Panasonic has developed a 50-inch Full HD 3D compatible plasma display panel (PDP) and high-precision active shutter glasses that enable the viewing of theater-quality, true-to-life 3D images in the living rooms. Aiming to bring Full HD 3D TVs to the market in 2010, the company steps up its efforts in developing the related technology. The new PDP and glasses evolved from Panasonic's world-first Full HD 3D Plasma Home Theater System that was developed in 2008 and comprised of a 103-inch PDP and a Blu-ray Disc player. The prototype PDP has a 50-inch screen, which is expected to become the most popular size for home theaters.
To describe further about the technologies involved with the new panel, Panasonic newly developed the high-speed 3D drive and crosstalk reduction technologies to improve plasma's unique properties to deliver crisp and clear Full HD 3D images. As PDPs are self-illuminating device with full motion-picture resolution, they offer fast response time and are suitable to display fast-moving images. The high-speed 3D drive technology involves the development of new panel materials and LSIs that accelerate the pixel illumination while maintaining brightness. Panasonic also developed the crosstalk reduction technology using newly-developed phosphors with short luminescence decay time and illumination control technology to reduce double-images that occur when left- and right-eye image are alternated on the panel. This technology contributes to achieving high-quality clear pictures with high-contrast and accurate color reproduction. As the new technologies can also be applied to improve the quality of 2D images, they have expanded PDP's potentials for further evolution.
To reproduce 3D images, Panasonic uses the Full HD x 2 frame sequential method that displays time sequential images, alternately reproducing discrete 1920 x 1080 pixel images for the left and right eyes on the display frame by frame. The frame sequential method is widely used in showing Hollywood 3D movies in theaters. The new panel elevates home entertainment to a whole new level with theater-quality 3D images.
The high-precision active shutter glasses employ Panasonic's technology that precisely controls the timing of opening and closing the shutter in synchronization with the left- and right-eye images alternately shown on the PDP. This technology enables significant reduction of crosstalk that degrades the image resolution in 3D display. The glasses are designed to fit for a wide range of users from children to the elderly.
Panasonic has developed a 50-inch Full HD 3D compatible plasma display panel (PDP) and high-precision active shutter glasses that enable the viewing of theater-quality, true-to-life 3D images in the living rooms. Aiming to bring Full HD 3D TVs to the market in 2010, the company steps up its efforts in developing the related technology. The new PDP and glasses evolved from Panasonic's world-first Full HD 3D Plasma Home Theater System that was developed in 2008 and comprised of a 103-inch PDP and a Blu-ray Disc player. The prototype PDP has a 50-inch screen, which is expected to become the most popular size for home theaters.
Pubs are to be first in line to get exclusive access to 3DTV next year. Sky has revealed that the cutting edge technology, which allows viewers to watch 3D screens wearing special glasses, will be offered to loyal Sky pub subscribers before it is released to the domestic market. Selected sporting events are set to be filmed live in 3D by Sky next year for special pub screenings.
Speaking exclusively to The Publican last week, Sky Business’s managing director Iain Holden confirmed that 3D would go to pubs first and that they would enjoy a period of exclusivity ahead of other subscribers, although given the experimental nature of the technology he was unable to give an exact launch date.
While existing Sky HD boxes in pubs will not need upgrading for 3D, it is likely there will be an additional charge for the service, and for the screens pubs will need to show it. However, this will probably be kept low given that Sky and screen manufacturers will want to showcase the service to eventually drive domestic sales. The glasses, which could be given away by pubs when customers make a purchase or even branded for particular outlets or promotions, cost a few pence per pair.
In a statement, Sky said: “We are still working through our research and development activity and have much to learn about live production but should we be able to realise our ambition of broadcasting live sport in 3D, our initial service roll out will be to pubs and clubs.
“Our most loyal commercial customers will be able to offer this experience to their customers exclusively while we work on developing services for our residential customers which will launch at a later date.
“As our experimentation in live production is still at an early stage we’re not yet able to provide a detailed timeframe but should we be able to offer live sports in 3D we expect services to launch next year.”
The original Sky TV service was showcased in pubs before the domestic satellite TV market took off in the 1990s.
By Caroline Nodder, The Publican
In order to provide forthcoming services such as mobile HD at an affordable video rate, an efficient video coding technology is needed. The latest video technology standardised was Scalable Video Coding (SVC) in 2007, the successful standardisation effort of ITU-T VCEG and MPEG providing scalability on top of H.264/AVC coding efficiency. However, SVC is more of an additional feature than a more efficient coding technology.
In order to provide a standardised solution in the coming years, the MPEG committee created the High-Performance Video Coding Ad-hoc group (HVC - AHG) to investigate the next generation coding technology. Its main requirements are the following:
- Performance improvements in terms of coding efficiency at higher resolution.
- 50% better coding efficiency than the actual state of the art codec (H.264/AVC).
- A compromise between better coding performance and complexity.
- Applicability to entertainment quality services such as mobile HD, home cinema and Ultra High Definition TV.
Evidence of such technology has already been proven in the HVC - AHG by various proponents according to the call for evidence issued in April 2009. Based on these results, a call for proposals will be published in the coming months. The targeted image formats are only progressive scanned and they span different image resolutions classified in the following categories: Class A - 4K, 2K; Class B - 1080p/50-60-24; Class C - WVGA; Class D - WQVGA; Class E - 720p/50-60.
A similar investigation is also ongoing in the ITU-T VCEG group. The possibility of another joint MPEG ITU-T effort is not excluded but is not yet clearly defined.
Talking about codecs, JPEG2000 carriage over MPEG-2 TS standardisation work has been initiated to define all necessary identifiers and field descriptors in a future amendment of the MPEG-2 TS standard. The later work follows the JPEG2000 broadcast profiles defined in the JPEG2000 standards.
Another effort of MPEG to be carefully scrutinised by the industry is the initiative to define a new MPEG transport stream called the Modern Media Transport - MMT. The MMT mechanism should provide a unified solution for efficient carriage of MPEG coded content in heterogeneous networks.
A preliminary set of uses cases (transport over Fixed and Mobile networks, Adaptive progressive download, context aware streaming, open IPTV, etc.) and requirements was drafted and is subject to input from relevant standardisation bodies (DVB, etc.).
By Adi Kuoadio, EBU Tech-i
Friday, September 25, 2009
Labels: IT Broadcast
A white paper by David Wood, Deputy Technical Director of the EBU.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Speaking at Intel's Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco, Justin Rattner, Intel's chief technology officer, also took time to highlight another technology gaining ground - 3D TV. "It seems like there is an announcement every week on 3D," he told the audience.
He said he planned to use a high-definition TV during his presentation but changed his mind when he heard about a Silicon Valley start up called HDI. HDI claimed a world first with the launch of its 100in (2.5m) 3D laser set in early September.
To drive home the point about 3D, Mr Rattner's presentation incorporated a live 3D broadcast. While he was inside the auditorium, Mr Rattner spoke to a 3D projected version of Howard Postley, technology boss of 3ality Digital, who was outside in the hallway.
The two men talked about a new high-speed optical technology from Intel codenamed Light Peak aimed at speeding and simplifying the complexity and cost of digital downloads. The conference was told that 50 copper-based cables on the set of a 3D shoot today may one day be replaced with a single optical cable that can use Light Peak technology. Intel hopes to start shipping Light Peak in 2010.
By Maggie Shiels, BBC News
Friday, September 25, 2009
The three-dimensional (3D) content business is growing very quickly indeed, as more and more theaters announce support for 3D imagery. Some films in the US have grossed Yen30 billion. Standardization efforts have started up, primarily in the US, to accelerate this trend, and in 2010 audio-visual (AV) equipment such as televisions will also begin to provide full-scale support for 3D.
"A diverse range of businesses are getting involved in 3D imagery. Everything from content like movies and games to hardware, like TVs. It feels like it's turning into the same sort of thing as the automotive industry," says Mohammad R Ahmadi, president, Technologies & Corporate Development, XpanD Inc of the US, which is involved in upgrading movie theaters to support stereoscopic 3D. He is convinced that the 3D movie market, surging fast, will not fizzle out like it did the last time. Driven by 3D imagery, products across the board are gearing up for support, including TVs, personal video recorders (PVR), broadcast services, mobile phones, personal computers (PC), and game systems.
3D Imagery Infrastructure
There is another difference from the last time: standardization efforts are under way at every place the stereoscopic 3D specification is handled, from video content creation to distribution, AV equipment, viewing glasses and more.
The Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE) of the US, which is spearheading standardization, is working on not only the Home Master Format specification for the basic 3D imagery format, but also moving the entire 3D imagery industry forward. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) of the US, meanwhile, has begun work on standardization of the home AV equipment interface, along with a few other things. The new High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) 1.4 specification for digital consumer electronics already has the 3D spec built-in.
