3D Spec to Hit the Streets by Year’s End

Back in January, we made the case for a unified 3D disc standard, saying that we can’t afford a disc format war. It now appears that a major step in that direction is at hand. Earlier this month, the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) announced its plans for incorporating 3D into the Blu-ray Disc format.

"The BDA intends to take full advantage of the format’s high bandwidth and capacity to achieve the very highest possible quality 3D experience," said Victor Matsuda, Blu-ray Disc Association Global Promotions Committee Chair. "Just as Blu-ray Disc has paved the way for next generation, high definition home entertainment, it will also set the standard for 3D home viewing in the future."

The BDA - which earlier this year formed a 3D task force from its various members, comprising major motion picture studio, IT and consumer electronics companies - is now working on a uniform specification to ensure consistent delivery of 3D content across the Blu-ray Disc Platform. Its CE members include LG Electronics, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp and Sony. The BDA is examining a number of criteria and at a minimum, the specification will require delivery of 1080p resolution to each eye and backward compatibility for both discs and players, meaning that 3D discs will also include a 2D version of the film that can be viewed on existing 2D players and 3D players will enable consumers to playback their existing libraries of 2D content. The final specification is expected to be published in December.

We recently reported that both Sony and Panasonic announced at IFA 2009 plans to launch 3D TVs in 2010, using active-shutter eyeglasses. Sony will develop 3D compatibility into a broad range of its devices, including HDTVs, Blu-ray Disc products, VAIO PCs and PlayStation 3. Sony will also accelerate its efforts across the Sony Group to create 3D hardware and content.

Panasonic, meanwhile, appears to be concentrating on PDPs for 3D TVs. "We will be the first with Full HD 3D," declared Panasonic Senior Vice President Mamoru Yohshida, also speaking at IFA. "The BDA is adopting our Full HD 3D concept. We are not just device manufacturers. We strongly believe in creating a synergy between 3D content and 3D products ... and we are the only AV manufacturer with a research and development laboratory in Hollywood. We have put all our research and development into 3D."

Panasonic has apparently set itself the ambitious task of doubling flat screen sales next year, and European CEO Laurent Abadie is reported to have said that the company plans to sell "15.5 million TVs in 2010." 3D, apparently, will be one of the drivers. It is also reported that Panasonic has developed a double-speed Uniphier chipset specifically for 3D BD players. The chipset already supports BD-live, so it will be interesting to see if content producers will additionally provide access to Internet-based 3D content (better have a real fast connection, however).

The active shutter approach is an attractive route to a 3D display, if it requires no modification of the display panel (perhaps the most expensive single component in a display). But this requires a fast "write" time to refresh the panel, probably at 240Hz rate, which would offset any economy of scale for existing 60- or 120-Hz panels. The other key modification is in the display electronics needing to handle the higher video bandwidth.

By Aldo Cugnini, Display Daily