Will it soon be time for 20th Century Fox’s Avatar to surrender the 3-D stage? Walt Disney Studios certainly thinks so. Alice in Wonderland, a 3-D adaptation from Tim Burton and Disney, is set to replace Avatar in all commercial Imax theaters and in many multiplexes that operate 3-D screens on March 5. The problem is that Avatar is still playing like gangbusters — especially in 3-D theaters, which charge premium prices for tickets and have been instrumental in making Avatar a box office phenomenon — and exhibitors are grumbling at having to let go of a sure winner to pick up an uncertain new prospect.
Fox executives are now quietly talking about fighting to hold some of the big-format screens for Avatar, perhaps by giving more favorable financial terms to theater owners who keep it. Disney is set to take over the 3-D real estate just two days before the Academy Awards, a situation that would make it hard for Avatar — a front-runner for best picture — to get the traditional Oscar box office bump.
A similar showdown is brewing between, on the one side, DreamWorks Animation and Paramount Pictures, which plan to release the animated How to Train Your Dragon in 3-D on March 26, and, on the other side, Warner Brothers. Warner has just decided to convert its sword-and-sandals fantasy Clash of the Titans to a 3-D format and release it on April 2. How to Train Your Dragon will have to make do with fewer 3-D seats, which sell for a $3 to $5 premium.
The 3-D bottleneck is likely to grow worse. Michael Lewis, the chief executive of RealD, which equips theaters that account for about 90 percent of 3D screens in the United States, said about 60 films were set for 3-D release over the next three years.
“As audiences experience more 3-D movies, scheduling challenges for theater owners and studios will naturally increase while there is a temporary shortfall of 3-D screens,” Chuck Viane, Disney’s president for distribution, said in a statement. Another Disney executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment, said the studio did not see Avatar as a problem because early interest in Alice in Wonderland was quite strong.
“It will beautifully draft off of Avatar,” the executive said.
Fox, Imax and DreamWorks Animation declined to comment. Spokesmen for the Cinemark and AMC theater chains, which operate 3-D screens, did not return telephone calls. A spokesman for the Regal chain had no comment.
Imax long ago promised almost all of its 179 domestic and 82 foreign theaters to Disney for the opening of Alice in Wonderland, which stars Johnny Depp. At the time, few suspected that Avatar would still be racking up ticket sales that have made it the best-selling film in history, with more than $1.9 billion at the worldwide box office so far. In fact, the flagship Imax theaters in places like the AMC Loews Lincoln Square in Manhattan are still selling out weekend shows with no sign of a slowdown. More than 70 percent of ticket revenue for Avatar has come from 3-D.
The owners of Imax’s commercial theaters appear to be bound by their commitment to Disney — although contracts have often meant less in the world of movie exhibition than pragmatic decisions based on the leverage of the players involved. Under pressure from Fox, for instance, Imax might well ask Disney to permit the large-screen theaters to hang onto Avatar for midnight screenings during the three-week run promised to Alice in Wonderland, according to one executive who was briefed on the situation but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid further conflict. Another possibility might be to re-release Avatar in the large-screen format sometime later this year.
Disney could have a harder time maintaining its anticipated number of 3-D screens that are not Imax. Decisions about what movies play on those screens are generally made on the local or regional level, based on how well tickets are selling. Given the staying power of Avatar, theater owners are speculating that it could monopolize 3-D screens into April. The number of tickets sold for Avatar is thus far about the same as that for Titanic over the same length of time. Titanic ran for nine months after its release in 1997.
The collisions among movie studios for 3-D theaters stems from a shortage of screens equipped with the technology. By year’s end the number of 3-D screens in the United States will have expanded to about 5,100, according to the National Association of Theater Owners. But that is still too few to accommodate dozens of big-budget movies released in the format. Mr. Lewis said his company had contracts to install an additional 5,000 screens worldwide. But much of the expansion, he said, has been waiting for a loosening of capital markets.
Eventually, multiplexes that now operate one or two 3-D screens will have five or six. “By the end of the year, I think it’s going to be a nonissue,” Mr. Lewis said of the shortage.
By Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes, The New York Times
Will it soon be time for 20th Century Fox’s Avatar to surrender the 3-D stage? Walt Disney Studios certainly thinks so. Alice in Wonderland, a 3-D adaptation from Tim Burton and Disney, is set to replace Avatar in all commercial Imax theaters and in many multiplexes that operate 3-D screens on March 5. The problem is that Avatar is still playing like gangbusters — especially in 3-D theaters, which charge premium prices for tickets and have been instrumental in making Avatar a box office phenomenon — and exhibitors are grumbling at having to let go of a sure winner to pick up an uncertain new prospect.
The world's first 3D sports broadcast on Sunday will be shown on an LG TV, the Korean manufacturer said. Manchester United take on Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in a top-of-the-table Premier League clash - and Sky Sports will broadcast every kick live in the third dimension. The game will be beamed to nine pubs across the UK and Ireland and Sky has kitted out the bars with LG's new 47-inch LD920 3D TVs.
LG uses a passive 3D system with a polarised screen and requires the lower cost glasses favoured by cinemas. Rival systems use Active (battery-powered) 3D glasses, which shutter images between the left and right eye at high-speed. However, the added cost of the Active glasses (around £40 a pair) means they are not suitable for large events in pubs. Sky's full 3D channel is compatible with both active and passive systems and will be available from April, when it is expected more 3D TVs will have arrived in the UK.
Stephen Gater, head of marketing, Home Entertainment LG UK: "LG is committed to making high quality TV more accessible and this initiative with Sky does just that." He added: "2010 will see the realisation of many exciting technologies in TVs - 3D is just one of them. With exciting developments like these, watching television in the home will soon be an even more exciting, immersive and powerful experience."
Source: The Press Association
RealD announced that Ubisoft, in partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising (Fox Licensing), has licensed and integrated the company's proprietary stereoscopic RealD Format into James Cameron's Avatar: The Game. The RealD Format allows for a seamless direct connection between the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system or PLAYSTATION3 computer entertainment system and 3D-enabled TVs with integrated RealD technology for an unsurpassed 3D gaming experience.
"The RealD Format will make James Cameron's Avatar: The Game one of the first titles to effortlessly work with the numerous lines of RealD 3D-enabled TVs that will soon be on the market," said Joshua Greer, president of RealD. "Like the current 3D film revolution, RealD technology is pioneering a new generation of immersive gaming where players can step inside a game and experience a world that literally surrounds them."
The RealD Format delivers an automated continuous approach to 3D that is compatible with real-time rendering and promises to bring RealD's world renowned 3D cinema experience to console gaming. A visually lossless universal 3D format, the technology multiplexes a left/right stereoscopic image stream into a single image channel.
By Robert Briel, RealD
The Belgian production company Alfacam will launch its first 3D television programme in February on its Exqi Culture channel. The music show Studio 3 will be recorded and broadcast in 3D, according to the company.
Alfacam also said it has bought the first mobile 3D equipment, a ‘world first’. In order to promote the system, Alfacam will work together with a number of manufacturers of 3D receivers. The company was also the first in Europe to start broadcasting in HD on satellite to increase awareness of HDTV as early as 2000. It is also the first European production company to record a live concert in 3D. Back in 2007, the producer taped a Jean-Michel Jarre concert in 3D.
By Robert Briel, Broadband TV News
Friday, January 29, 2010
Sky will launch its long-awaited 3D service in April, but Europe’s first stereoscopic TV channel will be previewed on Jan. 31 with coverage of the Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United. OB companies in the UK are beginning to invest in the technology, with Telegenic building the first European 3D truck and Visions announcing two 3-Gbps vehicles that will be able to handle the format.
Sky 3D will eventually be available at no extra cost to all Sky+ HD subscribers, but, until the necessary domestic equipment is on the market, the service will be seen only in suitably equipped pubs. Sunday’s taste of what is in store for viewers will be screened on 3D-ready TV sets in nine venues in London, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Dublin. With the official launch of Sky 3D, hundreds of pubs will be offering stereoscopic football.
Eight 3D camera rigs will be located around Arsenal’s Emirates stadium, feeding into Sky’s 3D outside broadcast truck. At the end of last year, the broadcaster commissioned a dedicated vehicle from Telegenic for sport and entertainment production. Full details on the truck are still to be confirmed, but it is reportedly capable of supporting seven 3D rigs and will feature standard HD equipment, a Calrec audio desk, and up to four EVS systems.
Meanwhile, two new Visions trucks have been commissioned for Sky’s Premier League and UEFA Champions League broadcasts. They will replace three existing vehicles and will feature 3-Gbps infrastructures to support HD and, in the future, 3D. This will also allow material to be easily transferred from the trucks to Sky’s new Harlequin 1 broadcast centre, which is currently under construction.
Says Rob Newton, technical manager at Visions, “By going 3-gig, we’re future-proofing the trucks for 3D at a later date.”
Sky Sports Operations Manager Keith Lane says, “We challenged Visions to provide us with a streamlined truck solution incorporating pioneering technology for our football coverage. These two new trucks will give huge efficiencies and the tools for our production teams to provide the best coverage.” He notes that 3 Gbps also has the potential for 1080p.
The Telegenic and Visions trucks will additionally support Sky’s move away from Dolby E to discrete audio for carrying multiple audio channels for surround sound. “Discrete audio will cut down the Dolby E workflows and fits in better with what will happen at Harlequin 1, which will be a tapeless environment,” Lane explains.
Visions’ 3-Gbps trucks will be the largest in its fleet and are due on the road in July, ready for the start of the 2010-11 football season in August.
By Kevin Hilton, Sports Video Group
Friday, January 29, 2010
Sony Professional Europe confirmed that it has been selected by BSkyB (Sky) and Telegenic to design and build one of the world’s first 3D Outside Broadcast (OB) trucks, due for delivery in April 2010. Sky, Telegenic and Sony have been working together to develop a next generation outside broadcast vehicle that will deliver new production methods to produce immersive live content in 3D.