Experimental 3D broadcasting has already started in numerous places around the world, via cable, satellite broadcasting, etc, and standardization is taking these trials into consideration.
The US is not the only nation involved. In Japan, the Association of Radio Industries & Businesses (ARIB) launched a study group for 3D TV in Sept 2008, which cooperates with organizations such as the SMPTE and CEA. Panasonic Corp and Sony Corp, both of Japan, and other firms are guiding standardization relating to Blu-ray Disc technology. The Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA) has already completed standards for 3D photographic data, for example.
Until now, individual manufacturers released equipment to their own specs, and there was essentially no way to distribute 3D video content. The various standardization efforts under way now, however, will have the impact of a superhighway on distribution; it will make it much easier for not only the majors to get into the 3D imagery business, but even small- and medium-scale enterprises, and will lay the groundwork for phenomenal market growth.
In the US, there are several 3D films which have grossed US$200 million to US$300 million each. This is top-class even when compared to a regular film. Yano Research Institute Ltd of Japan predicts that the Japanese domestic market for 3D displays will reach about Yen432 billion in 2019, but this number does not include revenues from 3D content itself. Market scale could be quite a bit larger if content is included.
Reliance on 3D Glasses
In spite of all the hullabaloo, there is one thing to keep in mind: almost all the systems expected to utilize 3D content use 3D glasses to make it possible. The RealD method, Dolby method and XpanD method all use different technologies, but all use glasses. The 3D TVs scheduled to be marketed in 2010 by consumer electronics manufacturers for the home are also expected, for the most part, to rely on 3D glasses.
There are many technologies to achieve 3D imagery, and research into technologies that do not require glasses is also active. Even so, the vast majority of businesses that are making solid progress rely on glasses. The reasons are that glasses make it relatively simple to provide a high-resolution image even from a low-cost display panel originally designed for two-dimensional (2D) imagery, and the viewing field providing a beautiful 3D image is very wide. They fulfill the three crucial conditions for 3D viewing: low cost, high resolution and wide viewing angle.
Differences in 3D Glasses
The problem is that even though the idea of using 3D glasses is the same, there are three general ways to do it, namely the RealD method used in movie theaters, the XpanD method, and the Dolby method. Understanding their differences will clarify the future of 3D television. It is unlikely that the differences in glasses will affect the way audiences watch films in theaters, but when it comes to 3D TV, the technology in the viewing glasses is likely to affect cost, image appearance, etc, depending on how they interact with the display technology.
Consider the XpanD method, more properly known as the active shutter method. Also called the time-division method, the images for the left and right eyes are displayed alternately on the movie screen, display, etc. The viewer dons eyeglasses equipped with special lenses, which have liquid crystal lenses with "shutter" functions to turn transparency on and off. The left and right shutters are activated in time to the control signal from the TV, so that the left eye sees only the image intended for the left eye, and likewise for the right.
The RealD and Dolby methods, on the other hand, are passive, with no electrical drive functions in the glasses. The difference between the two is the method in which the left- and right-eye images are multiplexed. RealD's approach is polarized, with left- and right-eye images divided by right-hand and left-hand polarization and displayed together. Circular polarization filters in the eyeglass lenses make it possible to see the individual images.
Dolby Laboratories Inc of the US instead divides the imagery by color, splitting the visible spectrum into six wavebands, and using two colors each to represent red (R), green (G) and blue (B). The viewing glasses have different RGB filters in the left and right lenses. The anaglyph type of red/blue eyeglasses used decades ago is a primitive form of the same thing. The Dolby technology, however, is currently only used in movie theaters, with no sign of home use at all.
Panel Drive Technology
Manufacturers of home-use TVs, projectors, etc, seem likely to choose either time- or polarization-multiplexed methods for the time being. If the technique is the same, it would at least be possible to use the same type of 3D glasses in both the movie theater and the home. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.
As mentioned above, the 3D glasses used have a significant effect on panel manufacturing cost, resolution and other points. For example, the time-division technique can utilize standard 2D panels, dramatically reducing the cost of implementing 3D support. Depending on the specific drive integrated circuits (IC) chosen, though, there may be resolution issues. 3D rear projection systems sold in North America by companies including Mitsubishi Electric Corp of Japan and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd of Korea, for example, use digital light processing (DLP) from Texas Instruments Inc of the US specifically for rear-projection systems as the display device. DLP is designed to alternate displays of the left- and right-eye images in a checkerboard pattern, which means that for a given frame frequency the image resolution will be half the true resolution of the display device.
The same basic problem occurs with the standard liquid crystal display (LCD) panels used: for a given frame rate, resolution is halved. This is because the drive ICs used for these LCD panels alternate the left- and right-eye images for each horizontal scan line. True, if a dedicated drive IC were developed allowing all the pixels of a single frame to be seen, there would be no resolution loss even without having to boost the frame frequency. Called "frame sequential" technology, it is already used in plasma display panel (PDP) TVs developed for 3D by Panasonic and others.
LCD Panel Response
Panel cost is a key issue with polarization-multiplexed technology. The "micropolarization film" with left and right circular polarization filters in scan line or pixel units demands extremely high-precision alignment when glued to the panel, which is expensive. There have been reports that the vertical viewing angle is reduced when circular polarization filters are positioned for each horizontal scan line.
Even so, the technique is used in products from Hyundai IT Corp of Korea, Sony prototypes, etc, because it can utilize the same inexpensive, battery-free passive 3D glasses as used in RealD. One of the reasons is that time-division just doesn't work smoothly with LCD panels. Flicker is a problem, as is excessive crosstalk, which allows the image meant for one eye to also be seen by the other.
Both of these problems stem from the slow response of standard liquid crystal: specifically, flicker occurs when the 3D glasses open/close shutter speed is so slow that it becomes visible. The same problem occurs in PDP and DLP, both of which have slow shutter open/close operation, but LCD panels suffer from the additional problem that it is more difficult to boost the frame frequency (shutter speed). LCD panels use backlights, which means that the per-pixel emission time is longer than in self-emitting designs such as PDP or DLP, resulting in increased crosstalk.
LCD panel manufacturers involved in 3D displays are developing their own solutions to these problems. Samsung Electronics, for example, uses a high (4x) frame rate, in other words 240Hz, and inserts a black image immediately after the left- and right-eye images to shut off emitted light. Flicker is reduced because the higher frame rate makes the speed of change between dark and light too rapid for the human eye to notice. Crosstalk is reduced because the higher frame rate and black image insertion reduce the effective pixel emission time.
Toshiba Mobile Display Co Ltd (TMD) of Japan is developing its own 3D display and glasses, using an optically compensated birefringence (OCB) LCD. OCB LCDs are known to have a very short moving picture response time (MPRT), an index of response, of only 3ms. In addition, says a researcher working for the firm, the insertion of black images between left- and right-eye views and switching off the backlight made it possible to slash the value of the crosstalk ratio to "only 0.08%." Flicker is said to be low even at a 120Hz frame rate. Until now, TMD has only used OCB LCDs in small panels for mobile phones and the like, but recently prototyped a 3D display using medium-size 32-inch OCB LCD panels. No commercialization date has been announced.
Other manufacturers are attempting to resolve the problems using off-the-shelf LCD displays. Olympus Visual Communications Corp of Japan has used a display manufactured by BenQ Corp of Taiwan, with twisted nematic (TN) liquid crystal, and reduced crosstalk with proprietary LCD shutter-type glasses. TN LCD has a much shorter MPRT than standard liquid crystal, about 2ms to 6ms, similar to OCB LCD. In addition, says a representative for the firm, both left and right lens LCD shutters are closed simultaneously in each cycle, providing the same effect as inserting a black image on the panel side.
There are also manufacturers developing new technologies beyond the bounds of existing frameworks, such as LG Display Co Ltd of Korea, which plans to ship a proprietary panel product in 2010 combining polarization- and time-division concepts. An active polarization sheet is mounted in the panel to control circular polarization in pixel units, instead of affixing micropolarization film to the panel surface. This sheet alternately displays left- and right-eye images (time division). It can be used with passive glasses, and according to a researcher for the firm, "The high display efficiency means it is two times brighter than conventional LCD shutter designs."
While TV manufacturers are selecting or developing their own 3D technologies, standardization under way at the SMPTE, CEA, etc, may have a major effect on the direction of 3D evolution.
The SMPTE, for example, plans to complete standardization of the basic data format before the end of 2010. A detailed report on the existing data format was released in April 2009, and a dedicated 3D lab was constructed within the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) of the University of South California (USC) with the goal of (according to the SMPTE) "reviewing the possible utilizations of 3D imagery and creating a world map of the 3D technology." Evaluations are under way of individual technologies, and optimal combinations of technology for various types of content. While the group's results have no binding power over manufacturers, they could well become selection criteria for users.
