Let’s Buy Our First 3DTV at NAB

If you have a 3DTV at home, did you ever have a chance to see 3D content on it? The last time I stopped by at a Target, I found four 3D movies on DVDs or Blu-ray Discs. But alas, they are all in some sort of 3D color-encoding format, which is fine for 2D TVs, but of no benefit to 3D display.

I don’t really know how much time it will take before we get some real 3D over the air, on the cable, or on the Net. As a result, I’ve decided to spend a slice of the few billions I earned in the dot-com boom to build my very own 3D channel. What do I need to run it?

3D Cameras
That should be easy. 3Ality will be at NAB showing their 3D rigs, with dynamic inter-ocular, convergence, and zoom telecentric controls. This year will see the addition of their 3D image correction processor sold by Quantel as the SIP2100. Think of it as a "headache on/off" button that automatically corrects your 3D, and encodes it in any 3D format for monitoring and broadcasting.

I hope they will also show its big sister, the SIP2900, which puts nine 3D processors in one box with a routing system that allows the assignment of two or more of the processors to a single 3D feed, increasing the range of 3D imperfections that can be fixed.

Unfortunately last time I asked, they were not selling their camera rigs, but this may have changed recently — as long as they can train the buyer. Paradise FX also has a 3D rig, but I need to hire them to do the 3D shoot. If I want to have my own crew, I may have to get a couple P+S Technik 3D rigs and equip them, or look at products from other providers and newcomers that should be at NAB.

3D Mixers
I will need them to edit my program. Last year I saw some uselessly powerful 60p mixers in a shadowy corner of SONY’s booth. But I don’t see any use for them, unless you can configure them to synchronously handle the two 30p streams of 3D video.

So far, everyone uses a side-by-side 3D-in-2D image format and processes the picture with a 2D mixer, but half the resolution is lost. Unfortunately, that’s the only solution until the whole delivery chain to my living room is upgraded to 3D.

If you want to optimize the quality, have a look into "Quincunx", aka "Checkerboard" subsampling. Sensio offers an optimized proprietary version of this encoding with 1U encoders that fit nicely in a video bay.

3D Delivery
Here comes the 3D black hole. How the heck will I bring that 3D to my home? The easiest way is to broadcast a side-by-side picture on a regular 2D channel. That is definitively not optimal, but it has the appealing qualities that it can hardly get out of sync, which is a big issue with 3D delivery.

The other advantage is the fact that all TV viewers tuning to this channel will see that side-by-side image, and there’s nothing like side-by-side to explain what 3D is. Next thing they wonder is "how come my TV can not show this in 3D? With enough adds in TV guides, people will begin to want a 3D display or decoder to watch it.

Even if I can secure a channel on the cable, dishes or over the air, I may need to get approval from the FCC, make sure I abide by the SMPTE and ATSC rules, send a signal that is recognized by the 3DTVs, etc. Consequently, I need a faster and more versatile delivery channel: the Internet. We’ll see between Hulu, Netflix, Youtube and the likes who’s interested in hosting my 3D content and delivering it with a specific player that can format the 3D image accordingly to the needs of the TV. I may keep it free for a little while and then try to sell 3D movies or 3D sports for a fee.

3D Content
Now that the 3D cinema seems to have found a way out from its egg-and-hen situation, it’s up to 3DTV to find its way. I’ll need some content for my channel if I want people to buy 3DTVs; I need to boost my audience and charge a premium for commercials.

What’s for sale in this domain? Movies, that’s easy. The studios are officially looking for an aftermaket for their 3D movies and I don’t see the anaglyph disks as a solution.

3D talkshows should be easy to produce too. I still have to find a Virtual Studio vendor that understands stereoscopic 3D, however.

3D sports will be an obvious move. Pace and 3Ality are working on it with the NBA and NFL. I’m sure there are projects in Europe for soccer (World Cup 2010) and the Olympic Games (London 2012). I wonder if someone is working on the Tour De France. Bicycle sports is very big in Europe and it’s actually the world’s biggest every-year TV event. The best point - 95% of the coverage is done by two choppers and three motorcycles. Put two pairs of 3D rigs on the finish line and you are done for 4 hours a day, including ride-like fly-by in France’s most gorgeous sceneries.

3D musicals are an interesting move too. If the Met is offering its feed for free, what about doing so in 3D?

So, even if I were a dot-com billionaire with the desire to create 3D content and a delivery channel, I will still need a big enough installed based of TVs to show it on and a solid business model (if I want to keep my billions). I think I will pretend I am a billionaire when I go to NAB this year — just to see what I can get.

By Bernard Mendiburu, Display Daily