The 3D Outside Broadcast Truck, which is the first to be built in Basingstoke, has been designed from the ground up by Telegenic’s Engineering team supported by Sony’s Professional Services division. The OB vehicle leverages the collective experience and commitment of Sony’s Professional Services and R&D divisions to deliver new products to manage the complicated issues at play in delivering 3D within a live environment. It delivers a truck capable of live 3D, using Sony’s existing strong product portfolio, including the HDC-1500R cameras with a unique T-block option used on 3D camera rigs to capture content. Driving the solution is the MVS-8000G Vision Mixer which handles Dual Stream stereo signals, as if they were a single source, to deliver operational control similar to 2D productions to deliver a reliable production workflow.
During the trials, the Sony Professional team worked with the technical experts at Sky and Telegenic to find the right solutions to resolving many of the issues linked to capturing live content in 3D. Part of this process has included the creation of the “3D Processor Box”, designed to reduce the complexity of monitoring and correcting live signals in the truck. The new product will be launched later this year.
Earlier this month, Sony Electronics and All Mobile Video (AMV) announced that they are combining their technology resources to build a new fully 3D-capable, cine-enabled HD video production truck. The new truck is planned to hit the road this summer and is expected to handle a range of projects, from sports to live events to entertainment. AMV will also demonstrate Trident in Sony’s booth at NAB 2010.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Peter Moore has predicted that sports will be the biggest driver of 3D gaming's growth - just as it will be for 3DTV. Speaking exclusively to CVG today, the amiable EA Sports boss said that 3D gaming would only truly take off once bespoke content was being created for the technology - and forecast that sports games would lead the way.
Moore said EA Sports was "absolutely" looking into creating 3D content for PS3 - and that the innovation offered the video games industry "great opportunity". He told: "As James Cameron did with Avatar at the movies, you've got to build [games] from the ground up with 3D in mind. None of the games I've seen [so far] have been built that way - they've been regular games running in 3D. The real secret sauce will be when somebody says: 'I'm going to build this game specifically for a 3D platform.'"
When asked if EA Sports could be that 'somebody', Moore replied: "Absolutely. I'm not making any announcements, but it's no coincidence that of the 3D [TV] broadcasts I've seen in the last two years, I can count the NBA All-Star event in Las Vegas, while ESPN has announced 3D programming - perhaps even a full channel. There have also been a number of announcements around the [football] World Cup, with some games broadcast in 3D.
"This is reminiscent of where we were with HD five or six years ago. It seems like a lifetime ago now, but you'd go to CES and be in awe of HD - and it was sports games that showed up the technology. I think there's great opportunity for EA to bring sports to life in unbelievably imaginative ways, once we can grasp what 3D means to us."
By Tim Ingham, Computer and Videogames
Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts says the company plans to produce great 3D content, but says he isn't sure the new technology will be the next HD in terms of adoption for 24/7 TV. In a Q&A session with the Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray at a Congressional Internet Caucus event Wednesday (Jan. 27), Roberts was asked how important 3D would be to the business, and what kind of bandwidth challenges it presented.
Roberts said bandwidth challenges were a good opportunity because it meant somebody wants something. He said that the 3D on display at the Consumer Electronics Show was the most impressive he has seen. He said viewers would have 3D-enabled devices in their homes within the next 10 years, and that one of the exciting things was that it was starting at a price point differential of about $700 vs. a traditional TV, and would soon go down to zero--as opposed to the first HDTV set he saw that cost $30,000.
He likened the future of 3D to the ubiquity of Blue Tooth. "The question is, are you going to want to sit there and wear glasses four hours a day to watch TV. I don't think so," he said. Roberts likened the near-term future of the technology to a blue face rather than a tooth. "I actually think that for a while it will be big events, like an Avatar." He said that with the digital transition, everybody was convinced that was where TV was going to need to be everywhere, all the time. "I'm not yet convinced we want to sit there all day long [watching 3D]."
By John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable
Sky announced that it will launch Sky 3D, Europe’s first dedicated 3D TV channel, this April. As part of the final preparations for this ground-breaking launch, Sky will preview the new service with a world first this Sunday (31st January 2010), becoming the first TV company anywhere to broadcast a live 3D TV sports event to a public audience. The Premier League clash between Arsenal and Manchester United will be filmed in 3D and broadcast over the Sky platform to selected pubs around the UK and Ireland, with their customers becoming the first audiences anywhere in the world to experience live Premier League in 3D.
To support this landmark broadcast, the nine pubs – located in London, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin - have been kitted out specially with some of the first ‘3D Ready’ TV sets to reach the UK and Ireland. As 3D TVs become more widely available, Sky will roll out its 3D channel to hundreds of pubs from April, allowing football fans across the country the opportunity to experience a live Premier League match in 3D each week.
Once 3D TVs begin to reach the consumer market later this year, Sky will then make Sky 3D available to all Sky+HD customers, giving millions of people the opportunity to watch a wide range of content in 3D, including movies, sport, documentaries, entertainment, and the arts.
Sky 3D works with all existing Sky+HD boxes and will initially be introduced at no extra cost for customers who subscribe to Sky’s top TV package and the Sky HD pack. Sky 3D will also be compatible with all 3D Ready TVs coming to the UK and Ireland this year, including all models from Sony, Samsung, LG and Panasonic.
To make the 3D preview a reality, Sky Sports will produce two edits of its live coverage of Sunday’s game at the Emirates Stadium, one for its HD channel feed and another dedicated to 3D. Eight specially engineered 3D camera rigs will house sixteen of Sky’s high definition cameras, to provide comprehensive stereoscopic coverage from all angles. The 3D broadcast will be supported by Sky’s dedicated 3D production team and purpose built 3D outside broadcast truck, which will enable live mixing between camera positions, slow motion replays and the use of innovative 3D graphics. There will also be a dedicated commentary team to support the 3D edit.
Clearly, the most hyped new technology news to come out of the recent International CES was 3D TV. Virtually all of the major manufacturers showcased new lines of 3D products slated for introduction this summer, and many of those same companies went a step further by enlisting help from content producers to provide native 3D source material for the new offerings through 3D-enabled Blu-ray Discs and the first 3D TV channels.
A few of the new sets will take another step up by processing regular 2D signal sources into stereoscopic 3D images, which can be viewed by the same active-shutter glasses used by most of the sets. As you might expect, the impact and quality of such techniques does not match that of native 1080p 3D source material, but help fill in the content gap until more native 3D source material is produced.
While the home 3D TV trend was clearly telegraphed over the last 12 months, what did come as a pleasant surprise was how the new technologies in many of these systems will beneficially impact the image quality of 2D pictures as well. In order to produce dual 1080p/240Hz images (in the case of 3D LCD TVs) for each eye, some manufacturers are adding powerful new processing chips and algorithms, which will not only render images in 3D, but produce cleaner, sharper up-converted 1080p pictures from lower-resolution signal sources.
The following is a glance at some of the new 3D TV lines that were unveiled at the show:
LG formally unveiled its new Infinia LED LCD TV assortment, highlighted by the 3D capable LE9500 series. That line, which will include the 47- and 55-inch screen sizes, stands out for having an ultra-slim (0.92 inches) panel depth using a full-array backlighting system. This allows the use of LG's local-dimming technology to produce uniform brightness levels across the backplane, greater brightness and improved black levels, while using less power. The 1080p TVs also include TruMotion 480Hz, NetCast Entertainment Access, DLNA compliance, two USB ports, wireless-HD connectivity and THX certification.
Panasonic's first 3D plasma TVs will be offered in the V series, including the TC-PVT25 series, which is expected to include some of the first of the new 3D TVs on the market this spring. Screen sizes will include 50, 54, 58 and 65 inches and will come bundled with one pair of active-shutter 3D glasses. In producing a set that will deliver full 1080p resolution to each eye, Panasonic redesigned the plasma system for greater speed and resolution, while developing a new phosphor formulation that is said to improve picture quality for both 3D and 2D image sources. The sets will carry THX certification; VieraCast broadband features delivering interactive content, including Skype HD video conferencing, Pandora, Twitter; optional Wi-Fi and ISFccc mode; and an RS-232 port.
Panansonic also showed its V25 series of FullHD 3D plasma TVs including the 50-inch TC-P50V25, which delivers 3D images in full 1080p resolution to each eye using high-speed 3D drive technology that enables rapid illumination of pixels while maintaining brightness. The set also features Viera Cast IP TV functionality, Eco link functions with Stand-by-Power, and Auto Power to minimize power consumption of connected devices, when power is turned off.
Samsung will offer several 3D TV series this year in both LCD and plasma. It's flagship will be the LED9000 line, which will include 46- and 55-inch screen sizes measuring less than an inch thick. The line includes Samsung's proprietary 3D processor that supports several 3D standards, including half-resolution and FullHD formats, as well as the new Blu-ray 3D standard. The sets also include real-time processing of standard 2D images into stereoscopic 3D. Other features include built-in Wi-Fi 1080p resolution with 240Hz motion processing and a new touchscreen remote control that can show a separate program via Wi-Fi on the its LCD screen while watching a Blu-ray Disc or other signal source on the TV screen. For interactivity, Samsung also includes its Internet TV service that can add a limitless supply of “apps” from the Samsung Apps store to deliver a variety of functions and features.
The UNC8000 series will also offer LED edge-lighting 1080p resolution with 240Hz motion processing and the company's real-time 2D-to-3D content rendering. Screen sizes will include 46, 55, 60 and 65 inches.
The UNC7000 Series is Samsung's entry line of LED 3D TVs. The TVs feature 2D-to-3D conversion, LED edge lighting and Internet TV options. Screen sizes will include 40, 46, 55, 60 and 65 inches.
Samsung is also planning to offer 3D through its PNC7000 series of plasma sets, which also include 2D-to-3D real time conversion, panel depths of 1.4 inches, Internet TV and Samsung apps. Screen sizes and pricing were not available.