In contrast, the CEA (handling standardization of the interface for home AV equipment, including TVs) created an R4WG16 working group called to standardize 3D glasses interface, equipment, terminology, etc, on May 26, 2009. According to Brian Markwalter, vice president of Technology & Standard at CEA, "The balance between standardization and wide freedom of technology selection is crucial. When we consider ease of use by viewers it is clear that we can't ignore 3D glasses technology, and we will have to standardize the interface to some extent." Unlike the SMPTE, however, the CEA has not yet set concrete deadlines. While they have no plans to rush ahead, the group's Markwalter commented that, "Two or three months should be sufficient for standardization," indicating that the standardization process itself should progress quite quickly.
Products from Mid-2010
HDMI Licensing LLC of the US and Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), among others, hope to see standardization completed as soon as possible, with an eye on product shipment. Support for 3D imagery was written into the HDMI 1.4 standard by HDMI in June 2009, and already companies including Silicon Image Inc of the US and Panasonic have announced HDMI 1.4-compliant receiver ICs and other chipsets.
The BDA created the 3D Task Force in May 2009. According to Masayuki Kozuka, general manager, Storage Devices Business Strategy Office, Panasonic, and BDA co-chair, "We hope BDA will complete standardization before the end of 2009." The reason is that Hollywood is hoping to sell 3D content on Blu-ray Disc format full-scale for the 2010 Christmas shopping season. "In order to be in time," explains Panasonic's Kozuka, "we have to release 3D-capable products in the North American market no later than mid-2010."
Some manufacturers, like Dolby, hope to provide 3D video of fixed quality using Blu-ray Disc and digital videodisc (DVD) player specifications unchanged from what they are now. Panasonic's Kozuka, however, points out that this would lead to a number of problems with both resolution and compatibility: "With current-technology equipment, video resolution would have to be dropped from full high-definition. Except for a special broadcasting where bandwidth restrictions are an issue, we cannot choose a solution that results in lower image quality." In addition, existing specifications include no mechanism for automatically sensing if data is 2D or 3D, and therefore would probably confuse users.
By Tetsuo Nozawa, Nikkei Electronics Asia
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Disney's imminent rerelease of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in 3D has many wondering if others will tap their film libraries for extra-dimensional opportunities, but it appears less a matter of if than when. Execs on lots all around town acknowledge spitballing sessions about possible 3D rereleases. At Lightstorm Entertainment, insiders suggest it will be less than a year before a 3D rerelease is announced for a little film called Titanic.
"We are certainly interested in exploring the opportunity to rerelease some of Lightstorm's past films in 3D," Lightstorm partner Jon Landau said. "I don't think it's too far into the future. We're pretty far down the road."
In fact, Lightstorm has done 3D tests on James Cameron's two most successful movies: Titanic and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Still, though several Hollywood majors also might tread that path eventually, only select projects are likely until 3D home entertainment takes hold, and that's maybe five years down the road. Only the most well-known film classics would merit the considerable costs of converting 2D pics, not to mention the marketing expenses of 3D rereleases.
The still-skimpy installed base of 3D movie screens is another consideration, though Landau is heartened by the steady increase in those numbers and is confident a more robust 3D footprint will be in place soon.
Family films are the most obvious candidates for 3D rereleases, as tots often know classic family titles from DVD but haven't seen them on the big screen. CGI-animated family titles top the list, as an average $8 million or so in remastering costs can be halved thanks to inherent technical advantages in the format.
But even well-known action films such as those in the Star Wars franchise are expected to get 3D rereleases eventually -- the key word being eventually.
"I know we're all watching this to see if there's something there," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said. "The uniqueness of 3D definitely brings something different to the table. But right now it's wait and see."
Disney release the 3D versions of 1995 franchise original Toy Story and its 1999 sequel Oct. 2 on about 1,600 screens. The reissues serve as franchise reminders in advance of the June 18 bow of Toy Story 3, also in 3D. Theaters will program Toy Story and Toy Story 2 back-to-back, but patrons also will have the option of hanging onto tickets to return another time within the films' two-week run.
"It's a huge value proposition for the audience," Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said. "It's a great day for the family because they can go out and enjoy two movies and have a ball."
A likely second motivation is the prospect of eventually releasing the remastered titles in the home entertainment market, but that's not likely for several years. Until then, some say, theatrical rereleases demand a cautious approach and could require as much as $25 million in related marketing. "It's economic suicide," a top studio exec groused.
Even Disney hasn't committed to its next 3D rerelease. "We continue to look at past properties to see if we have the right vehicles for this format," Viane said. "But we want to see what happens with these."
At Fox, distribution boss Bruce Snyder said the studio has "looked at some titles that we could think about maybe doing in 3D." Nothing in that vein is planned imminently, but Snyder believes more than just family films could see 3D rerelease eventually.
"You've got older teens and early-20s males who are rabid about technology right now," he said. "So it has the possibility of expanding from the family audience into that audience."
The new versions of Toy Story and its sequel offer a new visual depth, thanks to their conversion into 3D. But don't expect anything to fly off the screen; even Pixar's summer hit Up kept the lid on overt 3D gimmickry.
The Toy Story conversions follow an earlier similar project at Disney, which in 2006 remastered Tim Burton's animated creepfest The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D. Nightmare has rung up $24 million from theatrical campaigns staged each Halloween since then.
Pixar handled 3D chores on the Toy Story pics. On Nightmare, Disney hired Industrial Light and Magic to do the work, with ILM licensing a 3D-conversion program developed by In-Three.
Westlake Village, Calif.-based In-Three has worked primarily with studios to create 3D masters for new movies being released in a mix of 2D and 3D theaters. Its execs believe other studios will follow Disney's lead and rerelease their own classics in 3D, once the installed base of 3D screens grows.
"Everybody is worried about the number of 3D screens," In-Three marketing vp Damian Wader said. "If you take a legacy film like Star Wars or The Matrix, you can't rerelease it in 2D, only 3D."
Until recently, there were fewer than 2,000 3D screens in place domestically.
Meanwhile, Landau has some advice for industryites bullish on 3D. Noting the costs of conversion and the inevitability of 3D dominating the theatrical landscape, he said: "If you have the ability to shoot something now in 3D, shoot it in 3D. Then you won't have to convert it."
By Carl DiOrio, The Hollywood Reporter
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
3D is coming to British TV later in 2010. BSkyB says the public will first see demonstration broadcasts in public places ahead of the dedicated channel that they’ve promised for next year. While not being specific it is probable that Sky will tap into its mainstream soccer subscribers, and showcase 3D test-transmissions at soccer stadiums and other high-profile, high-volume, venues. These could include pubs and bars. But how many 3D channels might make it to air?
The current promise is for a single channel, but BSkyB has a long tradition of under-promising and over-delivering. While some other European broadcasters offer barely a handful of HDTV channels, Sky currently offers well over 30 and some sources suggest that their eventual total could reach 70-80 channels in HD. Some informed sources say Sky will employ the same strategy as far as 3D is concerned.
Not that there will be 70-80 channels in 3D – at least not for some time yet. But it is recognised that Sky has in mind to build up – over time - an offering of close to about 10 3D services. The coming year will see a raft of suitable TV sets coming onto the market, and Sky is also looking to see supplies of polarising filters become available that could be fixed to existing HD sets.
The first list of channels is pretty easy to create. Sky’s first 3D channel might well be a compilation service, showing a game or two of soccer each week, plus other flagship programming. That might comprise highbrow ballet or drama, as well as natural history, music and travelogue-type programming which is perfect for showcasing 3D. As for its initial cluster of stand-alone 3D channels they are easy to predict. For example, Sky can be expected to invest heavily in sport, and soccer in particular, so a Sky Sports 1 in 3D can be depended on, followed as with its HD service by additional sports channels in 3D.
It’s the same with movies. Hollywood is known to be seeking another pay-TV ‘window’ for its growing portfolio of 3D programming. How quickly Sky Movies in 3D grows to Sky Movies 2 in 3D depends entirely on Hollywood – but the studios growing enthusiasm for 3D movies is clear to see.
While Discovery Channel or National Geographic can be depended upon to supply suitable 3D programming (and remember that Nat-Geo in the UK is part-owned by Sky), whether these modest elements will eventually form dedicated channels is still to be seen. But documentary and factual programming is being made in 3D.
However, if viewers remember back to the early days of HDTV (all of 3 years ago), these same thematic channels kicked off their HD offerings with just a couple of hours of heavily rotated programming each day. The amount grew, and quickly evolved into full-time HD services. The same pattern can be expected to shape the emergence of 3D into stand-alone channels.
Sky is already investing in ballet, and has a relationship with the English National Opera. It also backs the Hay on Wye book festival with nightly HD transmissions, and perhaps this could migrate to 3D. In other words a Sky Arts in 3D might be an early addition even if only for a few hours a week.
