Wimbledon in 3D: 5 Things You Need to Know

Serena Williams - Wimbledon - on court playling - 2011
Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

The BBC serves up first live 3D coverage of event -- available in the U.S. on ESPN3D -- beginning Friday.

The venerable, tradition-laden Wimbledon Championships is making a leap into the future this year by opening up its marquee matches to 3D. Sony is joining forces with the All England Lawn Tennis Club, along with Wimbledon host broadcaster and U.K. rights holder BBC, to serve up live 3D coverage Friday through Sunday of the Wimbledon men's singles semifinals and finals and the ladies' singles finals.

"There will be strawberries and cream in 3D, and maybe the odd glass of Pimms,” chuckles Duncan Humphreys, creative director at U.K.-based Can Communicate, which has a three-year contract to produce the 3D transmission of Wimbledon on behalf of Sony. 

Here are five things you should know:

1. Wimbledon has always embraced the telly: This year's tournament marks the BBC's first live 3D broadcast to viewer's homes, but the famed tennis competition is no stranger to the latest technological innovations. Wimbledon was televised for the first time in 1937 -- well before most households had sets.  And more than four decades ago in 1967, the BBC’s coverage of Wimbledon included Britain’s first color broadcast.

2. Wimbledon in 3D is not just for the British: The 3D feed will be available to 3DTV channels and digital cinema theaters around the world. While some new participants might still sign on before the weekend, a Sony spokesperson reported that as of Monday at least six broadcasters in six countries would carry the 3D feed. In addition, it will be fed to roughly 200 digital cinema theaters in 23 countries, including the U.S. ESPN3D will carry the 3DTV coverage in the U.S., while SuperVision Media is handing theatrical distribution.

3. Still, only early adopters are likely to be watching: In order to view the television broadcast in 3D, fans will need a 3D-capable TV set and 3D glasses. That makes it difficult to gauge how many viewers will actually see the broadcast in 3D. According to a recent report from Informa Telecoms and Media, fewer than half of the 11 million 3DTV-ready homes in the U.K. in will be active and regular users of 3DTV content by 2016. And that estimate is five years off, which suggests that active users who are currently tuning in to 3D broadcasts is dramatically smaller.

4. Soccer got there first: Many of the members of the Wimbledon 3D broadcast team were also involved in last year's 3D coverage of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, which was shown in 3D digital cinemas and also by various broadcasters around the world. Sony and Can Communicate also contributed to that pioneering 3D broadcast event.

5. 3D viewers should be able to dispute the ref: At Wimbledon, there will be six 3D camera positions at Center Court. Additionally, the 3D broadcast technology technology for the tournament is very similar to that which was used for the FIFA World Cup, which also included Sony cameras, Element Technica 3D rigs, and Sony's 3D image processor. And NEP Visions' Gemini 1 & 2 3D broadcast trucks will be there on site to catch the action.