Sony introduced three series of FullHD 1080p/240Hz Bravia LED LCD TV sets. Highlighting the offerings is the XBR-LX900 series, which comes out this summer in 40, 46-, 52- and 60-inch screen sizes. All feature edge-lit LED lighting, Bravia Internet Video with integrated 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity, 1080p resolution, Bravia Engine 3 picture processing, two active shutter glasses for 3D content and an emitter built into the sets' bezels.
The 3D-ready XBR-HX900 series comes in 46- and 52-inch screen sizes, and the 3D glasses and emitter are optional. Features include full-array LED backlighting with local dimming, 1080p resolution, 240Hz Motionflow and Bravia Internet Video.
Sony's LED KDL-HX800 series includes the 40-, 46- and 52-inch screen sizes with 3D capability. Glasses and emitter are sold separately. All use edge-lit LED back lighting with local dimming, 1080p resolution, 240Hz Motionflow and Bravia Engine 3 video processing.
Toshiba announced plans to market its first Cell TVs for the U.S. market based on the company's powerful Cell processor. Two design series are planned, including the ZX900 Genesis series in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes, followed later by the Illusion series (46-, 55- and 65-inch screen sizes). The TVs, which will ship “later this year,” will include 2D-to-3D conversion, 1080p resolution with 480Hz frame rates (240Hz to each eye for 3D), and Toshiba's Kira 2 LED back lighting and local dimming technology that address brightness levels across 512 different zones of LED lights. This is said to make the sets both “twice as bright” with 1,000 cd/m2 luminance level, and to have increased contrast and black-level performance. The ZX900s also have a built-in 1TB hard drives to store media from the Internet TV applications, including Netflix, Vudu, CinemaNow and audio service Pandora; a Blu-ray Player; 802.11n Wi-Fi; DLNA compliance; and video phone over IP capability.
Vizio unveiled several 3D-ready conceptual and actual HDTV models at CES, including models slated for its new XVTPRO series. The XVTPRO550SV, which is slated to ship in August at a $2,499 suggested retail, is a 55-inch model featuring full-array LED backlighting, 1080p resolution, 480Hz SPS motion processing, 120 zones of Smart Dimming technology, five HDMI inputs, built-in wireless HDMI, Vizio Internet Apps and Bluetooth remote.
The XVTPRO470SV, which is slated for August at a $1,999 suggested retail, is a 47-inch model with TruLED, FullHD 3D backlighting, 480Hz SPS, 160 zones of Smart Dimming technology, five HDMI inputs, Bluetooth remote, built-in wireless HDMI and Vizio Internet Apps.
The flagship XVTPRO720SV, which is slated to ship in August at a $3,499 suggested retail, will feature a 72-inch screen size, TruLED FullHD 3D backlighting with 480 zones of Smart Dimming technology, 480Hz SPS refresh rate, Bluetooth remote, built-in wireless HDMI, five HDMI inputs and Vizio Internet Apps.
By Greg Tarr, Twice
The Austrian commercial TV channel Servus TV has started broadcasting videos in 3D using the old anaglyph system. Servus is sending out the coloured (amber and blue) glasses to see the 3D effect to viewers in German speaking territories at no charge. At the moment only short videos are broadcast in between regular programming, but the channel also plans longer 3D broadcasts.
Using the old system, which broadcasters in the past have used on rare occasions, no special receivers are needed, just a pair of simple glasses. There is of course no connection with the various new 3D TV systems currently under development, but it gives the Red Bull owned broadcaster a much needed PR boost.
Last November, the UK’s Channel 4 ran a week of 3D programmes using the anaglyph system, a move criticised in some quarters for confusing the market.
By Robert Briel, Broadband TV News
"About five years ago," remembers Sony 3D maven Buzz Hayes, "about six of us sat down for lunch at the Magic Castle and realized we were everybody doing anything with stereo (3D) in the industry." Those days seem to be gone for good. The consumer press may still be writing about "goofy glasses" and wondering if S3D is a fad, but Hayes says, "I think we've gotten past that with a lot of serious filmmakers making 3D films. "But the problem," he adds, "is there's not a lot of expertise out there."
In response to that deficiency, there's a surge in S3D infrastructure and education. Most prominent among these is the Sony 3D Technology Center, which is moving into renovated digs in the Capra Building on the Sony lot. The center is a Sony corporate initiative that grew out of years of discussion between Sony topper Howard Stringer, Sony Pictures Technologies prexy Chris Cookson and others about how to bring together the entire company's S3D efforts.
The center is staffed with top tech talent from Sony's ranks and elsewhere. Cookson is in charge and adds a second title: chief officer of the Sony 3D Technology Center. Hayes, an S3D expert since working on a film restoration of Dial M for Murder in 1982, joins the new center as senior VP and chief instructor. Michelle Lee is executive director; she will be working on outreach and administration and will help Hayes in execution of the curriculum. Bruce Dobrin is chief technical architect.
Hayes says the center will be "a place where people can come and experiment with the technology before they have to go off and shoot 3D. We're working with the Cinematographers Guild, the ASC and a variety of other institutions to offer training courses that are as serious as possible."
The center has its own 3D camera rigs from 3ality Digital, standing sets where d.p.'s can practice shooting and S3D previsualization tools. "It's open to the entire industry," Hayes says. Sony aims to start classes in February.
Other S3D education and infrastructure efforts are also springing up as stereoscopic Blu-ray and TV roll out. Blu-ray testing service BluFocus is hosting a March 4 webinar on S3D tech aimed at content owners, producers and "prosumers."
Testronic Laboratories, another testing and assurance company for broadcast and Blu-ray, will open a 3D test lab in the first quarter this year.
Meanwhile, Trailer Park's Advanced Content Group is working on S3D Blu-ray, including menus and graphics -- an area likely to see major growth this year. Standard 2D graphics, no matter how elaborate, look unimpressive against a 3D picture, but as the problems with S3D subtitling have shown, placing graphics in "Z-space" takes more thought and planning than placing them on a 2D screen.
However, one piece of S3D news can be debunked. George Lucas recently gave a TV interview saying it was time for the S3D Star Wars". At least one website took that as an announcement that the project was a go. However, a Lucasfilm spokesman says production has not started on Star Wars 3D, and the conversion has not been greenlit. Lucas and his company have previously expressed concerns over the cost of the conversion and the number of available S3D screens.
By David S. Cohen, Variety
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Samsung Electronics announced that it has become the first company to commence mass production of panels for 3D LED TVs and 3D LCD TVs.
“Recently, 3D displays have captured the industry spotlight,” said Wonkie Chang, president of the LCD Business at Samsung Electronics. “Samsung Electronics aims to lead the global 3D TV panel market in pioneering panel mass production for 3D LED and LCD TVs.”
The company began producing LED and LCD compatible panels for 40-inch, 46-inch and 55-inch full-HD 3D TVs using ‘3D Active Glasses’ this month, employing Samsung’s exclusive true 240Hz technology. Samsung’s true 240Hz technology delivers full-HD viewing in 2D, and also smooth, natural, full-HD 3D images that can vividly capture rapid movements. By incorporating true 240Hz technology, operating at 240 frames per second, Samsung’s panels deliver a more lifelike picture with alternating left and right eye images through the use of 3D Active Glasses technology.
Samsung has reduced the response time of its LCD and LED panels by 20 percent to less than four milliseconds, eliminating any interference between left and right eye images. With this improved response time, Samsung is able to achieve natural 3D images and also deliver 2D pictures capturing rapid movement with exceptional clarity.
Samsung’s new 3D Active Glasses technology first blocks the left and then right lens, causing a momentary lag when images are shown to each eye to achieve more lifelike 3D images. The term, ‘3D Active Glasses,’ was selected as an official term by the Glasses Standardization Working Group of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) earlier this year.
The polarized glass method previously used in 3D glasses produced separate images for the left and right eyes, resulting in half the resolution of two-dimensional pictures as only half of the screen can be viewed through each polarized filter. Brightness was also lowered because of the polarized filter.
According to a market research firm, DisplaySearch, the 3D display market is expected to grow from $902 million in 2008 to $22 billion in 2018. The 3D TV market is expected to expand to a $17-billion market, with sales increasing from 200,000 units in 2009 to 64 million units in 2018.
The box office success of Avatar and other 3D pics seems to be setting the table for a boom in 3D TV, Discovery Communications chief David Zaslav said Monday as part of his keynote sesh that opened the NATPE confab. Discovery, Sony and Imax earlier this month unveiled a partnership to launch a 24-hour 3D cable channel in the U.S. next year.
Zaslav admitted that the company's push into 3D is a gamble, but he pointed to the booming 3D B.O. as a "significant indicator" that there's an appetite for home 3D devices. Zaslav likened the move into 3D to the investment Discovery made several years ago in launching HD TV channels, which have paid off handsomely for the company.
With new technologies, "You have to place your bets before all the evidence is in," Zaslav said during the Q&A moderated by Daily Variety's Brian Lowry.
Discovery's risk is mitigated somewhat by having two partners, Sony and Imax. Zaslav said he was sold on 3D TV after attending the Consumer Electronics Show this month in Vegas, where it was clear that TV set manufacturers "are getting behind this (technology) in a very big way."
The creative community is likely to tubthump for 3D TV so that movies such as Avatar can be viewed in their original formats on DVD. Zaslav added that he was impressed by the 3D TV demonstrations he saw, such as a baseball game in the format. "It almost looks like the pitch is going to hit you," Zaslav marveled.
The three partners plan to produce enough 3D programming to fill a 24/7 channel. Discovery is also looking at "upconverting" some of the shows in its vast library to 3D, just as the majors are doing with classic pic titles.
By Cynthia Littleton, Variety
Paradise FX, Post Republic and Vertigo Films are uniting to form Paradise FX Europe proudly boasting to be Europe's first one-stop shop for 3D production. The trio of companies, already established in 3D moviemaking and effects, aim to deliver 3D pictures, television and advertisements to feed the growing public appetite for the extra dimension. The startup will offer filmmakers a proven end-to-end 3D digital workflow from conception through to post-production.
