

For fans of the BBC, the talk of “top slicing” the licence fee sends shivers up the spine. Conservative leader David Cameron has allowed his Shadow Cabinet to talk freely about selling off bits of the Beeb, or to assist commercial rivals with monies taken from the TV Licence hitherto reserved to keeping the BBC delivering its programmes on television, radio, and through the online platforms such as iPlayer. Expect the now passionately Tory (and Murdoch owned) Sun newspaper to increase its support for asking Auntie to give up the money underneath her mattress for the good of commercial health in the country; first to go “part subscription” will undoubtedly be iPlayer, followed by the inevitable consolidation of regional radio stations.

Even as a fan of the BBC, I accept that the digital age means all of the current certainties of broadcasting must now exist with question marks overhead. Little things seen as somewhat inconsequential at the time – such as the internet only broadcast of the England v Ukraine qualifier – could well be important footnotes in the history of broadcasting come the ending of analogue television in 2012. That the BBC are somewhat “shielded” from the stormwinds of commercial factors will come under more scrutiny than ever; the superteam of an angry Murdoch and vote-chasing Cameron will combine against the Corporation like never before.

One potential victim in all this that may be accepted in the fight to save the BBC in its current form, with a licence fee pretty much (if not entirely) untouched and the online services free from subscription. If anything has to go, why not BBC Three?

The former BBC Choice (not “BBC Quirk”) has struggled to win over any of its critics. The current programming is a muddle of sensationalism (“Too Fat To Hunt”, “World’s Strictest Parents”), and the kind of instant repeats expected from ITV 3 or Dave, such as the seemingly endless reruns of Doctor Who and Merlin. I am a huge Doctor Who fan (Second Doctor, since you ask), but even I have to wonder if there is any point in watching the Daleks in Manhattan every third week. American Dad and Family Guy should never have been shunted off BBC Two in the first place, and when stripped of all the above BBC Three barely seems worthy of a channel at all. If the Corporation wants to support new talent in acting or writing, allow BBC Four to run a series on it.

The BBC will struggle enough to justify the worryingly described “black music station” 1Xtra when the time comes to do so; in the meantime it has to check if the millions spent on BBC Three really do mean value for money. When it’s possible to split its schedule to other channels so easily it becomes clear that there’s a Murdoch sniper trained right at its head. On a multi-channel platform against Sky One or Virgin1, the loser is BBC Three. Sadly any talk of “top slicing” will mean accepting sacrificing something from the Corporation’s network: BBC Three would seem to be the lamb its best to serve up in an attempt to keep either Murdoch or Cameron away from any tastier cuts.

Celebration consideration…

Don’t tell James Murdoch, but if there’s one thing SKY does far better than the BBC – and indeed, one thing from which the BBC should be banned from broadcasting – is live football results services. We may have memories of the VidePrinter at the end of Grandstand, but if it ain’t Jeff Stelling it ain’t worth watching…

…Kind of. This Saturday just gone provided a rare slice of television gold when Mark Bright took on the wisdom of Garth Crooks. I wager “wisdom of Garth Crooks” has no results on Google.

The topic, but of course, was Emmanuel Adebayor and his passable impression of Usain Bolt which made up one component of the ex-Arsenal player’s contentious goal celebration. Traditionalists can put away their complaints that players these days should do nothing more than raise a hand before jogging back into position; those days probably never even existed. Over in Nottingham they’re waving corner flags in the faces of opposition supporters, why should we be surprised when Ade decides to slide Rooney-esque in front of four-score-and-plenty very vexed Gunners supporters with hand movements suggesting something to do with shaking coffee-beans. Or maybe javelin. Something needing a grip, anyway…

Over on the BBC, Garth Crooks – for whom everything is a matter of unshakable fact even when it clearly is not – decided that players were effectively being stopped from ever celebrating goals again by a shadowy panel of Health and Safety Suits, a kind of Sarah Palin style Death Panel for football. His eyes bulged, voice squeaked, hands gesticulated; “That’s it, that’s what you’re saying, players cannot celebrate any more…” It was like a radio phone-in with pictures, opinions to the wind even if facts were still being untethered. Brighty – for whom everything is a matter of principle – suggested Garth had better look at the screen, taking note of the shower of missiles and felled stewards. Garth did not. Principle is one thing, having an argument for the sake of it is quite another. Until placid Gabby Logan finally brought proceedings back round to something more important – her face hadn’t been on screen for a couple of minutes and that is against current BBC charter rules – the prospect of fists flying remained tantalisingly in the air. I suspect Mark Bright actually seethed through his teeth, it may still be there on iPlayer.

Adebayor was clearly going to score against his old club, for it is written in the great storybook of footballing stories that such narratives must occur for the sake of headline writers everywhere. His sprinting celebration was ill-considered. Some Arsenal fans throwing whatever they could into the head of a steward was downright idiotic. All things considered, mind you, one known slightly hyperactive player being a cocky so-and-so in front of his former fans should not equal punitive sentencing from the FA. His treating von Persie like a balloon at a party, now that’s something.

If there was one celebration worth sentencing it was at the Britannia stadium (http://img30.imageshack.us/img30/7880/fayefullercelebration.gif). Let the FA ban Ade for his attempt to bring eye-gauging to the football field. I don’t fully fall behind Crook’s libertarian attitude. If the goal deserves it let there be all the choreographed fervor one can muster. FIFA want them curtailed, after all, which surely is the best reason to ensure every match has them even when games end 0-0.

Except that Stoke celebration. That one kills football. And don’t tell James Murdoch anything about the BBC, he probably won’t believe you…