Interview with Nicholas Routhier, SENSIO's President & CEO

Could you please describe the business of SENSIO?
SENSIO is a company which develops and markets stereoscopic (3D) content distribution technologies. SENSIO®3D is our flagship technology and is basically a codec which allows the distribution and formatting of 3D content to fit any 3D display. It is used for distribution of 3D content through DVD, Blu-ray, broadcast and very soon for live 3D events in 3D theatres.

SENSIO has also built one of the world’s largest 3D movie libraries for the home entertainment market featuring major Hollywood studios titles such as Spy Kids 3D Game Over from Walt Disney and Jaws 3D from Universal, as well as large format 3D films shown in Imax theatres such as the acclaimed Bugs! In 3D: A Rainforest Adventure.

What markets are you targeting?
We are targeting two different markets: home theatre and digital cinema.

SENSIO’s objective is to become the 3D home video standard and we are working closely with manufacturers to integrate our technology in consumer products, such as 3DTVs, players, etc. To support this effort, we work in close collaboration with studios to have their 3D content encoded in SENSIO®3D.

On the digital cinema market, we developed a Live 3D technology, which allows live 3D events broadcasting, like concerts or sporting events, to digital theatres. For example, viewers will one day be able to watch the Super Bowl live in 3D in their local theater! People will experience the game just as if they were in the actual audience. The action being much closer, the experience will be even better because everyone in a theatre will have front row seats!

What is the SENSIO 3D technology exactly, how does it work?
Our technology is a codec that allows the distribution of 3D content through conventional 2D infrastructure.

Basically, it is a 3 steps process.

First, we encode 3D content (2 streams: left eye/right eye) in our format to compress it. Once the file has been reduced to a standard 2D file size (2:1 stereoscopic compression), it can be distributed over the conventional 2D infrastructure (DVD, Blu-ray, single channel for broadcast). Secondly, the content is decompressed into two separate streams by our decoding technology embedded in any 3D displays (plasma, LCD, DLP, autostereoscopic, etc.). The third and last step is the formatting which takes the two steams and combines them in the 3D mode used by the display. There are over 20 such modes currently in the market and SENSIO can support them all.

SENSIO®3D technology is the spatial compression technology which boasts the highest fidelity to the original picture and is visually lossless.

Are you providing a software or a hardware implementation of your 3D codec?
We are integrating our IP code into manufacturer's devices, via FPGA and custom chip designs or ASIC designs. We are also working on a software (PC based) decoder.

Are you selling your products direcly to end-users or do you prefer to partner with third-party integrators?
We are selling our technology to manufacturers and not directly to consumers since we want to be embedded into existing devices.

Few years ago, we produced and sold the S3D-100 processor, a consumer product allowing people to watch 3D movies at home. This served as a proof of concept for our technology. Now, we are following the integration path.

We hear about a lot of initiatives from a various organizations to standardize a common 3D codec (SMPTE, ETC, CEA, 3D@Home, etc.). Is SENSIO involved in these working groups?
SENSIO is involved in different standardization committees. We are part of the SMPTE working group for the 3D distribution formats’ standardization. We are also part of the Blu-ray Disc Association as well as members and co-founders of the 3D@Home Consortium. Finally, we presented a proposal, following a request from the DVD Forum, for SENSIO®3D technology’s standardization in the DVD format. It is important for us to be involved in those committees to participate in this new industry's growth and development.

Do you think there will be a common 3D codec for all the consumer markets (Blu-ray, VoD, 3D Mobile TV, etc.)?
A 3D format has to be adopted the same way a high definition format has been chosen. The format war between Blu-ray and HD DVD had a major impact on the consumer's HD adoption; it caused confusion and slowed down the market penetration. The same thing will happen with 3D if the industry does not choose a standard. It might get even more confusing... imagine if a movie has its 2D version, its SENSIO®3D version, its other 3D format version, etc; this would be confusing for consumers and expensive for studios and manufacturers.

What are the main advantages of SENSIO technology compared to other available solutions (DDD, TDVCodec, Philips, etc.)?
Our technology offers major advantages for industry players; it presents high 2D and 3D quality playback, no synchronization issues of any kind between the two streams, it is compatible with all other video codecs, is 3D displays agnostic and requires no additional bandwidth. Finally, it is a simple and consumer-like solution which implies low implementation costs since we are re-using the existing infrastructure. By adding extra information in separate channels, other formats prevent the existing equipments in people’s homes to receive and present movies in 3D thus requiring a change in the current infrastructure. This is not acceptable in these early days of consumer 3D.

Is SENSIO providing any real-time 2D to 3D conversion?
Along with its 3D technology, SENSIO is offering JVC's real time 2D to 3D conversion technology. With this feature, we are really offering a complete solution to manufacturers and consumers. Until studios release their movies for home theater in 3D, this conversion technology provides infinite content to viewers until even more high quality 3D content is made available.

How does is work exactly?
Since it's not one of our technologies, we cannot reveal how the algorithm is working.

Are the results really convincing?
The general result is very good. It works best with landscapes or vivid colors, and the quality remains impressive. Even if native 3D content is offering a higher quality, the conversion still gives people a natural depth experience which truly adds value.

Tell us about your partnership with International Datacasting and AccessIT for live 3D alternative content.
International Datacasting Corporation and SENSIO developed CineLive, an exclusive product for Access Integrated Technologies Inc. (AccessIT). This product allows live 2D and 3D events broadcasting to digital theatres. SENSIO is supplying its Live 3D cinema decoding technology used for live 3D broadcast. A first deployment is currently happening in 50 theatres located in major US cities and AccessIT wants to continue deploying in 150 theaters by the end of 2008.

We are very proud of this partnership and SENSIO is the only company on the market to have its live 3D technology deployed in digital theatres!

There are a lot of 3D display technologies (DLP 3D, LaserTV, micro-polarisation, Plasma, etc.). What are your favorite ones?
Since SENSIO’s technology can feed all 3D displays on the market, we do not have any favorite one. Nevertheless, it is our general belief that glasses based systems will be the prevalent type of 3DTVs for the next few years, that is until autostereoscopic displays reach a level of performance which will be acceptable to the consumer market.