3DTV2010: 3D is Ready for Primetime

While the long-term business potential for stereoscopic 3D high-definition television remains unclear, the necessary production, transmission and display technology to bring 3D HD programming to market this year is already in place. 3D’s biggest stumbling block in 2010 will likely be educating consumers about the technology and demonstrating it effectively at retail stores.

That was the central message from 3DTV2010, a wideranging, half-day conference held in New York last week. The conference drew more than 300 executives from the consumer electronics, pay-TV, production and professional vendor communities.

Executives from satellite operator DirecTV and cable giant Comcast said their existing HD set-tops and transmission infrastructure can deliver 3D images to new 3D sets today. Production veterans from the NBA, CBS and ESPN said that early 3D broadcasts have taught them how to balance the desire for a dynamic 3D effect with the need to show important game action; they are now exploring how to share 2D camera positions with 3D productions as a way to keep costs in check. And 3ality Digital CEO Steve Schklair described how his company’s specialized 3D camera rigs, which have supported NFL and NHL productions in the U.S., are now being used regularly in the U.K. and India after his company provides initial training.

“Right now, the biggest obstacle in the industry is education, both on the consumer and professional sides,” Schklair said.

For 3D HD proponents, the overall picture must be reassuring, given that commercial 3D HD will officially launch in the U.S. in less than two weeks, when the ESPN 3D channel begins its coverage of the FIFA World Cup on June 11 with a match between South Africa and Mexico.

ESPN 3D will show some 25 World Cup matches in 3D in its first month and will likely air a total of 100 3D events in its first year, more than its plan of 85 events, according to Sean Bratches, ESPN’s executive VP of sales and marketing. Bratches said that 3D represents an opportunity to better serve the sports fan, just like HD back in 2003.

“It seems to be a technology that’s on the move, and it’s an opportunity to serve our core constituency,” he said.

But with carriage already lined up on DirecTV and Comcast that will reach more than 40 million homes, at launch ESPN 3D is well ahead of ESPN’s first HD channel, which initially secured carriage with a handful of small cable operators. “Significantly more homes will have access to ESPN 3D than HD at launch,” Bratches said.

Driving Development
ESPN has been driving much of 3D’s development on the production side over the past two years, producing a series of test broadcasts with 3D specialist PACE and creating a dedicated lab in Orlando. Bratches said the network planned to test a range of vendors’ equipment late last week with semi-pro football players at a stadium in East Hartford. ESPN has just finished shooting its first “This is SportsCenter” promotional spot in 3D and will only be accepting 3D commercials for the new network; sponsor Sony will have a 3D spot ready to go for the World Cup.

But Bratches noted that running 3D spots on ESPN 3D is “preaching to the converted,” and pointed out that the much larger advertising opportunity is in running commercials for 3D sets on its 2D networks, which the sports giant is already doing. He added that consumer awareness of 3D is probably better than it was for HD at a similar point in that technology’s life cycle, and predicted that by 2019, 3D penetration will still lag HD but will be somewhat ahead of DVR penetration.

3D is still in its “very early days,” said Mike Vitelli, president of Americas for Best Buy, and so far there has been little product in the market. Vitelli said that the response of consumers to early in-store demonstrations has been good, though he didn’t disclose any sales figures for 3D sets.

“We’re pleased,” Vitelli said. “Consumers are experiencing the technology, enjoying it and purchasing it.”

But there is still a good deal of consumer confusion over 3D, Vitelli cautioned. One misperception is that 3D HD-capable sets can be used only to watch 3D when in fact they are top-of-the-line HD sets with a bevy of extra features, 3D being just one of them. He said that “3D-ready” branding, which is already being used on some Blu-ray players, should help solve that problem.

Vitelli also predicted that there will be a wave of customer complaints as consumers attempt to take active-shutter glasses configured for their particular set and use them to watch 3D on another manufacturer’s set in a friend’s home.

“You bring your glasses and they’re not the right ones, it’s not good,” Vitelli said. “I know where that phone call is going. It’s not going to be anybody here [referring to the programmers and operators in the room]. We’re going to get that call.”

By Glen Dickson, Broadcasting & Cable

Frame-Compatible 3D Just Fine for Now

One of the reasons stereoscopic 3D TV is becoming reality this year is that networks and pay-TV operators plan to transmit their 3D video in "frame-compatible" broadcast formats designed to work within the existing infrastructure used for HD transmission.