We have already mentioned serious music, opera and ballet, but Sky has also experimented with pop music and anyone who has seen trial transmissions of stadium rock concerts in 3D have been wholly astounded. Sky might follow this route (it carried a test broadcast with rock band Keane this past summer), but it is also likely that MTV could easily climb upon this bandwagon.
Consequently, Sky’s debut channel will – in our view – quickly grow. How quickly they get to 8-10 channels is anyone’s guess, and will depend wholly on available programming. But Sky’s roadmap is already well defined, and they’ll have had talks with potential broadcasting partners.
We also have experimental 3D transmissions promised by the BBC from next year’s FIFA World Cup soccer festival, as well as the 2012 London Olympic Games. The TV industry hopes that all this activity will soon be driving consumers back into the stores to buy suitable sets. Sky’s 3D activity will be viewed with considerable interest by Europe’s other pay-TV broadcasters.
By Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News
Sky could launch its 3D hi-def service next year in cinemas while consumers catch up on buying new 3D TV screens. Sky is committed to launching the new service in 2010 but may have to take account of slow take-up of 3D screens, said Brian Sullivan, managing director of Sky's customer group.
"We will absolutely be launching a service in 2010 and that service will be fundamentally different from the services we offer today. We are building our capability and we will be showing our first end-to-end sporting events soon, but I would not be surprised if the service materialises first out of the home, because it's also a question of consumers changing to the new 3D screens."
Speaking at this year's IBC broadcast technology exhibition in Amsterdam, Brian said the 3D service will be based on the new Sky Guide rolled out to HD boxes this year (well, most of them so far). However, it will feature floating 3D menus, as demonstrated by NDS at the show, along with some natty designer-style 3D glasses.
He added: "At some point HD is going to be the minimum acceptable standard and 3D's going to be the cream on top of that. Our HD box we over-specced to an unbelievable degree because we do not want to go through another box replacement cycle. We can't!"
By Alex Lane, Wotsat
With the price of high-definition TVs sliding, display manufacturers are looking to 3-D in the home to drive the next big video experience. Heavyweights Sony and Panasonic have announced plans to release 3-D television sets next year, while other major players such as Samsung and Mitsubishi have recently released 3-D-ready TVs. LG and Philips are also preparing for a 3-D future. Add to that list of titans a small Los Gatos startup called High Definition Integration (HDI), which hopes it can help shape this emerging market.
HDI came out of stealth mode earlier this month to show off its 3-D laser projection technology, which it says provides a better quality image using simple polarized glasses. The company, which has been self-funded, is hoping to license its technology or build its own front-projection systems and flat-panel displays. HDI says its technology consumes less power and costs less than comparable systems.
"With our technology, we hope to raise the bar of what's available now," said Chris Stuart, director of technology at HDI. "We're trying to give the quality of IMAX in the home."
Sony, Panasonic and others are pushing a standard of delivery that utilizes active shutter glasses. The powered lenses block each eye alternately with the display to create two images. The industry is hoping to quickly rally around new standards for 3-D delivery, preventing a potential format war that could frustrate adoption. The Blu-ray Disc Association is expected to finalize a standard in the coming year that will help usher in a new wave of Blu-ray players and TVs.
It's against that backdrop that HDI is trying to gain some attention. HDI combines lasers with a propriety optical engine that can project images to both eyes at 180 hertz. After separating the picture into three colors, the image reaches each eye at 360 frame refreshes per second, about six times that of a competing 3-D television. That in turn smooths out the image and reduces flickering and some of the nausea-inducing effects of previous generations of 3-D.
Using lasers is more efficient, which cuts down on energy consumption, said HDI. An HDI projection system can power a 100-inch image for less than 200 watts while a comparable plasma display consumes more than 1,000 watts. And with HDI's technology, users only need to wear cheap polarized glasses that separate the image for each eye as opposed to shutter glasses, which can cost $100 or more.
"We're really trying to create a system that's comfortable for the user," said HDI Chief Technology Officer Edmund Sandberg.
He said the company can work with whatever standard is approved but is concentrating on larger screens, 70 inches or more, which produce a more immersive effect. With a front or rear projection system, HDI can produce a 100-inch image for about $10,000 to $15,000, far less than a comparable plasma TV, which can sell for several times that.
Sandberg said the company is working on projection sets now but can fit the technology into enclosed displays. HDI expects to have its technology ready for production in the next 18 months.
By Ryan Kim, San Francisco Chronicle
Conventional wisdom has it that it took digital technology to solve the problems experienced by film-based 3D approaches and enable the current cinematic 3D renascence. Apparently Technicolor begs to differ.
Let’s start with a few words on the way things were. Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, film-based 3D was famous for causing visual distress. One of the means used to implement 3D was to take a conventional 4-perf 35 mm frame and split it horizontally. The top half contained the image for one eye and the bottom half the image for the other eye. This is called the over-under approach. The top half is polarized in one direction, and the bottom half is polarized orthogonally. A special split lens projects both overlaid images onto a polarization-preserving screen. Viewers wear glasses with passive polarized lenses to see the image in 3D (Sony does the equivalent of this for its digital SRDX 3D projectors using 4K imagers).
The problem with this approach was, at least in part, that the film fluttered as it moved through the projector. This caused the image to flutter too. Other factors that degraded the 3D image quality included wear and tear on print.
That was then. Ahmad Oury, Technicolor’s President of Strategy, Technology and Marketing believes that these problems have been solved in Technicolor’s new 3D projection system. He explained that the new system is based on "the use of the latest and greatest materials vs. what was there decades ago. We use the most advanced glass in the lenses, the most advanced polarizing materials, both in the lenses and in the glasses, to optimize the picture."
The lens costs $5,000-$7,000. The plan, however, is to lease the system and thus the cost to cinemas will not be incurred all at once. Another favorable financial aspect of the Technicolor 3D Solution is that it can be installed quickly and without significant modification to the projection booth.
Not everyone in the industry thinks this is a good idea, of course. Specifically, companies with a strong interest in seeing the rapid adoption of digital cinema systems are particularly negative. RealD and Cinedigm, for examples, expressed their dislike of the idea at the 3D Entertainment Summit this week noting that this will distract exhibitors from investing all their money in digital (no surprise with this position).
On the other hand, initial consumer testing of the Technicolor system is reported as encouraging. Tests administered by an independent service reported that 65% of moviegoers polled after viewing The Final Destination in Technicolor 3D said the overall quality of the image was at least good. This is identical to the results from digital 3D exit polls.
But others in the industry are worried that such results are not indicative of how the majority of theaters will be operated. As Nick Dager, editor of the Digital Cinema Report points out, most theater projectors are run by minimum wage personnel who don’t care about image quality that much, many exhibitors will not opt to buy the silver screen and film still has the issues of stretching, scratches and dirt. "I’m very concerned that this development could turn off an entire generation of movie goers."
Oury said the company hopes to have the 3D system ready for use in November and to have "a meaningful number" of installations by the end of the year.
What was not addressed by Technicolor, or in any other commentaries we reviewed, was the issue of flutter and how that may impact 3D image quality today vs. the 1950’s. We can assume film projectors are better in this regard, but are they good enough?
The interesting part of the story is that Technicolor is positioning its’ new product offering not as a permanent means to replace digital 3D projection but, rather, as a means to address the fact that there is currently an insufficient number of 3D screens. This insufficiency is a result of the slower than expected roll out of 3D capable digital projectors, which is due to the recent financial crisis.
This leads us to report a second item in this week’s news. We read that the credit crisis may be ready to go into remission as far as the digital cinema industry is concerned. JP Morgan is poised to initiate a $525 million financing program that is intended to enable up to 15,000 digital cinema installations over the next five years. The program is targeted at the nation’s three largest movie chains: AMC, Cinemark and Regal.
So, in adition to the usual technological and business risks associated with a new product offering, Technicolor will need to deal with added uncertainty regarding the duration of the window of opportunity. Who says that the world of business isn’t exciting?
By Art Berman, Display Daily
In his morning keynote at the 3D Entertainment Summit, Jeffrey Katzenberg expressed bafflement that Hollywood hasn't made more live-action 3D movies and challenged exhibitors to be more aggressive with their 3D ticket prices.
"I find it curious how slow the live-action business has been in jumping on this opportunity," said the DreamWorks Animation topper, a longtime evangelist for the stereoscopic 3D (S3D) format. "In a business where margins are sinking like a stone in water, suddenly something comes along that for a small incremental investment you create huge incremental income possibilities for you. Why every studio isn't out making three, four, five 3D movies is inexplicable."
Katzenberg predicted that James Cameron's Avatar will be the "dam-buster" that does for live-action S3D filmmaking what The Wizard of Oz did for color, showing the artistic, creative and commercial potential of the format.