U.S.-based Paradise FX's previous credits included Joe Dante's The Hole and the company is working on Jackass 3D for Paramount. Paradise FX and U.K. production label Veritigo Films have also completed filming on what claims to be Europe's first live-action 3D feature film StreetDance 3D, leading to Paradise setting up an European arm.
Vertigo's James Richardson said: "As a producer, I wanted to make sure my production was being very carefully looked after in terms of the 3D financially and creatively. PFXE will give producers, directors and DOP's not only enormous creative freedom but also a secure, dependable environment."
Paradise's Tim Thomas added: "3D has rapidly been embraced by Hollywood's top filmmakers and we look forward to helping to bring European filmmakers the same opportunity to include stereographic 3D as a powerful tool to enhance the telling of their stories."
German-based Post Republic's Michael Reuter continues "3D filmmaking is introducing a whole lot of new technologies to us as a postproduction company. To extend this collaboration into a set up that may well be the strongest platform for 3D filmmaking in Europe is a fantastic opportunity".
PFXE will be fully operational in January 2010 with offices in Cologne and Berlin, Germany and London, U.K. The company has begun lining up projects for 2010 and already has two 3D feature films in its schedule.
By Stuart Kemp, The Hollywood Reporter
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
As part of a plan to help the cable industry rapidly deploy 3D technologies, CableLabs is offering manufacturers of 3D television sets free interoperability testing to ensure they work with existing set-top boxes and other parts of the industry's infrastructure.
"We want to get the attention of a wider array of set-top makers and TV manufacturers to alert them to the fact that we are offering this service," said CableLabs vice president of consumer video technology David Broberg. "Currently, there is no charge and it is just a matter of scheduling time in the lab."
The push to get more set manufacturers into CableLabs' 3D testing facility, which opened last summer, is important for cable operators looking to deploy three-dimensional content quickly to compete with DirecTV's plans to launch 3DTV this summer.
"Currently, there are no [set-top box] products in the field that support the latest HDMI 1.4 standard for 3D," Broberg explained. "So in order to carry 3D through existing set-tops, we have to use the existing HDMI capacity. We've been testing that functionality with a TV sets to see what interoperability issues might exist and looking at the various 3D formats that might be used in the cable delivery system," to make sure they can work on the existing infrastructure.
At the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in October, CableLabs demonstrated technology showing that 3D signals using frame compatible formats could be delivered over existing cable plant to newer HD set-top boxes and 3D capable sets. Frame compatible formats deliver the left and right signals needed for 3D images over one high definition stream.
The test also showed that the signal could be sent using a variety of compression schemes and that it could handle different formats using different types of glasses.
"Many" HD set-tops already deployed in cable homes can handle frame compatible 3D signals, said Broberg, though he admitted it is impossible to say how many such boxes have been deployed or which proportion of existing set-tops they compose.
"Our focus is to get representative examples of every box that operators are deploying now or have been for putting out in the last 18 to 24 months and test them," Broberg said. "We are not going back 10 years to test boxes."
By ensuring those newer boxes work with 3D sets, CableLabs believes operators will be able to quickly deploy 3D services.
"As the consumer buys a 3D TV, they will get the latest box" that will work with 3D signals, said CableLabs CEO Paul Liao. "We've found today's cable system is flexible enough for the delivery of 3D TV signals" over cable's existing video on demand and switched digital video infrastructure and that those signals can be handled by newer HD set-top boxes that are already in the field.
The ability of VOD and switched digital to handle 3D signals is important for early 3D deployments. A growing number of theatrical films are produced in 3D; those films would make ideal candidates for paid on-demand offerings that could be marketed to early buyers of the 3D sets that were announced earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show.
"Having the on-demand platform gives us an advantage in the launch of 3D, compared to where we were 10 years ago with the start of HD," Broberg said. "On-demand is a good way to launch a service and the on-demand platform is very efficient in terms of bandwidth."
CableLabs is working with a variety of other organizations on standards and they are examining the longer-term prospect of deploying more advanced 3D formats that offer higher resolutions and more spectacular 3D effects with up to 1080p resolution for each eye, the executive said. 3D systems that require two HD signals -- one for each eye -- can not be handled by current set-top boxes.
"The objective is over time to really raise the quality of picture by increasing spatial resolution as well as the temporal resolution and the frame rate," Broberg said.
By George Winslow, Multichannel
While satellite-TV provider DirecTV garners widespread attention for its plan to deliver 3D channels and programming in the summer of 2010, Comcast has been offering such content since 2008 and currently offers anaglyph versions of the movie The Final Destination as part of a larger effort to become the biggest 3D-programming provider.
"Our plan this year is to have a persistent 3D offering," noted Comcast senior vice president and general manager of video services Derek Harrar in an interview with HD Update. "Much like we did in high-def, it will start relatively thin and then, much like high-def, we will have more 3D content than anyone else as it becomes available."
Unlike DirecTV, Harrar also stressed Comcast has considerable experience with the technology. After first testing 3D with Hannah Montana: The Movie in 2008, the MSO has subsequently offered such films as My Bloody Valentine, Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience and Coraline in the anaglyph 3D format.
This January it began offering The Final Destination on demand in four versions -- standard definition, HDTV, standard-definition 3D and high-definition 3D. The MSO is not charging extra for the 3D versions and is offering glasses for free at payment and mall locations. The HD and the high-definition 3D versions cost $1 more than standard def orders, however.
Harrar pointed to that experience when asked about DirecTV's plans. "We love it when DirecTV is trying to follow us into a new space," Harrar said. "They have launched vapor; they have not launched anything. They just said they are going to be launching 3D. We've had 3D" since 2008.
There are a number of different 3D formats that offer various levels of resolution and effects. These range from the more primitive anaglyph format that be viewed on any set with compatible 3D glasses to the most advanced formats, which use separate high-definition 1080p streams for each eye.
DirecTV has not discussed the specific technologies it will be using to deliver 3D content into the home, though it will almost certainly be using one of the intermediate "frame compatible" formats. These formats carry the signals for left and right eyes that create a 3D image inside a single HD stream. Frame-compatible formats can be delivered into homes equipped with 3D sets and newer HD boxes without major changes in the existing infrastructure.
Harrar noted that Comcast started with the anaglyph formats because the technology "works today on every TV in every living room. If you want to get a taste of what you read about at [the Consumer Electronics Show], we have it available today on the equipment our customers have."
The MSO does have plans to offer more advanced formats that offer a richer 3D experience, Harrar said. "We've tested it [frame-compatible formats] and they work fine on our plant."
Comcast Media Center provided the signals for the CableLabs' demonstration of 3D content over existing cable plant at this fall's Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers Cable-Tec Expo.
While Harrar declined to offer a specific timetable, he expects the MSO to begin offering frame-compatible 3D content into the home this year.
"We are already tinkering with it and we've had discussions with different players about launching channels," Harrar said. "To make a long story short, we think there is a segment here and we think it is worth spending some resources on it. We've been really driving 3D from its very beginning and we are going to keep going."
Harrar also noted that their experience with the less advanced anaglyph 3D formats will be helpful as the emerging technology develops. "It gives us some real usage and some education on what consumers want in this space," Harrar said.
While the usage of their initial 3D on demand offering is small compared to their overall on demand platform, some early stats have demonstrated consumer interest. Harrar noted that 3D accounted for about 65% of the HD buys for My Bloody Valentine.
The company's early 3D offerings have also helped establish it as a 3D content provider, which could provide a competitive advantage, he noted. Respondents to a recent online survey of 1,000 HDTV owners by Quixell Research of 1,000 HDTV ranked Comcast among the top-three trusted 3D brands, Harrar noted.
"We're very happy to be named up there with Sony and Samsung and we think that gives us some real momentum in the 3D space," he said.
By George Winslow, Multichannel
At the Stereoscopic Displays and Applications conference recently held in San Jose, SeeFront (Hamburg, Germany) showed a laptop that demonstrated means to reversibly convert a conventional 2D LCD display into an autostereoscopic 3D display. The prototype system was composed of an Apple laptop with a conventional 2D LCD, a lenticular sheet mountedable in front of the LCD, eye tracking accomplished by use of the single camera built into the laptop and some simple-to-use software.
Let me start by acknowledging that the individual technological elements used in this system have been seen before. That is, a digital camera has certainly been used for eye tracking in other applications. The idea of a retrofitable lenticular has also been seen before, for example in the iArt3D product. But…the combination of the retrofittable lenticular, eye tracking and easy-to-use set-up and control software is novel and resulted in a laptop with impressive 3D capabilities.
On booth duty at the exhibition, Christoph Grossmann, SeeFront’s Founder and CEO explained that a characteristic of the lenticular approach is that the underlying LCD suffers almost no reduction in brightness in the 3D mode. This is an advantage over a 3D laptop system based on shutter glasses. In addition, there is little change in color coordinates in switching between the 2D and 3D modes in a lenticular system.
Since the autostereoscopic image is intended for a single viewer, the system is configured such that the resolution in the 3D mode is half that in the 2D mode. This reduction in resolution is similar to that found in a MicroPol + passive glasses based laptop 3D display.
When I sat down to use the 3D laptop, the first step was to set-up the eye tracking system. This took just a few seconds but required that I remove my glasses. The process was further assisted by not having others directly behind me or otherwise in view of the camera.
The eye tracking function considerably expanded the autostereoscopic 3D head box thus addressing one of the principle objections to conventional lenticular autostereoscopic 3D. An important point to note regarding SeeFront’s tracking implementation is that the user’s position is tracked not only along a fixed or optimal distance plane but also within a three-dimensional volume which is limited by a minimal and a maximal distance plane.
Next step was the process of mounting the lenticular in front of the LCD.
