Panasonic has announced that the London 2012 Games will be the first Olympics to be broadcast live in 3D.
A pool of global broadcasters, now standing at 14 but “it will be more in the next few weeks”, is being brought on board, director of Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) Manolo Romero said. They will cover more than 40 venues, opening and closing ceremonies and more than 12 sports, some of which will be covered in 3D for the first time.
For the on-site production Panasonic will provide 3D equipment including camcorders, TV monitors and a technical team for live 3D TV production at London 2012. It is a tie-up between Panasonic, a worldwide Olympic sponsor, the Olympic Broadcasting Services and the International Olympic Committee.
Describing the move to 3D as “historic”, Romero told a technology conference in Berlin: “We believe that this will be the most significant step in the sporting history of broadcasting.”
Coverage of the Beijing 2008 Olympics was made in HD, fitting in with the efforts of hi-tech companies to use new technologies at the different Games.
Takumi Kajisha, Panasonic’s corporate communications managing director, said: “It is no doubt that the Olympic Games provides the best ever content for the 3D market and 3D will drastically change the way we enjoy the Games in the living room.
“We believe that our partnership will provide a true end-to-end solution for the success of the first 3D live Olympic Games and a great new era for Olympic broadcasting.”
There will be 10 hours a day, or a total of 280-300 hours, of footage broadcast in 3D at London 2012.
The BBC, like all other Olympic broadcasters, has been made a “tentative offer” to carry 3D, according to Romero. He said the OBS have “not yet” had a response but are “hopeful”. Finding the appropriate channel and bandwidth may be an issue.
NBC in the US, along with broadcasters in Korea, China, Australia, France, Italy, New Zealand and Hungary have all signed up so far.
Some will receive the feeds via satellite and some in the international broadcast centre. They will be able to do their own editing.
Romero said: “I am sure that a few more will join - the BBC I think will participate.”
He described the 300-hour target as a “big commitment” adding that work has already begun with the different broadcast rights holders to try to finalise the details needed to cover the ceremonies and decide which sports can get the 3D treatment.
Big-hitting popular sports such as athletics and gymnastics are hot favourites for 3D coverage while rowing and rhythmic gymnastics could also be in the mix. There are also plans to produce a round-the-clock Olympic channel at London 2012 that can be picked up by broadcasters across the world. It will have English, Spanish and Arabic commentary, HD as standard plus 3D footage that will be put on satellite.
Of this multi-channel system, Romero said: “This is a programme which will have not only sports action but interviews from the mix zone almost live so that anybody sitting at home can see what has happened in the last 30 minutes.
“We did some of this in Vancouver (2010 Winter Olympics) and are now launching this at new levels.”
The aim is so that broadcasters who are not in London will be able to produce almost as strong a depth of coverage as if they were there. Broadcasters in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Hong Kong and New Zealand are among those who have already signed up.
The question of whether and how much 3D coverage the BBC may produce could also influence whether the big live site screens also show footage in 3D.
These are being pitched across Britain to enable the public to watch the action.
The French Open tennis grand slam and the football World Cup have been good testing ground for 3D sports coverage - but they only involve a single sport. The challenge at London 2012 will be to cover a range of sports effectively and in a fresh way in the new format.
Onlookers should notice a difference in coverage with the 3D format, according to Romero.
He said: “We do not want to do tricks with sport. We want to show it as it is but we also want to show what is possible in 3D.
“For example in high jump we want to see the jumper and how they clear the bar but for the viewer we also want to be as close as possible.
“In a track race it is different because we want to show the whole thing from far away. We'll have a tracking camera and a head-on camera to see the depth of the story.
“We will study to see how to change the coverage of the traditional sports. We have producers studying how to do this.”
The problem of not enough people having 3D equipment is fast being overcome.
Laurent Abadie of Panasonic Europe said: “I think that the growth of 3D today is probably far much faster than for the time of HD.”