Saying S3D represented the greatest opportunity for growth and expansion of the entertainment business he's seen in years, he jabbed at exhibitors for being "timid" about charging a premium for the format.
"The consumer has shown now, time and time again, not just a willingness but an aggressive ambition to trade up for a premium experience," he declared. He said theatrical margins on Monsters vs. Aliens, DreamWorks Animation's first S3D release, were up 30%. "Now that's a staggering number," he said, "but we think that's going to go up significantly in 2010."
Offstage, Katzenberg expanded on his onstage remarks and said exhibitors have an opportunity to reinvent their business by moving to digital projectors .
"To the degree to which they are innovative and entrepreneurial and think about their customer, they end up with a phenomenal new business. To the degree they don't, and stay entrenched in old models, they will lose, the enterprise will slip right out of their fingers. "
Katzenberg was reacting in part to remarks from Variety VP and editorial director Peter Bart, who warned that the movie industry must embrace S3D and other big ideas if it is to emerge from its biggest crisis in decades.
"The one thing that's clearly agreed to around the world is that the existing economics of the movie industry simply don't equate anymore," Bart said. "There needs to be another big idea. There need to be new revenue streams to save what at this point is a somewhat shaky economic structure."
He compared the current crisis to his days as a Paramount executive in the early 1970s, when audiences were turning away from the old-fashioned musicals that had been studio staples.
"We looked at each other and said what the hell is going on," he recalled. Worse, he said, the movie that did open and capture the public imagination was a porno, Deep Throat, a property the studios couldn't emulate.
"What soon happened was the big idea did come around," Bart said. There was The Godfather, Jaws, a series of blockbusters, homevideo and international opened up. But it was a moment of deep tension and apprehension.
"I'm not proposing the onset of 3D porn. But I think we're reaching a moment where 3D and other concepts are going to be hugely embraced not only by the business community but by the creative community."
Katzenberg is known for his opinion that all movies will eventually be made in S3D. He told the gathering of around 300 at the Universal Hilton Ballroom that he's learned not to say that. "I think I lose some credibility," he said. However, he did not say he's changed his mind.
Still, he said, he is torn about whether he'd like to see the entire industry embrace 3D as his company has.
"I feel like John Belushi in Animal House. I've got the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. And the angel says, 'Yes, if I put my industry hat on, I'd love to see the industry support this platform because I think it's transformative for the business and in many respects could save an industry I think is at a perilous place.' The devil side of me says, 'Let me just worry about me.'"
By David S. Cohen, variety
One indication that 3D has caught hold commercially is the emergence of alternative methods for delivering 3D to consumers without expensive hardware upgrades. Following Technicolor's formal unveiling yesterday of their method for showing 3D from standard 35mm release prints, today veteran technologist John Lowry demonstrated an improved anaglyph method for 3D.
Monickered Trioscopics, the system that can work on any existing digital theater or TV screen, is suitable for existing broadcast TV. It uses a green-magenta glasses, a different color combination from previous anaglyph systems, and delivers better color and clarity than most anaglyph systems.
Lowry demonstated the system with throwaway plastic glasses from American Paper Optics and HD clips from Journey to the Center of the Earth, My Bloody Valentine and Coraline that had been converted within a matter of days. Noting that "anaglyph is a bad word" in the 3D community, Lowry said "We may not be perfect yet," said Lowry, "but we can open markets and help studios make a lot of money today. We will be the cost-effective solution for broadening the 3D base."
By David S. Cohen, Variety
The first wave of advanced 3D at home products, including the first stereoscopic Blu-ray Disc players and titles, are expected to hit retail in 2010, and consumers should be mostly ready for them, insisted participants at Thursday’s 3D Entertainment Summit. DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg gave this potential new business segment a grand endorsement in his keynote.
During his keynote at last year’s conference, Katzenberg said he believed that 3D at home products were a long way off, as manufacturers and studios were still hammering out how they would bow compatible hardware and software. However, there has been a flurry of development across the media industry in the last several months, bringing 3D at home closer to a reality sooner.
The Blu-ray Disc Assn. has said it will release complete universal specifications for stereoscopic 3D high-def discs by the end of this year. With that cemented, Sony and Panasonic have committed to 2010 launches of TVs and Blu-ray players. Also, Disney marketed 3D Blu-ray content at its recent D23 fan conference.
“It will be a number of years before you get to deep penetration, but we still will see a robust market that will begin to emerge in 2010,” Katzenberg said. “All the major manufacturers are aggressively rolling 3D products beginning next year.”
Speaking on a panel at the event, Paul Gagnon, director of North American TV research at DisplaySearch, predicted a strong growth trajectory for 3D-enabled TV sets. Business will likely start modestly next year, with less than 2 million units expected to ship worldwide. But that will explode to more than 6 million in 2012 and about 12 million in 2013, Gagnon said.
There is the question of whether consumers will be willing to pay for the premium likely to be placed on 3D at home products. Theatrical tickets for 3D showings generally cost several more dollars than tickets for 2D screenings, which has been largely credited for boosting the exhibition business to new heights.
Michelle Abraham, principal analyst at In-Stat Digital, noted that there is consumer resistance to paying more for 3D at home. Many people are open to purchasing another TV, with 54% of survey respondents saying they were either very or somewhat intent on buying another set. Yet when asked how much more they were willing to spend on a 3D TV over a non-3D TV, the majority wanted a less-than-$200 premium. Another large chunk, 33%, said they would pay less than $50 more for 3D over 2D.
“There might be some disconnect about what they’ll need to spend” to get that new 3D TV, said Abraham.
In-Stat also asked consumers about premiums for 3D Blu-ray Discs, and the response was similarly negative toward paying too much more than for straight high-definition titles. According to In-Stat, 61% of people would pay nothing to no more than $2 more for 3D titles.
“The consumer is not putting a high value on this over 2D content,” said Abraham. “The perception could change. People seem to want a lot for nothing.”
Some analysts believe that relatively speaking, 3D products won’t seem that pricey, especially for consumers who have already purchased high-def TVs.
“The 3D premium will seem less significant than when consumers went from [standard-definition TV] to HD,” DisplaySearch’s Gagnon said.
The analysts believe that education will be key in motivating consumers that stereoscopic 3D is a valuable investment. To date, they’ve only seen downgraded versions of 3D films in their home, where color is blurring compared to the movie’s theatrical quality.
“They don’t think they can get [theatrical quality] 3D at home, but when it is available, education will need to take place,” said Abraham. “People need to know that this [experience] is replicated from theaters.”
Also, conference participants believe that theatrical and home entertainment are so intertwined, that one can’t exist without the other in 3D.
“About 40% of people who go see a movie in the theater will buy it on DVD or Blu-ray. There is the same co-existence model” with 3D, Eisuke Tsuyuzaki, chief technology officer at Panasonic Corp. of America, said in a separate panel.
Andy Parsons, senior VP of advanced product development at Pioneer, said he thinks 3D will soon become a universal feature on Blu-ray players.
“I think it will be like BD Live, where there is the option to put it in or not, but that everyone ends up putting it in,” he said. “From a manufacturer’s point of view, I think they will think seriously about making this a standard feature.”
By Susanne Ault, VideoBusiness
Stereoscopic 3D (S3D) technology has the potential to revolutionize the way movies are filmed much in the way the advent of color and sound did.
"If it's well done, you forget there's anything unusual about (S3D). It just broadens the gamut of what you can use to express things," said USC professor Perry Hoberman.
Hoberman and Scott Fisher, chair of USC's interactive media division, are setting up an interdisciplinary program at the School of Cinematic Arts that will address how the technology can be used in narrative-based production such as movies and scripted television, as well as in gaming and immersive media. According to Fisher, the program should commence next fall.
The program will have a strong research component to complement its classes, Fisher said. USC already collaborates with such industry partners as Sony, HP and EA on S3D and boasts many alums who are its boosters, including George Lucas, Randall Kleiser and faculty member Michael Peyser, who exec-produced last year's U2 3D film.
Fisher said while the technology itself is undeniably important, the program will focus on developing its pictorial language.
"We have a good sense of the differences (between 2D and S3D), simple things like not making quick cuts between, say, a nearfield scene and a landscape because it hurts your eyes," Fisher said. However, filmmakers are just beginning to test out such techniques as upping the perception of depth to heighten emotional impact, he said.
Visual media from cave paintings onward has, until now, always been two-dimensional, where composition and other pictorial tricks are used to give the illusion of 3D, Hoberman said.
"3D takes up that burden of creating space, so that you can have very different kinds of images and different kinds of visual styles that will work in 3D that wouldn't have worked in 2D."
Fisher said perhaps the most exciting part of the new program is the interest generated in Hollywood.