In a conventional lenticular-based autostereoscopic display, the geometry of the lenticular is determined by the pixel pitch of the LCD. As a result, a given lenticular will typically work only with an LCD having that specific pixel pitch. In addition, combining the lenticular and the LCD requires precise alignment. The reason for this is that each lenticule must be assigned to a discrete number of pixel-rows or slanted sub-pixel "chains." (Call them pixel entities.)
This is not the case in the SeeFront approach. There is no need for precise mechanical registration of the lenticular with respect to the pixel array of the LCD. A software set-up and control panel provides means for the user to adjust the image until the 3D effect is most pleasing.
In the SeeFront 3D display, each of the two perspectives assigned to a lenticule covers a larger number of pixel entities than in a system with multiple views. In addition, the number and location of these pixel entities change with the movements of the user. For each viewing position, the SeeFront algorithm determines the parts of the image that can be seen by each eye and then splits and assigns the information from the incoming video stream or image accordingly. This dynamic process takes place several times per second (normally at 30 Hz or more). In this way, the SeeFront 3D lenticular technology should work with LCDs having any pixel pitch or screen diagonal size.
The lenticular mounting procedure and the set-up adjustment process took less than a minute.
Perhaps the principle artifact I noted in the SeeFront 3D image was a slight Moiré pattern between the lenticular and the pixels. The artifact was visible when the screen was primarily white, as in a Word document page. Grossmann expects this effect to be minimized in the next generation prototype accomplished by changing the angle between the lenses in the lenticular and the pixel array.
SeeFront’s business model is to license its 3D technology. Since the technology fills a vacant product niche and since the resulting 3D is quite credible, I can see some level of success for this technology. We shall see.
By Art Berman, DisplayDaily
If you are visiting the U.K. this spring, and fancy sharing a beer with the locals, be warned. You might find yourself surrounded by soccer-mad Brits wearing oversized, Bono-style glasses glued to huge plasma TV screens. This is because British paybox BSkyB hopes to kickstart a TV revolution in April when it bows what it claims will be the world's first 3D TV channel. Initially, the service will concentrate on sports and be available only in pubs and clubs. A domestic mixed-genre offer, including movies, is due to launch later this year on the Sky HD channel.
"We believe this will be the first consumer platform delivering 3D TV regularly to the home," says Brian Lenz, who for the past two years as BSkyB's head of product design and innovation has been at the forefront of developing 3D.
Strategically, Sky HD is aimed at reducing churn rates and bolstering customer loyalty rather than attracting new subscribers. As for the level of investment involved, Lenz describes it as "immaterial," especially when compared with the sums necessary to get HD off the ground.
"We do not have to invest in the transmission structure or new set-top boxes," he says. "Subscribers will be able to get 3D on their existing HD boxes."
But auds will, of course, need new TVs. At the moment, these are expensive -- around $3,000 -- which is why BSkyB will initially be offering 3D TV to pubs and clubs.
The thing about 3D TV is to look at it as a five-year and not a one-year project," says Paul Lee, director of technology, media and telecommunications research at Deloitte in London. He adds that "2015 is when I expect to see 3D TV entering the mainstream -- possibly before, depending on the economy."
By Steve Clarke, Variety
The Digital TV Group (DTG), the industry association for digital television in the UK, plans to lead the development of a UK standard for 3DTV products and services. DTG technology director Simon Gauntlett made the announcement at the DTG’s 3DTV Seminar at the Group’s offices in London.
He said: “The DTG has been at the heart of every development in UK digital television since its inception more than a decade ago. Since the launch of our consultation, 3D has evolved from an emerging technology limited to cinema into a compelling home entertainment proposition – with broadcasters set to launch 3D services as early as this year and technical standards approved for 3-D Blu-ray and HDMI - what is currently missing is a standard for delivering 3D to the home via broadcast or IP delivery.”
In 2009 the DTG launched an industry consultation on 3DTV to gain members’ views on the technological feasibility and viability of the technology, and the role in which the DTG should play in its development.
“Our 3D consultation revealed members had concerns over uncertainties over standards for 3D and clearly told us the DTG should assume a leadership role in developing an approved, open standard for broadcast 3D,” continued Gauntlett.
Having published and maintained the technical specification for Freeview for over a decade, last year the DTG completed ‘D-Book 6’, the updated interoperability specification for the Freeview service which includes the specification for HD on DTT. The DTG is now working with its membership to profile the UK specification for hybrid IP ‘Connected TV’ services such as Canvas, SeeSaw and SkyPlayer.
“Following our ground-breaking work bringing HD to the UK terrestrial TV platform and our ongoing development of a specification for connected TV, the DTG and our membership recognise that 3DTV is the next logical evolutionary step for digital television,” concluded Gauntlett. “We are looking forward to working with our members and with international standards bodies to turn this exciting technology into a robust and viable consumer proposition.”
By Will Strauss, Broadcast
Sunday, January 24, 2010
The first 3D broadcast TV services from satellite operators DIRECTV and BSkyB will both use existing set-top boxes but this means the full HD resolution provided in a 2D service must be divided between the left and right eyes. After consumers have been introduced to the concept of 3D, platform operators can migrate to ‘full’ 3D transmissions, with full HD for each eye.
The first set-top boxes specifically designed for 3D video with optimised resolution and frame rate will start to hit the market in 2011, according to a spokesperson at STMicroelectronics, which announced a new generation of decoder chips in January that can support 3DTV and a 3D Electronic Programme Guide (EPG). The STi7108 chip also supports advanced Internet content and high performance gaming, with a view to enabling 3D gaming on set-top boxes.
Previous generations of the STi7108 could support half HD full motion video with 2D, 2.5D or 3D graphics effects. These used side-by-side video formats and achieved 1080p HD at 24 frames per second (equivalent to Blu-ray frame rates). The new chip supports HD full motion and can use left/right 3D picture formats. 3D set-tops based on this silicon will be able to handle up to six transport stream inputs and provide the full-motion HD 3DTV over HDMI 1.3 with HDCP copy protection.
“3D graphics really does help the EPG come to life in a 3D video environment, and without them it will look flat,” says a spokesperson, who adds that there will be a cost associated with implementing a quality 3D graphics engine to support the new kind of EPG and 3D gaming.
STMicroelectronics says it is seeing a very high level of interest from operators and set-top box vendors in the new decoder product. It will be seen in set-top boxes “in the near future”.
Paul Entwistle, Chief Technologist at set-top box vendor Pace, believes broadcasters, and especially satellite operators, have the bandwidth to deliver the higher quality 3D television, but they can showcase 3DTV using their legacy set-top boxes and migrate to new devices when the services are established.
He points out that 3DTV could become a major differentiator for broadcast networks compared to the Internet. Citing bit rates of 30Mb/s for 3D video on Blu-ray, he wonders whether consumers could be expected to download such amounts of information across broadband to a PVR. One challenge for the mid-term will be how to deliver 3D and 2D versions of content simultaneously in the most efficient way.
“You could imagine that 3D starts as a niche channel showing movies but as more content needs to be delivered in 3D, you will not want to transmit an HD version and a 3D version because of the bandwidth costs,” Entwistle says.
Entwistle thinks the broadcast industry will draw inspiration from the Blu-ray 3D specification, which supports full HD 1080p resolution to each eye and calls for encoding using the Multiview Video Coding (MVC) codec, an extension to the MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) codec currently supported by all Blu-ray Disc players. MPEG4-MVC compresses both left and right eye views with a typical 50% overhead compared to equivalent 2D content, and can provide full 1080p resolution backward compatibility with current 2-D Blu-ray disc players.
Pace believes 3D has the potential to become a mass-market service in time. “You can show consumers something very different to what you had previously – it is a substantially different service,” he comments. “It could be the games community – which is a natural 3D environment that will pioneer the take up of 3D displays but whoever it is, the services from Sky and ESPN will give more and more people the chance to see 3D.”
By John Moulding, Videonet
There is growing evidence that the latest interest in 3D video will lead to a sustainable content business, with cinema revenues providing solid evidence that consumers will pay more for 3D content to offset additional costs. The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) reported “historic” level cinema attendances in almost every European country during 2009 and said box office increases were driven mainly by 3D cinema. UNIC represents exhibitors from 18 countries with more than 28,000 screens and 800 million admissions per year.
The Cinema Exhibitors' Association (CEA), which represents the interests of around 90 per cent of UK cinema operators, says that by the end of 2009, 3D movies were achieving an average of three times the gross revenues of their counterpart 2D versions. Not surprisingly, the movie Avatar is setting the 3D benchmark. “3D screens [for Avatar] are at this moment taking over seven times the box office of their 2D equivalent,” the CEA reported in January 2010.
The National Association of Theatre Owners, which represents more than 30,000 movie screens in the US and other countries, says around 70% of Avatar’s domestic box office came from 3D screenings. The figure is similar when all 3D movies are considered. “Films that were released in 3D grossed approximately $1.7 billion in 2009. The 3D screens probably accounted for anywhere from $1.1 - $1.3 billion of that,” a spokesman reveals.
The CEA is confident the 3D revenue boost is not explained by the curiosity of first-time 3D viewers. The organisation told us: “Given the investment studios and cinemas have made this is not going to be a ‘flash in the pan’. Everyone expects the technology to stay. For the foreseeable future we think that three times revenue is sustainable – we don’t see any reason for that to drop off.”
Futuresource Consulting expects the number of 3D movie titles will double during the next 12-18 months and notes that major titles in the US, like Bolt and Ice Age, have generated more than half of their theatrical revenues from the 3D version. “Consumers on both sides of the Atlantic are demonstrating that they are prepared to pay a premium for 3D content,” the company states.
Market intelligence company Quixel Research surveyed 1,000 HD TV owners online and found that people are willing to pay more for a 3D movie channel on television. Three-quarters of the respondents said they would prefer to receive 3D content via their cable or satellite provider, leaving Blu-ray/DVD as the second choice for delivery media. Almost one-third of the sample said they would be interested in changing their content provider in order to receive 3D content.