Such frame-compatible formats use spatial compression to reduce the horizontal or vertical resolution of the left- and right-eye images. That is a compromise early 3D programmers can live with, as adopting "full 3D" -- delivering full resolution to each eye -- would require doubling the current bandwidth used to deliver two-dimensional HD to the home. Another issue is that frame-compatible formats are supported by existing set-tops in the field, including MPEG-2-only cable set-tops, while going full 3D would require many operators to roll out new hardware.

Some programmers, including ESPN, have said their eventual goal is to deliver full 3D to their viewers. But executives from Comcast and DirecTV, speaking at 3DTV2010, made it clear that frame-compatible 3D is just fine for now.

"We've got plenty of bandwidth, but I'd like to start with what we have," said Mark Hess, Comcast senior VP of advanced business and technology. "It is a bit of a bandwidth issue, but with MPEG-4 it's not a huge one; as long as we use MPEG-4, we're in good shape. But my perspective is, let's roll up our sleeves and use what we've got."

Steven Roberts, DirecTV senior VP of new media and business development, agreed: "We've already taken a big step from anaglyph, and the consumer experience is great. I think we have some time before we take the next step."

By Glen Dickson, Broadcasting & Cable

Naxoo Offers 3D TV Services

Swiss cable operator Telegeneve's digital TV service naxoo has added three sports TV channels to its line-up: Eurosport HD, Ma Chaîne Sport and Benfica TV per 31 May of this year. Naxoo also started offering 3D TV services per 31 May to customers with 3D enabled TV set and DRIVEBOX HD decoder.

Source: naxoo

Champions League Final in 3D on Sky UK

In addition to the coverage in HD (by MediaPro) the showpiece was produced in 3D by the Belgium production facility Outside Broadcast and the signal was distributed via Sky UK to the 3D pubs in the UK and Ireland and to two 3D cinemas in Spain.

The 3D signal was generated by six stereo camera pairs and eight up-converted 2D sources. The main camera pair (4) was positioned high consisting of two side by side mounted LDK-8000s with Canon 22x lenses (box style), while the other LDK-8000 camera pairs (2, 3, 5, 6) were positioned on play ground level mounted on Swiss Rigs. The Polecam (1) featured two side by side mounted HD mini cameras from Toshiba.

General layout of the 3D production (click to enlarge)

Via a router a maximum of three out of eight 2D HD camera feeds (including two Steadicams, one SuperSloMo, two Beauty-Shots and one Spidercam) were converted to 3D using the JVC IF-2D3D1 stereoscopic image processor. This was giving the production director access to nine 3D camera signals on the Grass Valley Kayak 450 vision mixer plus three playback channels from the EVS XT2 servers and the signal from the graphics generator to produce the 3D transmission signal.

It became clear that the mixing of the six 3D camera signals with the three 2D to 3D converted camera signals immediately was obvious to the viewers: In 3D the viewers need to live inside the frame, which takes a lot of thought and careful planning. This means slowing down the shots and instructing the crew to pay attention to a whole series of details they don't have to think with producing a 2D HD signal.

The other finding was: What works on a 3D 52” TV screen not works in a 3D cinema with a 60m² screen. To produce a 3D live signal for a cinema needs even more careful thought and planning than for a TV screen – because 3D effects that work on the TV screens and give viewers that feeling to life inside the frame kicks the viewers in the cinema out of the frame.

Two LDK-8000 mounted on Swiss Rig

2D and 3D Productions Have to Be Carried Out Separately
Unlike during the transition from SD to HD, the industry must learn different techniques and a whole new production language for 3D. Although the sports production community would like to find a way to cost-effectively produce a 3D live signal with a single truck that can also produce the 2D version, it probably won't be practical for several years.

For the production of 3D, cameras really have to be in different positions than with 2D HD. That's a struggle for each production because of the availability of additional camera positions at most of the venues. However a 3D production can't have fans jumping up and down in front of a 3D rig. It will drive viewers crazy. There is a great deal of attention to detail during a 3D telecast that starts with the camera positions, then extends to the director, the camera operators, the convergence/stereoscopic operators and the rest of the crew. Trying to accomplish this, while thinking about a 2D production in parallel, is a lot to consider.