"We're getting so many requests from industry to provide them with this kind of background in stereoscopic imaging because they're making more and more films and need that kind of talent to move things forward," he said.
By Robyn Weisman, Variety
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Stereoscopic television remains a hot topic at the 3D Entertainment Summit at the Universal Hilton. The latest step forward on the stereoscopic 3D (S3D) broadcasting front came just a few days ago, with ESPN's S3D coverage of last Saturday's USC-Ohio State game, beamed to selected venues.
We stopped in at the ESPN Zone at L.A. Live to check out the telecast and fan reaction, then talked to Vince Pace, whose company provided the S3D technology for the telecast.
The Championship Lounge at ESPN Zone had five S3D TVs set up, two Sony flatscreens, two Hyundai flatscreens and a projection model. The Hyundais required RealD polarized glasses; the others were driving active shutter glasses.
Random fans from the main floor were invited up to watch the S3D coverage for a few minutes. Most, if not all, were seeing S3D TV for the first time. Some 50 answered an extensive survey on their reaction from ESPN; we peeked at a few, and all of those were very positive. One fan was overheard to say, "It's really like being there," and another noted, "It's addictive."
Significantly, after a few minutes watching S3D, some would notice instantly when the broadcast picked up a flat shot from the 2D feed.
Even casual fans soon noted there were fewer camera angles than they're used to in a football telecast, and, sure enough, when we caught up with Vince Pace, he heard the same thing: "We need more camera angles."
For Pace, that was good news. "Thank god we're talking about the stylistic aspect and not whether 3D gives you headaches."
The Skycam, which flies above the action on cables, wasn't used for the coverage. There wasn't time to safety-test an S3D Skycam, but Pace promises, "Next time, watch out."
Pace and his crew found the ESPN team having to unlearn some habits. Despite Pace's warnings, one camera operator kept panning to his right, catching the nose of a 2D camera in a corner of the frame, thus making the S3D nearly unwatchable. "I think I have to create some hard stops for the tripod head," Pace said with a laugh.
In the pregame show, a rig suitable for long shots was instead used for closeups of the announcers on the sideline, making the shot uncomfortable to watch and making the announcers look like miniatures.
"The director has to know there are more layers at his fingertips he has to be respectful of," Pace said. "Same with the operator. They have more of a weapon in their hands, and they have to treat it with a little more respect when they fire it."
Colors were also slightly washed out on the S3D telecast. We thought that might be the TVs, but those occasional 2D shots had very saturated color.
Even live sports coverage, it turns out, is not immune from gimmick 3D shots. When sideline reporter Ed Cunningham found Super Bowl hero Santonio Holmes on the sideline, he asked Holmes to show his championship ring to the folks at home -- and put it right into the camera. Sure enough, Holmes' hand seemed to extend out past the screen, drawing laughter and cheers from the ESPN Zone crowd. Think "Dr. Tongue's 3D House of Super Bowl Rings."
"I had talked to Ed before about not being afraid to have fun," Pace said. "It's a natural part of a 3D presentation to say hello to the camera that way." And, he notes with some pride, "Technically, it was pulled off perfectly."
By David S. Cohen, Variety
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The 3D format is here to stay but is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success. Presenters at the first day of the 3D Entertainment Summit at the Universal Hilton voiced frustration that the business is growing so fast that 3D pics are cannibalizing each others' release windows and leaving money on the table. The shortage of screens has led to 3D playing times this year that are several weeks shorter per title than last year.
During "The Business Case for 3D" panel, Screen Digest senior analyst Charlotte Jones said 3D remains a strong revenue driver for features, especially for this summer's pics. "Without 3D premium pricing, the summer would not have registered as positive," she said. Moreover, she said, "Where 3D has permeated a genre, titles not available in 3D are at a significant disadvantage."
But while 3D screens continued to overperform 2D screens so far this year by about three to one, on par with historical averages, that figure is inflated by the overperformance of My Bloody Valentine. Without that title, the ratio is down to about 2.5:1.
The major crucial factor behind the decline is 3D screen capacity, Jones said, and "3D movie revenues are being squeezed because we're seeing more 3D releases in the same time frame." Time in 3D theaters per title is down, too, she said, from 8.7 weeks in 2008 to just 3.1 weeks this year. The 2010 schedule, with some 30 3D features slated, could drive the time down to as little as 1.8 weeks. This crush undermines some of the advantages of 3D, she said, "including a stronger run over the duration of a title."
In a separate session, Carmike Cinemas senior VP-chief financial officer Richard Hare supported the strong numbers for 3D, saying that in multiplexes where his chain had both 2D and 3D screens, 3D screens had about four times the attendance. "On Monsters vs. Aliens and Up, we actually had nine times," he said.
Piper Jaffrey senior research analyst James Marsh said 3D "provides some confidence there's something to replace the declining home entertainment business. That's why 3D is so exciting to (the studios)."
Following her presentation, Jones told Daily Variety, "Longer term, we would expect to see more 3D screens in the market, perhaps some 3D titles coming back a couple of weeks after their release, more of a variety of content on the 3D screens."
Attendees at the Hilton heard complaints about the lack of 3D screens starting with the morning keynote, from Henry Selick, writer-director of the hit animated feature Coraline.
"I feel positively about designing the film for 3D and disappointed about how few people got to see it in the ideal way," said Selick.
Opening on Feb. 6, Coraline found itself wedged behind My Bloody Valentine but managed to book approximately two-thirds of the 900 available 3D screens for three weeks. Then Disney's Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience knocked it out of 3D theaters, though some rebooked Coraline when the Disney pic disappointed.
"In a very small window, we did almost 85% of our business on those screens vs. 2D," Selick said. But he also said he thought the final $75 million total would have been much higher if the pic had had all the 3D screens available at the time.
Coraline was a recurring topic as execs and analysts discussed the need for more screens. Tim League, founder of the small Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, said that when his complex played the pic, "The 3D theater was a smaller venue, but the 3D numbers were 40% higher."
The lack of screens is even slowing the introduction of 3D commercials, which would play in as pre-show content in theaters.
James Stewart of Geneva Film Co. told the gathering: "The agencies love it. The marketers love it. They just don't have the money right now. Commercials in 3D cinema are happening." But, he added, "To produce content for (a small number) of 3D screens is a hard sell."
No one at the summit voiced suspicions that the current 3D wave is a passing fad, however.
Jones said she can't see any way that could happen. "We expect to see 83% of screens in the U.S. digitized by 2013, and probably a quarter of those will be 3D. So we're talking about 8,000 (3D) screens in the U.S. market."
By David S. Cohen and Peter Debruge, Variety
With Disney committed to S3D at the corporate level, it was natural for the Mouse House's sports network, ESPN, to look into the format for live broadcasts. The net has been quietly experimenting with S3D for months, including an internal test of last year's Kansas at South Florida NCAA football game.
Last Saturday, it unveiled the result, producing an S3D telecast of the USC-Ohio State football game that was shown at a handful of venues nationwide, including theaters, arenas and ESPN Zone sports bars.
Pace Prods. worked with ESPN on the telecast; both ESPN and Pace were making their public debuts with S3D gridiron coverage.
Any stereo telecast is a challenge today because there are still no broadcasting standards for S3D. Anthony Bailey, VP of emerging technologies for ESPN, says the net has been working with Pace and other vendors to establish best broadcasting practices. "If things work, we're hoping they become standards," he says.
Directors and technicians are also still learning how shooting football in S3D differs from traditional 2D. Kevin Stolworthy, ESPN senior VP, content and information technology, says that while the tests have shown lower camera angles work better for 3D, audiences are used to the higher perspective used with 2D cameras.
For Saturday's game, ESPN negotiated a middle ground between the low angles of its earlier test and their normal higher angles. "But we probably need a middle ground to that middle ground," he says. "We're tinkering as we go, and each stadium is different."
The net used seven Pace stereo camera rigs. In addition, the net used two graphics systems, one for each eye, to create true stereoscopic graphics. For his part, Vince Pace, CEO of Pace Prods., says that for Saturday's game his team was able to use longer lenses and better camera placement than for last year's test, all of which helped to extract some "spectacular shots."
"We learned we could cover football (in S3D)," Pace says, "because people were focused on the entertainment style, the use of camera angles, (rather than) focusing on whether 3-D technology worked."
By Robyn Weisman, Variety
JVC is garnering a lot of interest on its stand by showing a prototype 2D-3D converter that permits on the fly conversion of live HD broadcasts to 3D. The 1U rack-mountable box, dubbed the DM-TD10, contains a proprietary algorithm which calculates a 3D image from focus, colour depth and moving image information in the HD signal.
The product can be used to convert HD signals in realtime to 3D and for converting existing 2D material into stereo without costly or time-consuming post production. When used together with a 3D studio monitor, such as JVC's 24-inch LCD, it also allows realtime 3D monitoring.