The Quixel Research survey reveals that 78% of respondents have had a 3D experience, while half of those surveyed are interested in watching 3D at home. Those who have watched a 3D movie recently are more interested in purchasing a 3D TV than the overall sample. Another 3D survey by research company In-Stat shows that 64% of consumers are at least somewhat interested in 3D in the home, while for those who have seen a 3D movie in the last 12 months, the percentage increases to 76%.
In-Stat says the popularity of Avatar and other 3D movies will put 3DTV on the map for consumers. The company forecasts that worldwide 3D TV shipments will reach 41 million in 2014 and says 3D Blu-ray player shipments will track their sales closely.
“Pricing is a major barrier,” the company warns. “Survey respondents are not willing to pay much of a premium for 3D TV sets and Blu-ray players.”
Michelle Abraham, Principal Analyst at In-Stat told us last week: “Most people said they would be willing to pay in the range of a few hundred dollars more for a TV set with 3D, and they don’t want to pay too much more for Blu-ray players.” Meanwhile, Quixel Research found that consumers are willing to pay for 3D glasses but do not expect to pay twice as much for two pairs.
Announcing a new 3D report in December 2009, and predicting a major push for 3D-ready TVs early this year, Mike Fisher, Convergence & New Technologies Consultant at Futuresource, noted: “These TVs are a prerequisite to consumer adoption in much the same way as HD-Ready sets were used to seed the high-definition market five years ago.
“3D chipsets can be embedded into next generation hardware at relatively low cost. Combine this with an integrated consumer awareness programme and a coherent ‘3D-Ready’ branding strategy, and there will be few obstacles to consumer adoption. Further, the determination of a number of leading hardware brands to carve an early position in the 3D TV and BD (Blu-ray disc) market will inevitably result in some attractive 3D bundling deals.”
The Quixel survey also revealed that almost two-thirds of people see 3D content as a group experience, a theme echoed by the Cinema Exhibitors' Association, which is not concerned by the availability of 3D movies at home. “We don’t see 3DTV as a threat to cinema,” says the organisation. “What cinema offers is the latest films in a group environment on the big screen, as the director intended, and that will always be the case.”
It is very early days for the 3D advertising market but subscription TV provider BSkyB and confectioner Cadbury showcased their adverts in 3D at the cinema alongside Avatar in the UK. Digital Cinema Media (DCM), which describes itself as the leader in UK cinema advertising, says that at the cinema, 3D can ensure deeper engagement with adverts and deeper message out-take, “which will ultimately increase appeal and motivation to purchase.”
DCM claims 3D will definitely increase the ‘talkability’ factor of an advert and allows more creative advertising opportunities than any other medium. “We expect that this year the number of advertisers showcasing their brands in 3D will grow due to the increase in 3D films being released,” the company adds.
By John Moulding, Videonet
With two veteran mobile production companies in the United States building new trucks capable of producing an entire telecast and others contemplating similar moves, one could get the impression that demand is high for live content. TV set manufacturers are relying on this to drive demand for their next-generation products and, indeed, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony announced plans at the recent CES convention to sponsor some upcoming broadcasts.
The production companies themselves said they are taking a cautious approach to 3-D technology, building trucks that can just as easily produce a 2-D HDTV broadcast as one in 3-D. This is because production companies are seeing lots of inquiries regarding 3-D, but not a lot of bookings at this point. Therefore, to get the fastest return on investment, an important element in building these new trucks is to design them to be immediately familiar to crews used to working in 2-D HD.
That’s because the cost of building a 3-D-capable production truck is almost double that of a similar 2-D HD rig. A 3-D camera setup costs almost three times that of 2-D (requiring two cameras, two lenses, a 3-D rig and image processor and double the number of record and replay channels on a server).
There is also a lot of experimentation that needs to be done to figure out proper camera angles, shooting positions within a venue and focusing methods, much like the early days of HD production. Several new pieces of equipment will have to be developed to handle the extra data that is inherent in 3-D productions. On-site crews will have to be larger as well, including the addition of extra personnel to handle convergence issues involved with producing a compelling 3-D experience.
NEP Supershooters, based in Pittsburgh, PA, has had a 3-D-capable truck (SS 3D) on the road since last fall. SS 3D made its debut at an ESPN telecast of a major college football game last September that was “broadcast” to special theaters around the country. At that time, ESPN used separate production trucks, technical crews and on-air commentators for the 3-D and 2-D productions. Going forward, the idea for the new truck is to use a single truck for both the HDTV and 3-D TV broadcasts.
Working with 3-D specialists PACE Productions and its Fusion 3D camera rig (designed in partnership with filmmaker James Cameron), George Hoover, chief technology officer at NEP, said their truck has been out since the fall and is steadily working for a variety of clients.
“The simple fact is that it [includes] everything remote producers and directors are used to,” Hoover said. “Everyone is searching for a long-term business model, which will of course be driven by consumer acceptance and demand for 3-D.”
Eric Duke, president of All Mobile Video (New York), which announced at CES plans for a new 53foot double expando 3-D-capable truck with support from Sony, said the main truck will have a traditional 2-D backbone but travel with a “B” unit that will house all of the 3-D processing equipment. It will feature custom 3-D cameras rigs from 3Ality Digital that will use dual Sony HDC-1500 cameras. If a client books an HD show and decides to do a 3D production, the “B” unit can be deployed.
The new 60ft (expandable to 21ft) truck is planned to hit the road this summer and is expected to handle a range of projects, from sports to live events to entertainment. Once completed, it will include Sony HDC-1500 HD cameras, Fujinon lenses, a Sony MVS-8000A HD production switcher, six-channel EVS server and Studer Vista 8 surround-sound audio console. The trailer will be similar in design to the company’s current Titan unit, with a 3G routing infrastructure, Studer Vista 8 audio console, Sony MVS-8000G production switcher, SRW recording decks and HD monitors.
Duke said the company’s new truck, which will be on display in Sony’s booth at NAB 2010 in Las Vegas in April, is preconfigured for 3-D and provides producers with a more efficient way of rapidly deploying state-of-the-art services in 2-D or 3-D without the need for separate mobile units and crews.
Not everyone is sold on the idea of building a new truck for 3-D production. Pat Sullivan, president of Game Creek Video (based in Hudson, NH), said his company has not yet decided to build a fully 3-D-ready vehicle because he hasn’t found a viable business model for it. Game Creek is considering building a smaller trailer that would travel with its larger 2-D trucks and carry all of the necessary 3-D processing equipment.
“Right now, demand for 3-D production is really coming from the consumer set manufacturers, for obvious reasons, but not from our mainstream clients,” Sullivan said, hinting that there might be some work to support ESPN’s recent announcement of 3-D production for the World Cup soccer tournament in June. “In order to get financing for a new truck, I have to have a valid reason for why the truck will be successful. I can’t say it’s there for 3-D just yet,” he said.
The company has done several 3-D sports productions (including the BCS Championship college football game) with two of its existing 2-D trucks, Liberty and the Fox truck, and 3-D technology from 3Ality Digital. The company also helped with an experimental 3-D broadcast to Cinedigm theaters last fall.
“The advent of a single truck doing an entire 3-D production is not going to happen for a while,” Sullivan said. “I don’t see that happening soon because I don't think the necessary 3-D production techniques have been advanced enough to replace 2-D. We’ll be doing a 2-D production for quite some time.”
Both trucks have a Grass Valley Kayenne video production switcher onboard, which is fully 3Gb/s capable and can handle all kinds of 1080/60p 3-D productions. The Fox Truck will be on hand this weekend in New Orleans for the NFL’s NFC Championship game and will also produce the telecast of the upcoming Daytona 500 live telecast on FOX, Sunday Feb. 14, from Daytona Beach, FL.
By Michael Grotticelli, BroadcastEngineering
Friday, January 22, 2010
Two England home Six Nations rugby matches will be broadcast live in 3D with production organised by Inition partnered with SIS Live. The production will deploy 3D Quasar rigs from Element Technica in seven camera positions.
The Quasar will be set up as a converging side-by-side system to enable extreme focal lengths but it can also be configured as a beamsplitter system for close work with wide lenses. Sony HDC-950s and 1500s will be used. Two rigs are being hired from Panavision UK, one is owned by Inition and the rest direct from Element Technica in the US.
Forty Odeon and Cineworld cinemas will screen the matches, beginning with England's official centenary game, against Wales on February 6, as part of a deal with O2, the England sponsor. The match against Ireland on February 27 will also be screened live in 3D.
The cinema infrastructure is being installed using Sensio 3D transmission formats. Graphics studio Wurmsers devised and will manage on-screen 3D graphics. The broadcast will be mastered for archive onto HDCAM SR.
Creative advertising agency Archibald Ingall Stretton commissioned Inition to produce the matches which are set to become the largest ever UK sports events to be broadcast live in 3D. Inition has worked on a number of 3D sports productions from football and ice hockey to gymnastics and track events. It previously shot England's clash with Scotland at Murrayfield in 2008 as part of a 3D test for the BBC.
By Adrian Pennington, TVB Eeurope
SENSIO Announces Allowance of New Patent Application from the USPTO Relating to Quincunx Format Decoding
SENSIO Technologies announced that it has received a notice of allowance for one of its pending patent applications by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). The patent application allowed covers a fundamental method for high-quality decoding of quincunx (checkerboard) compressed stereoscopic formats. The decoding method covered can be integrated into various products; namely chips, DVDs and Blu-rays which are specifically described in the patent application and represent part of SENSIO’s core business. The patent application protects the checkerboard decoding technique in multiple markets and applications, from D-cinema to mobile phones.
“Our first issued patent covers the whole method of compression, decompression, formatting and display of stereoscopic content in both 2D and 3D while this patent application is specifically targeted to quincunx decoding and its application for 3D. The quincunx format is widely recognized to provide the best quality of all spatial compression formats”, states Étienne Fortin, Chief Technology Officer at SENSIO. “The general method described in the patent application covers a wide family of efficient decoding algorithms.”
