Studio Exec Calls for 3DTV Interface

The industry needs to develop a new digital interface for televisions to pave the way for stereoscopic 3-D content, said a senior executive at a Hollywood studio.

"To make 3DTV future proof, there needs to be a digital interface capable of carrying left and right eye images and an additional data channel," said Alan Bell, chief technology officer of Paramount Studios. "It should be the industry's first priority to create such an interface to act as a bridge to the future," he added in an interview with EE Times at the Digital Hollywood conference.

Today's High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) interconnect could be a good starting point for such a link, said Bell, although he said he was not aware of any specific work on the concept. Silicon Image, the company that licenses the technology for HDMI, was not immediately available for comment.

Without such an interface, the industry could adopt a 3DTV technology in the short term that has no upgrade path to better technologies that may emerge in the future, said Bell. Studios want to see a standard for 3DTV soon to expand the market for the stereo 3-D content they are creating for theaters, however the technology for 3DTV is still immature, he noted.

"It's important to think about both the long term potential and the short term opportunity," Bell said.

Others echoed his concern.

"What I worry about is there are a lot of short term technology fixes [for 3DTV] that may not be what you want to live with in the long term," said a top technology executive with another Hollywood studio who asked not to be named. "It's not too early to talk about what the standards might be, but the [3DTV] technology is still in its infancy," he added.

"We could have a format war," said Bell, a former optical storage researcher at IBM who helped define the DVD standard.

However, he noted that unlike the situation with DVD and Blu-ray format wars, few large corporations have deep stakes in any particular 3DTV technology yet. Currently a handful of mainly small companies have technology for producing stereo 3-D images, some of them such as RealD Cinema (Beverly Hills), currently in use in theaters.

"In the short term, it would be good if we could converge on a single spec," Bell said.

A number of groups including the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers and the Blu-ray Disc Association are exploring whether they want to draft 3DTV standards.

"Blu-ray is likely to be the first medium to deliver 3DTV because it is self contained," said Bell "Some of the technologies today make 3-D look like a single stream of video, so Blu-ray would need to do very little work," he added.

By Rick Merritt, EE Times