"Everybody is focusing on making 3D," said Gustav Emrich, product manager. "Broadcasters, advertisers, museums, entertainment parks all have 2D archives they are looking to version for 3D without any production issues. If this were a product today we'd be selling dozens off the stand."
The device is expected to launch next March.
By Adrian Pennington, IBC e-Daily
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment intends to release its first "theatrical-styled" 3-D Blu-ray Disc releases as early as fourth quarter 2010, to prime people for the expected launch of 3-D-at-home hardware. The studio demoed 3-D clips of its movies at a fan conference held last week in Anaheim, California. Clips included the upcoming theatrical A Christmas Carol, shown on Blu-ray via a 3-D-enabled Panasonic TV and Blu-ray player. The video was encoded using a new version of the AVC codec, dubbed AVC Multi-View Codec (MVC).
Disney hopes to support with titles the hardware launch of 3-D in 2010, when brand name manufacturers Panasonic, Sony, among others will be selling their first stereoscopic 3-D TVs and BD players. Some of Disney's possible candidates for a home 3-D release in 2010 are its movies that will open theatrically in 3-D in spring 2010, such as Toy Story 3 and Alice in Wonderland, which should street on 3-D Blu-ray by the end of that year.
“We'd love to have our 3-D products out as soon as possible, as soon as the holidays 2010,” said Gordon Ho, Disney's executive VP of content, marketing and business development, at the D23 fan conference. “I think 3-D is positioned very well in the theatrical marketplace. And that is creating demand to see it in the home. People are coming out of the demo saying they want to try 3-D in the home. They didn't think that it could look this good in the home. Once people can see this, we know that there is a market for it.”
There is a question of whether people will be motivated to purchase new 3-D high-definition TV sets and Blu-ray players, when many have only recently upgraded to the high-def world. But Ho believes that consumers are starting to get interested in purchasing multiple high-def products for their households.
“More and more people are looking to get another HDTV. Many have their first TV and are looking for their second. Many of those for sale will be 3-D-enabled. We are optimistic about this market.” said Ho.
By Juan Calonge, Blu-ray.com
Nagravision and 3Ality Digital have been demoing the answer to one of the more interesting unanswered questions from IBC: namely, how does the viewer navigate through all this 3D content. The companies are previewing a prototype of version 2 of the Nagra Media Guide, a 3D user interface for electronic programme guides that accommodates 3D as well as 2D. It can be used for 3D content, whether distributed via broadcast TV or the internet.
With many 3D-ready TV sets expected to enter the consumer market within the year, this demonstration focuses on one of the very steps that will need to be addressed in offering a 3DTV service. The demo shows programme guide information as a 3D graphic over a 3D programme, including settings, channel selection and the metadata associated with the content such as description and length of a programme.
Nagravision's Frank Dreyer said that 3Ality provided its optimisation tools for how to calibrate graphics over the video, as well as expertise for testing at 3Ality's facility and demo material. "Companies doing 3D in the cinema are the first wave for 3D for the home," he said.
Dreyer added that Nagravision is further experimenting with 3Ality's 3Play image optimisation technology, developed to enable live transmission of quality 3D images over a standard 2D infrastructure in order to optimise the 3D viewing experience. Part of the system aims to automatically compensate for irregularities that might cause viewer discomfort, as well as address variables such as screen size.
"The long term goal is to enable mass market 3D entertainment," 3Ality Digital CTO, Howard Postley said.
By Carolyn Giardina, IBC e-Daily
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Ingex, the BBC's digital production software, has moved into a trial phase with a view to informing future digital techniques. "It allows you to run a tapeless production on commodity hardware with tangible benefits in Capex as well as the creative benefits of working with files," explained Matthew Postgate, BBC Controller for Research & Development.
Ingex is a suite of software applications designed to enable low-cost flexible tapeless television production. The functionality of the software includes SDI video and audio capture, realtime transcoding and wrapping in MXF, archiving to LTO-3 data tape and network file serving of media files.
An Ingex recorder is also based on commodity IT hardware and can be equipped with up to four SDI capture cards in one PC case. It uses two processors, each with dual cores, which provide sufficient processing power to record and encode four SD or two HD inputs in realtime. The local disc storage for recordings has a capacity of 2TB, configured as a RAID array. During realtime encoding, the files are wrapped as MXF for server storage. A lower-quality version of each file is also created for browsing.
It may form part of the BBC's ongoing and Corporation-wide transfer to tapeless production, the Digital Media Initiative (DMI). "Where we've seen Ingex being used it helps make production teams more flexible and delivers tangible business benefits," said Postgate. "It is relevant to the DMI. The hard part, as with all our projects when they reach a certain point of maturity, is transferring them out of R&D and into the BBC or commercial market and that's what we're working on now."
By Adrian Pennington, TVB Europe
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Labels: IT Broadcast
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
3D has had more than a few negative descriptions attached to it during IBC, with the word headache usually figuring somewhere. But Kevin Murray, Systems Analyst at NDS, admits that “nightmare” might be a more apt potential description. He told a packed audience at IBC that television was going to force graphic designers and associated disciplines to think very carefully about how they handled 3D graphics.
“While everyone accepts that 3D is going to create the ‘wow’ factor for viewers, get it wrong and you are going to have serious problems.” He explained that over-sudden movements towards the ‘viewer’ might well result in the viewer flinching, and spilling their cup of coffee. “Nevertheless, the vast majority of our test viewers like it and say they want it.”
But the technical challenges, especially for graphics, are huge. “Imagine a 3D image, where is a caption placed? What about subtitles? In the US you have to cater for on screen emergency alerts. Where do you put the on-screen bug? How should you handle EPG-type overlays, or ‘coming next’ updates? What about the interactive layer? How will you handle the huge amount of on-screen data in a 3D sports game? These have all to be thought about, and planned for, and a consistency achieved.”
Murray told delegates that as if this wasn’t enough, there was then the problems of video manipulation. Shrinking a video image to a picture-in-picture was fraught with potential danger unless handled sensibly. Broadcasters are going to have to decide whether or not to even go down this road. For those broadcasters supporting PVRs they’ll have to consider how to cope with simple functionality within 3D, such as the Fast Forward button. “Depending on your ‘trick mode’ algorithm the end result could be...interesting!”
He said broadcasters needed to think long and hard about where to place subtitles and similar captions. “In 2D they are overlaid. In 3D it is extremely easy to introduce troubling conflicts that will not help eyestrain. The visual cues will have the viewer understanding what’s going on, but might find it jarring if captions or subtitles are too far forward. Some viewers will find it difficult to cope if these elements are in the ‘wrong’ place and potentially damages the complete experience.”
By Chris Forrester, RapidTV News
If 3D TV is to become a reality the question of programme guides and other data overlays needs to be resolved. Today’s interfaces are designed for the old world of 2D video, and as soon as they are overlaid on 3D video something starts to look very wrong.
NDS demonstrated a couple of solutions to this problem at IBC. The first used the firm’s “Snowflake” programme guide. During playback of a 3D movie, if the guide is selected, the movie switches to 2D mode and the guide is presented in the foreground, so appearing to “float” in front of the TV screen. Another example illustrated a VOD selection menu in the foreground, against a 2D movie background, with certain titles “raised” above others.
NDS also demonstrated a method of integrating subtitles over 3D video, so that each subtitle was linked to the appropriate depth of the relevant content. For example, if a character was moving “towards” the viewer, the subtitle can be linked to the correct depth.
The more advanced demonstration actually overlaid a 3D EPG on top of a 3D movie. This clearly takes some careful planning, because any mixing of the guide data with the depth of the movie would create confusion. So the guide is allocated a certain depth in front of the screen, while the movie is positioned behind, with a clear “depth boundary” between the two. The guide must also feature only solid graphics, since any transparency again would lead to visual distortion.
NDS was running this last demonstration from a PC, and it featured upscaled 2x1080p 3D video: today’s set-top boxes are not powerful enough for these data processing requirements. But NDS believes that next generation chips from Intel will support these capabilities.
By David Mercer, Videonet
Source: IBC TV News
Video distribution outfit T-VIPS used IBC to demonstrate its deployment-ready 3D high-definition video transport solutions. Its demonstration saw 3D content compressed in JPEG2000 format using T-VIPS’ JPEG2000 gateways, before being transported over an IP link and decoded by a separate T-VIPS video gateway and viewed on a 3D display. Video gateways include the next-generation TVG450, launched at IBC.
Helge Stephansen, CTO of T-VIPS, said: “3D really is just around the corner and we’re going to play a part in the roll-out of this exciting new technology. Not only will 3D be important, but it’s also becoming a major differentiator in the cinema business, where our pioneering lead in video transport utilising digital cinema’s native codec JPEG2000, provides us with a natural advantage,” says Helge Stephansen, CTO, T-VIPS. “The demonstration of our JPEG2000-based video transport solutions shows the marketplace that the video transport pieces of the 3D jigsaw are available now and ready to move 3D from the lab bench to commercial reality.”
