BBC iPlayer and 3D


I loved the latest episode of Doctor Who. What made it even better was the fantastic use of 3D. It had just enough "wow" moments to make the use of technology worthwhile - without totally overdoing it.

I watched the episode live at home on my Panasonic TX-L37ET5B.

After the broadcast, I wanted to watch it again. That's where the problems started.

First, a quick lesson on how 3D TV broadcasts work. Generally speaking, most 3D TV is Half-Side-By-Side. That means the left and right image are horizontally compressed and combined into a single image.

Doctor Who 3D Fez

The TV automatically detects that the image is split-screen and then turns the image into 3D. It displays the left image so it can only be seen by the left eye, and the right by the right. If we apply that to the above image, we get this 3D effect.
Doctor Who 3D Fex

So far, so good! The BBC have the 3D version of Day of the Doctor on iPlayer - and my TV has an iPlayer app. The only problem is that the iPlayer app on the Panasonic doesn't trigger the TV's automatic 3D detection. Even when I force the TV to 3D mode, it persists in showing the original picture. I've no idea if this is a fault with Panasonic's coding, or with the BBC's.

Well, my phone can access the iPlayer - and it can output its screen over HDMI. How well would it work? The answer, not well!

Here's a screenshot from my Android phone from the same scene.
Doctor Who 3D Fez DOG

You'll notice two things with it. Firstly the image quality is dreadful. The image resolution is 832*468 and the bitrate appears to be very poor.

Secondly, there's a bloody great BBC logo in the top left! The BBC have known for ages that Digital Onscreen Graphics (DOGs) are annoying for their viewers - but still they persist!

The problem with this on 3D content becomes readily apparent. The DOG is stretched and appears to flicker in and out to the viewer.

Doctor Who 3D Fez DOG

In addition, all iPlayer audio content is only in stereo - not the lovely surround sound of the original broadcast.

So, I can have iPlayer through the TV which won't display in 3D, I can have it through my phone in low quality with a ridiculous DOG, or I can find a kindly soul on the Internet offering Doctor Who in 1080p 3D with surround sound via a dodgy download.

I bet they don't have these problems on Inspector Spacetime!

One thought on “BBC iPlayer and 3D

  1. I have exactly the same problem with my Panasonic 3D TV. It looks like there is no way around it until the Blu-Ray 3D is out!

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