“The allowance of this patent application is the result of years of research in image processing. We believe that it will play a key role in protecting our IP as this is specifically protecting our decoding method and can be used for all quincunx formats already offered on the market”, says Nicholas Routhier, President and CEO.
After the allowance of the patent application, it is expected that the final patent grant and patent number will be received within three to four months.
Source: SENSIO Technologies
Japan's largest cabler Jupiter Telecommunications will launch 3D broadcasts in April, company sources have revealed. The move is a first for the Japanese broadcast biz. The 3D services will be on-demand, featuring pics, sports, music and other programming, both foreign and domestic. Various sources will supply the content, including pic distribs and specialized channels.
The Sky Perfectv communication satellite platform is also reportedly planning to start 3D services this summer. The moves to 3D by both Jupiter and Sky Perfectv, with their large subscriber bases and nationwide reach, are expected to spur sales of 3D sets. As of the end of December 2009, Jupiter had 3,274,800 subscribers for a 3.4% gain from the previous year. In addition to cable, it provides broadband and telephony services.
By Mark Schilling, Variety
The launch of BSkyB’s dedicated 3D channel provided an opportunity for 3ality Digital Systems to prove that, with the right training and equipment, broadcasters can fill 3D channels in ways that are familiar to them in the 2D realm. During SVG’s SportsTechLA event, held Jan. 19 at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, 3ality executives took the podium to discuss the launch of BSkyB’s dedicated 3D channel, which uses a 3D remote-production unit from Telegenic that 3ality outfitted with camera rigs and systems.
“Telegenic chose 3ality technology to do this launch, so we sent over a basic kit of four cameras, image processors, and started a training program, which is really the important part,” said 3ality CEO Steve Schklair. “We sent over the kit, trained the Telegenic people, and now they’re shooting amazing content without the help of 3ality or PACE. We now see that broadcasters can fill channels in the ways that they’re used to working.”
The panelists chose not to bring photos of the 3D truck because, as they explained, it looks just like an HD truck.
“Building the truck isn’t very hard,” said 3ality COO/CTO Howard Postley. He noted that 3ality equipment is frequently brought on location, cameras and image processors are added onto a production truck, and the truck is ready for 3D production within an hour.
“Augmenting the TV truck itself was more or less that, putting image processors into the racks,” he said. “It was a lot more about the workflow and how the people used the truck than the technology behind it.”
In a standard crew, Postley pointed out, only three to five people are 3D-specific. Everyone else in the truck is doing the same thing they always do: working as engineers, directors, audio technicians, etc. However, where a 2D show has a hierarchical chain of command, with the director at the top, in a 3D show, a new order is created.
“In a 3D show, because you’re adding in a lot of new information, skills, and processes that have to be performed, you bring in a broadcast stereographer, who is essentially the director of 3D,” he explained. “That stereographer needs to develop a good working relationship with the producer and director, which might be difficult as they are unlikely to be sitting right next to each other.”
Graphics was a hot topic of discussion for the 3ality executives, because graphics are critical to sports broadcasts and the most common solution — floating the graphics in front of the 3D action — is not necessarily the best. Volumetric 3D, often referred to as “2½D” and most commonly used in videogames to make flat objects appear to have volume, is a different way to answer the question of graphics placement.
“Volumetric 3D can have simulated depth, whereas stereoscopic 3D may or may not include volume but includes depth,” Postley said. “A lot of people have said I’ll take my graphics system, tie two graphics engines together, and that’s great for adding volume to a shot. But placing the score in depth, so that a player can walk in front of a virtual graphic, requires someone to know the depth and geometry of the shot, and that’s complex.”
However, image processors handle geometry management, so Postley’s team is working to manage the transition of geometrical information from image processors to graphics machines, so that the images can be composited in depth.
“We want to exchange geometric information between the various devices that care,” Postley said. “That’s image processors, graphics generators, switchers, DVEs on switchers. We’re trying to work out the best workflow there. The challenge is, if you’ve got five different graphics systems, for score, bug, player info, etc., and compositors for each, you’re going to run out of routers and money.”
The networks are also going to run out of money, Schklair said, unless they find a way to combine the 2D and 3D productions. A producer could take the 3D feeds from the 3D cameras, eliminate one eye, and do a 2D cut, but that production would be wider and slower than what today’s 2D viewer has come to expect.
“At some point, there’s going to have to be a compromise between the fast-cutting 2D productions that we’ve gotten used to and the slower version of 3D,” Schklair said. “I do think the world is migrating to way too much activity on screen and not letting the games play themselves. Eventually, they’re going to have to meet in the middle, because the only way this works is to have a single crew on the field. As a community, we’re going to have to redefine the creative. The economics are not going to support both.”
Carolyn Braff, Sports Video Group
Oculus3D, a company focused on film-based 3D projection technology, announced its first product, the OculR system, a low-cost 3D lens and print format for the installed base of 35mm movie projectors.
The OculR system eliminates the need for exhibitors to purchase a new digital system to play 3D films. The OculR system also does not require exhibitors to pay per-seat or per-show royalty fees. The OculR lens provides exhibitors with a 3D solution that works with all standard 35mm projectors, delivering superb quality film-based 3D presentations that are equal to or better than more costly digital options.
The OculR3D system consists of the OculR lens for the theater’s 35mm projector, a “silver” movie screen and low-cost plastic frame linear polarizer eyewear, delivering the finest 3D image at an affordable price. The OculR lens can be installed rapidly, eliminating theater downtime and providing a minimum brightness of 6 foot lamberts, which equals or exceeds the brightness of most digital and single-projector film systems to ensure flawless 3D performance for exhibitors.
Exhibitors and studios will benefit equally from the OculR system because the industry is unable to meet current audience demands for 3D presentations as the number of 3D feature releases will continue to grow in 2010. The motion picture industry is missing out on millions of dollars of revenue because of a shortage of 3D screens.
“We see a substantial worldwide market for the OculR 3D system and estimate some exhibitors could save $150K per screen in equipment, 3D software conversion and installation costs while the studios could add a meaningful number of new 3D screens in 2010,” said James Marsh, analyst, Piper Jaffray & Co. “Exhibitors who have been concerned about the cost of switching over to a digital cinema system now have an interesting new option to consider.”
Oculus3D estimates that it can get theater owners up and running with the OculR system (the lens and upgraded movie screen) for approximately $20,000 - $25,000 per screen. This is 85 – 90% less than investing in a digital projector approach.
The OculR print format is created by applying an algorithm to the final digital intermediate file to produce a master negative. Release prints are then made using standard lab techniques and costs are identical to making a standard print, making conversion from 2D to 3D a seamless process for the labs, exhibitors, and studios.
The first live 3D TV broadcasts in Australia are expected next year. Foxtel CEO Kim Williams has confirmed the company is working in-house to bring 3D TV to subscribers sometime next year.
"Foxtel has been closely monitoring 3D developments since January of 2009 and has an active program for 3D broadcasting in its Engineering Development Labs. 3D is an exciting development in broadcasting and Foxtel HD set top units have already carried 3D signals in our premises with terrific picture clarity. Foxtel will continue to run laboratory trials on 3D transmissions over the next year. I expect that Foxtel will bring its first test broadcasts in 3D to subscribers in 2011 when full product details will be revealed."
Channel Ten is planning to jump aboard the 3D bandwagon later this year, with a brief 3D segment in the quiz show Talkin' 'bout Your Generation. Ten said it would give away the special 3D glasses needed to view the broadcast as part of a national promotion.
Channel Nine said it was monitoring the technology and Seven said it was interested in 3D's impact, particularly on sport. But Seven's general manager of group broadcast services, Andrew Anderson, said it could be years before there was a large number of 3D television sets in Australian lounge rooms.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Systems makers will ship a new generation of 3-D enabled Blu-ray drives in tandem with the new TVs this year. They will sport their own format and the latest 1.4 version of the HDMI interconnect built with the bandwidth and signaling capabilities to handle 3-D content in full high def. Other content and broadcasting companies including British Sky Broadcasting, DirecTv, Discovery Channel and ESPN said they will turn on dedicated 3-D services in 2010.
"This is a living, breathing science project but we are comfortable going ahead," said Chuck Pagano, executive vice president of technology at ESPN, which plans to launch multiple stereo 3-D channels starting in June with its broadcast of the World Cup.
The broadcasters, however, bring along one of the many technical wrinkles ahead. They have yet to release details of what formats they will use, and they are expected to adopt differing approaches. All the broadcast signals are expected to be "frame compatible" with today's content coming into cable TV plants and set-top boxes. However each will require conversion. Chip and system makers say they can handle that job with new firmware in existing silicon. However they will need three months and sample video to write and test their components before systems will be ready to ship.
Broadcasters' networks lack the bandwidth to support a full 1,080-progressive image for both the left and right eye, so they cannot deliver the full high definition video seen on today's top TVs. They have been testing a variety of formats to pack two images into one frame to see which gives the best results on their networks. Those formats include multiple ways of putting two images side-by-side, over and under each other, using a checkerboard configuration or interleaving lines or columns.
"You can create so many permutations, it can be a mess," said David Broberg, the vice president of consumer video technology at CableLabs. "We have reduced it down to a preference for a single over/under format, are working with TV makers and content providers to settle on that and so far results have been positive," he added.
The over/under format is said to be royalty free. But satellite providers DirecTv and BskyB expect to use a side-by-side format.
RealD, which provides 3-D technology for the lion's share of theaters, says it has a fundamental patent on side-by-side. RealD announced partnership deals at CES with virtually all the top TV makers that involved licensing its technology on formats, glasses and other aspects of 3-D. RealD's already announced 3-D format licensees include: Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, JVC and DirecTv.
"A number of top consumer companies have done due diligence on us and determined we have a patent on side-by-side," said Josh Greer, president of RealD.
"This is a battle for intellectual property," added Rick Doherty, principal of market watcher Envisioneering Group (Seaford, N.Y.).