By Rose Major, Rapid TV News
A new 3D camera kit from Element Technica that weighs and costs less than standard 3D rigs, is promised to bring 3D acquisition down to the simplicity of traditional 2D.
The Technica 3D systems are configurable into both beam splitter and parallel camera platforms, and the systems are scaled to fit popular cameras from the tiny SI-2K Mini to a full size Red One, even with zoom lenses. Camera and lens controls are neatly integrated.
The camera rigs that hold pairs of cameras and lenses in precise alignment are made of machined aluminium for optimum rigidity, and (unlike other systems) require no tools for camera alignment or mounting. Alignment adjustments are made linearly in each of three axes, in addition to pitch and roll. Rig set-up takes about ten minutes instead of the up to an hour required for traditional 3D rigs. Dedicated motors for interocular and convergence control are built in.
Technica 3D systems are available in three sizes. The largest, Quasar, is designed for full size cameras, such as the Sony 1500 or the Red One, equipped with prime or zoom lenses. The mid-sized Proton mounts box-style digital cinema cameras such as the Scarlet, Epic and the SI-2K. The Neutron is designed for tiny 2/3-inch or 1/3-inch imager cameras sporting C-mount lenses such as the SI-2K Mini and the Iconix. All three Technica 3D systems can convert from parallel to beamsplitter and back depending on the application.
To automate stereo calculation, Element Technica has developed a set of hardware/software tools that will be available as add-in modules for the core systems to enable the director or DoP to control how much or how little the subject comes off of the screen, without requiring complex calculations. Interocular, convergence and zoom, focus and iris control can be coordinated through the company's patented Stereo Assist feature.
By David Fox, IBC E-Daily
Sunday, September 13, 2009
BSkyB will launch its dedicated 3D channel next year, and Gerry O'Sullivan urged delegates to see the special BSkyB demo, which showcases opera, ballet, and more modern music as well as documentary, movies and sport.
"But let me immediately dispel a few urban myths that have been thrown up about 3D," he said, during the 'Who pays? Winners and losers in the new broadcast economy' session. "You don't have to stand on your head, or be exactly 1.2 metres away from the screen. Nor is it the old Hollywood movies of 30 or 40 years ago. It does not give you a headache. Our HD transmissions require no new technology. The SKY+HD infrastructure carries the signal end-to-end, and we simply piggyback 3D onto our HD investment. Stop reading about 3D, and start watching."
The winners in this business are those who invest in content and continue to invest in innovation," he continued. "The only way you can do both is to have a sustainable business model. If you don't have a sustainable model and you cannot fund innovation then you are going to find life can be very difficult."
O'Sullivan says that 2009, despite all the doom and gloom, would see UK pay-TV subscribers top the 50% (of all TV homes) mark. "Remember the sceptics who said pay-TV wouldn't last. Well, to get to 12.5 million pay-TV viewers in the UK is a massive achievement. Subscription revenues are now larger than the total TV advertising revenues. That tells a story on its own. The problem is with broadcasters who are totally reliant on advertising income, and they undoubtedly have some challenges ahead."
By Chris Forrester, IBC E-Daily
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Eutelsat Communications has given its backing to the emerging standards surrounding the broadcast of 3D television in Europe. Demonstrating its capability over the Eurobird 9A satellite (9 degrees East), Walter Munarini of Eutelsat subsidiary Open Sky said the operator’s chosen system was capable of running on an existing HD receiver, through a new 3D compatible television display.
“We know standards always look for the perfect view, but we are deeply involved in the standards that allows us to roll it out now.” Munarini told the assembled press. “Hopefully the standard will then come with something that is backwards compatible with what we have now.”
The Eutelsat system is at its most basic level in line with the 3D technology developed by BSkyB, which puts the emphasis on the purchase of a new 3D display – at an estimated cost in 2010 of €2,000 – as opposed to a new set-top receiver.
By Julian Clover, Broadband TV News
The "Internationale Funkausstellung" or IFA for short, was held from September 4-9 in Berlin, Germany. Traditionally this show has been more about European CE product introductions that were pre-announced for the most part. The show is where major retailers and dealers order TVs and other CE gear for the coming season. This year was different as new and significant product announcements marked the event. Getting perhaps top billing was 3D. Below is a brief summary of some of the more significant 3D findings.
As was widely reported, Sony was making a public commitment to bring a complete 3D offering to the consumer including the hardware (TV sets, Blu-Ray players and game consoles) and content (movies and games). Their main message as displayed in the booth was "Sony brings 3D home in 2010". As for the underlying 3D technology they only showed LCD TV with active shutter glasses. At the last CES, Sony showed prototype LCD TVs using the x-pol technology.
Panasonic will also make 3D TV sets available in 2010 to the consumer in Europe, which will play 3D content from Blu-Ray players, again using active shutter glasses. With their strong alignment with the Avatar movie, due for release on December 19, we expect to hear more from Panasonic and their 3D plans in the near future.
Philips was pushing their 21:9 cinema format TV as the only TV that can play DVD and Blu-Ray releases without the loss of valuable display real estate. They claim that currently about 60% of all DVD and Blu-Ray disks are released in 21:9 format. While they acknowledged that 3D was a big part of IFA they only showed a prototype based on the 21:9 LCD TV, based on an x-pol solution, and stated that they are working on all technologies including auto-stereoscopic solutions and will be ready to offer products when the consumer demand is starting to be realized. They are currently offering a Net TV service that brings roughly a 100 Internet channels to the European consumer, which provides an interesting platform for 3D delivery.
LG was not so focal about the push for 3D into the home but they are ready and showed LCD TVs based on x-pol technology (passive glasses), a PDP TV (active shutter glasses) and a home projection system with passive glasses.
Samsung was not far behind showing LCD and PDP TVs with active shutter glasses. More 3D TVs were shown by JVC (x-pol) and Vestel (x-pol).
Loewe (active shutter glasses) and Toshiba (x-pol) were showing prototypes in the press area only.
By Norbert Hildebrand, DisplayDaily
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Considered the doyenne of sports broadcasting, David Hill, the chairman and CEO of Fox Sports Television Group in the US, is a voice that the industry listens to. At the moment he is not happy about the economics of 3D and he is making his opinions known.
"As a producer I think 3D is fabulous, but as an executive I hate it because we still haven't finished paying for HD," says Hill. He says the mandated move to HD in the US was "one of the greatest tragedies of our times" because the economics of HD for broadcasters don't add up.
"The set manufacturers, the equipment manufacturers, [they] all made money off of HD and I am still having to put out millions and millions of dollars, which means I can't do programme innovation," Hill claims.
"I can't give people raises, I can't employ any more people. I can't do the stuff on the internet that I want," complains Hill. "Why? Because there is this big truckload of money departing to the Sonys and the Panavisions and the people that make the equipment and the wires for HD."
Hill showed a stunning 3D tape of sports at his keynote at IBC on Thursday that included boxing, NASCAR and NFL football. The problem is that he can't ask the advertisers to pay double for these improved TV pictures. "What are advertisers going to do if I ask them to pay double for 3D pictures? They are going to say this," he said, making what can best be described as a universal gesture of disapproval. Underlining his point, he added: "We are not a public service broadcaster. We are in this for the dough," Hill said.
"3D is a case of fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me," said Hill. "Let me tell you, the broadcasting industry will not be investing in 3D technology until we know if we are going to be reimbursed one way or the other. I am only talking about the part of the broadcasting industry that I control but if the others have any sense they will say exactly the same thing.
"We are still getting over the cost of HD. It cost us a fortune and not just in our trucks but in our internal distribution and infrastructure," says Hill. "A bunch of people made money on HD, but not us." He says that he is not planning on upgrading his LA studio to HD because it will cost $18 million. "I'm not going to do it."
Hill said that 3D must avoid the pitfalls of HD production where even after several years of HD transmissions it is still difficult to make an HD broadcast "bulletproof".
Hill gave three criteria that are needed for 3D to work for broadcasters: a common standard, a way to recompense broadcasters for the new financial outlay and making the 3D broadcast system technically "watertight".
Hill admits he doesn't know what the revenue model is for 3D: "I want someone to come into my office and write a bloody big cheque," he said. But he suspects one revenue stream is going to be around the 3D glasses themselves.
"Tommy Hilfiger is going to make some cool 3D glasses so that when a guy asks a girl out on a date he's not wearing these iron-welding-looking glasses. That's at least one revenue model."
"3D is going to be fantastic, if the sums can be done," Hill concludes.
Source: IBC E-Daily
Saturday, September 12, 2009