No doubt IP battles are raging all up and down the chain of 3-D TV technologies. To date the field lacks a patent pool, a weak spot in the business case for 3-D TV.
"The patent trolls will come out, they always do with a new technology," said David Naranjo, director of product development for Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America.
Beyond the obvious technology licensing issue, momentum is just what every 3-D technology supplier is looking for today. RealD, in terms of market perception, might have just accomplished that goal at this year's CES.
RealD believes it has built enough momentum to sweep the TV market with its technology for 3-D broadcasting. RealD's Koji Hase, president of worldwide consumer electronics said, "The industry can now see a thread -- content, delivery and display -- all using our 3-D technology."
While standardization for 3-D broadcast formats over satellite, cable and terrestrial TV is far from set, RealD's Hase said, "This won't be a decision by a committee. Three-D will be a de facto standard that will be embraced by industry groups."
Advantages of RealD's 3-D technology are that it is "display agnostic," meaning that it works with any display type. Moreover, it works either with polarized glasses or active shutter glasses, according to Hase. Most important, he added, "It's implementable in existing infrastructure."
The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) started an effort in June to set a standard for 3-D distribution formats. However, given the competitive issues, some say de facto standards will be set by the marketplace.
Whatever format emerges, many observers said consumers may not even notice the resolution downgrade in the 3-D broadcast content. Silicon and systems engineers said they may be able to use resolution enhancement techniques to help make up for the shortfall.
Ultimately broadcasters expect to expand their bandwidth and move to new codecs such as the MPEG-4 Multiview Video Coding (MVC) widely seen as the optimal solution for stereo 3-D. But such a migration will take several years and cost billions.
It would take twice the bandwidth of today's satellite set-top boxes to support 60 frames/second of 1,080p content, said Brian Lenz, director of product design at BskyB. "You will not see that in next few years," he said.
Broberg of CableLabs said many cable TV set tops now support 1080p at 24 frames per second. Within two years many could be upgraded to 60 frames per second.
Terrestrial broadcasters have the biggest hurdles because they have even less bandwidth to work with than satellite and cable companies. However ATSC, which manages the U.S. terrestrial standard, has given 3-D support a back seat as it tries to get its mobile broadcasting technology off the ground in the next two years.
"Optical media has the best scenario, then its cable and satellite and probably last is terrestrial because the challenges just get harder for them," said Wendy Aylsworth, vice president of engineering for SMPTE and a chief technologist for Warner Brothers studios.
Getting Fitted for Glasses
Due in part to the multiple formats for optical disks and broadcasts, the first sets may require users to select what kind of 3-D content they want to watch.
"Someday sets will automatically detect stereo 3-D formats, but for today users still have to choose the right one from an on-screen menu," said Phil Lelyveld, a 3-D program manager at the Entertainment Technology Center, a branch of the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts.
"That's not something you want in the consumer marketplace," he said, adding that USC is showing TV makers technology it has developed to automate the process.
Likewise, CableLabs has found a way to take the 3-D control codes from HDMI 1.4 and make them available to the many HDMI 1.2 and 1.3 version set tops now in consumers' homes. The group also helped convince the HDMI Licensing LLC to relax its specs, in part to allow for the workaround.
CableLabs is calling for TV makers to take part in interoperability tests in its 3-D labs to make sure the first systems work smoothly. "HDMI is very powerful but it has so many options that if people don't implement them in the same way it won't work well," Broberg said.
Like the broadcasters, TV makers are adopting different display and glasses technologies to show stereo 3-D. Thus, for example, glasses used on a Toshiba set may not work for a Samsung TV. Vendors such as Panasonic will brand their glasses for the first-generation products to avoid confusion and flaunt what they claim is proprietary technology.
All the top vendors at CES showed prototype systems using active shutter glasses which are said to be the best solution for rendering a full 1,080p signal for both eyes. The cheaper passive polarized glasses used in theaters only deliver 540 horizontal pixels per frame, although some TV makers may use them for lower cost sets or for use in public places like sports bars.
"We have to deliver [source video] to both types of glasses, and we want to treat each equally and fairly," said Broberg of CableLabs. "There are advantages to each," he said.
It's not clear what display technologies TV makers are using or where they get it. However the vast majority of active shutter glasses at CES carried the RealD logo.
Like it or not, users will need glasses of some kind to view high def content, at least for the next decade. Researchers say it could require displays with four times today's resolution to deliver without visible artifacts high def stereo 3-D that can be seen by the naked eye.
Content producers say the situation is even worse on their end. It will require at least eight lenses per camera, and perhaps dozens, to properly capture video that can be seen in 3-D without glasses.
Technicolor showed a demo of so-called auto-stereoscopic 3-D TV at CES using its interpolation algorithm. However, it had a relatively narrow viewing area of ten degrees so users saw blurring when they moved their heads.
"It could require 8K resolution screens to do it well, so this could be 10-15 years away," said Thierry Borel, a researcher at Technicolor working on the project.
The good news is, users in the CEA survey showed a tolerance for glasses. About a third said they found 3-D glasses annoying before the saw a 3-D movie, but afterwards only 20 percent said the glasses were annoying.
3-D Interfaces and Conversion
Standards groups are playing catch up with the industry on 3-D. The CEA has started an effort to define a standard for the infrared signaling to active shutter glasses. However it is not expected to be finished until after first products ship. Greer of RealD said his company is not participating in the effort.
For its part the Digital Video Broadcasting Project in Europe is just starting to explore standards for stereo 3-D TV. The first meeting of a DVB group to set market requirements for the technology will be held Jan. 26.
David Daniels, a senior technologist at BskyB, said a parallel group looking into technical requirements is also just getting set up. It is expected to explore several areas including formats for source video, signaling over HDMI and codecs such as MVC.
"We're still in the early days of understanding how H.264 works," he said, noting the BBC recently reported it has achieved a new low bit-rate capability with the MPEG-4.
The DVB will also take up the hot issue of how to show graphics and subtitles in stereo 3-D space.
"If you want to check out how a 3-D TV vendor handles 2-D graphics, just hit the menu button on one of their demos," said Hays of Sony. "Some people treat it very elegantly, and others make your head explode," he said.
Some companies see the lack of good 2- and 3-D interfaces as an opportunity. A representative of Motorola's set-top group said it has developed proprietary technology for the subtitle problem that it will supply to its customers. Stereo 3-D camera company 3ality Digital Systems (Burbank, Calif.) said it is working with a startup on 3-D navigation software.
Another hot technology is real-time 2- to 3-D conversion. Both Toshiba and Samsung promised to offer it as a differentiating feature on their TVs in the initial years when there will be limited 3-D content available. Both companies claim they have unique algorithms running on proprietary muscular processors they are putting inside their systems.
Toshiba, which is using its version of the eight-core Cell CPU co-developed with IBM, cautioned that the conversion will offer a limited version of stereo 3-D. He described it as providing some depth behind the screen where possible, but no effects of depth in front of the screen.
Studio stereographers and competing TV makers panned the techniques.
"We considered 2-D to 3-D conversion, but once you watch real 3-D content it's easy to see where the converted video breaks up, so we decided to stick with content produced in 3-D," said Nandhakumar of LG.
"It's a very, very difficult thing to do, and I've never seen a good version of it," said Phil McNally at Dreamworks, also known as Captain 3-D. "It's a question of whether there is any information available for a computer to understand what's in front or behind in a scene," he added.
Steve Schklair, chief executive of 3ality which is carving out a business in stereo 3-D capture, said the technique was tried in a football game in Dallas where the converted video was put up on a stadium monitor. "It was booed off the screen in three minutes, and when they turned it off the audience applauded," he said.
"It does require the hands of an artist to do this," said Hays of Sony. "I know everyone is trying to jump on the 3-D bandwagon, but some people will fall off," he said.
Unknowns of 3-D Art, Science
Studio and broadcasters have their own artistic challenges with stereo 3-D.
"When you open your eyes in the morning you see in 3-D, but in our world cuts, dissolves and close ups don't exist so we need a language to handle them," said Hays, noting directors including Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are learning stereo 3-D techniques.
"Sony started this center I work at so they could work out how to use those tools," Hays said. "There are not a lot of knowledgeable people out there in stereo 3-D, and we want to change that soon," he added.
Habib Zargarpour, a senior art director at Electronic Arts, said he is working on a stereo 3-D version of the Need for Speed game. Chip maker Nvidia showed at a Siggraph conference three years ago an automatically converted version of the game but it exposed sometimes embarrassing flaws in its 3-D logic, he said.
"We do a lot of cheats, and all of a sudden there we were caught with our pants down," he said.
Ted Kenney, a stereographer at 3ality said stereo 3-D content needs to be produced in a much more simple fashion that today's sports shows.
"There are 27 cameras for a routine NFL game to create energy, but 3-D lets the energy happen in a frame, so I think we need to slow down the cuts," Kenney said. "Living with one 3-D camera for 60 seconds you get more information out of it, so I've talked about shooting a game from one seat for an entire quarter," he said.
"There are just too many graphics and too many shots used on Fox and ESPN," he added.
"There is a whole new generation of cinematographers coming up, learning about stereography from scratch," said Lelyveld of ETC. "Someday this will be a field just like cinematography is today," he said.
Lelyveld also hopes to conduct research into the public health aspects of viewing stereo 3-D content to address concerns about its impact on eyesight.
"This is just a subject of conversation at conferences today and it's all anecdotal evidence, there is no data," he said. "We believe four percent of the public cannot perceive stereo 3-D, and we have found many bloggers who were critical of 3-D turned out to be unable to see stereo effects," he added.
It will take until next year's CES to assess whether the industry's new 3-D TV strategy is working. What was clear this year is the industry has embarked down the 3-D path, hopeful in the face of numerous challenges for the builders of chips, systems, networks and content.
By Rick Merritt and Junko Yoshida, EE Times
Friday, January 15, 2010