The switch from SD to HD didn't change the way live sports productions were carried out that much, but 3D really is different – it currently is the ultimate science project. The language of 2D television has evolved over the course of 50 years, based on the fact that the average viewer was watching on a 20” TV screen. He loved to see extreme close-ups combined with wide shots to establish what the venue felt like. Interestingly, a lot of those shots don't have a lot of depth information. So the production crew has to teach the viewers the new language of watching sports in 3D – because they are going to see things in ways they never could before.

While the finances to produce 3D are still uncertain, the real challenge is producing a compelling 3D experience while covering the game. The "wow" factor goes away when the viewer gets lost in the 3D frames and no longer understands what's going on during the game.

Biggest Sky Sports 3D Challenge Yet
Besides all these considerations the 3D pioneer Sky Sports has broadcasted three major finals from three countries across two different sports – all in 3D on May 22nd. The eight solid hours of live 3D sport begun at Wembley with the stadium’s first live 3D broadcast as Blackpool sealed a Premier League place after an enthralling win over Cardiff City. The action continued in France with Biarritz vs. Toulouse in the Heineken Rugby Cup Final and it culminated at the Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid with the UEFA Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. The 3D hat-trick was available to customers in pubs and clubs in the UK and Ireland.

Commenting on the triple bill, Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports said: "This Saturday's offering was another first from Sky Sports and our biggest 3D challenge yet: three major finals including the richest prize in sport, the finale to club rugby's biggest competition and European football's club showcase. Football and rugby union are just the first of many live sports set to be available in this ground breaking format, which we will roll out domestically later in the year. We've already tested camera positions around the ground and we think the results are impressive, particularly shots close to the ground. Given the progress we've made with 3D in the last few years, by 2018 who knows what football will look like. It's as exciting as when we began broadcasting live football.”

Source: Live Production

SBS to Launch 3D Channel

SBS will launch a dedicated 3D channel in The Netherlands before the end of the year, said Eric van Stade, MD of SBS Broadcasting. Speaking at the Het Nieuwe TV Kijken ("The New TV") congress in Amsterdam, he added that the broadcaster wants to be part of new developments. “We do not know if 3D will be a success in the home, but we can’t afford to miss an opportunity.”

SBS will be working with a number of yet to be announced partners to establish the channel.

In a related development, Dutch industry players are planning to establish a 3D platform bringing together broadcasters, distribution partners, production companies and others.

By Robert Briel, Broadband TV News

Russia Eyes 3D

Russia’s TV industry is well on the way to recovery after what was a difficult 2009 and is looking forward to the future with growing confidence. This is certainly in evidence if one looks at the debate currently taking place in the country. The suggestion, for instance, that it can make a technological jump from analogue TV to 3D by bypassing HD might sound a little far-fetched but has been expressed by no less than ER Telecom, one of the Russia’s leading cable operators. Developments in 3D are already moving along impressively, with the DTH platforms NTV-Plus and Platforma HD both set to launch a channel in the format later this year.

The general view amongst leading industry people in Russia is that although 3D will take a number of years – figures of five to seven have been suggested – to become established in the country, it will turn out to be the mass market product that HD isn’t. Indeed, there seems to be some disillusionment with HD, which is growing in popularity in such lucrative markets as Moscow but barely figures in regional parts of the country, where it is in any case too expensive to deliver, especially by satellite. This is borne out by the statistics, with the HD channels offered by NTV-Plus and the cable operator Akado currently watched by fewer than one in 20 of their subscribers.

The prospects for 3D in Russia ultimately depend on a number of factors. The cost of reception equipment, though still high, will undoubtedly start to fall in the next few months. Whether the production of 3D content can keep pace with demand, however, will remain to be seen.

Russia nevertheless has the advantage of a growing pay-TV sector, fuelled by the popularity of such services as the DTH platform Tricolor TV. A third of TV homes already pay for receiving TV services and this will rise to half within the next four to five years. This will provide a firm foundation for the development of 3D services in the country.

By Chris Dziadul, Broadband TV News

Swisscom Launches 3D Content

Swiss telco Swisscom has added 3DTV content to its IPTV service 'Swisscom TV', offered at no additional cost to subscribers. Customers with a 3D television set can now access 3D content on a number of channels including Servus TV and Anixe, which will offer selected programmes and events in the format. The Swisscom set-top box is already compatible with 3D transmissions.

Swisscom had reached 275,000 customers for its IPTV service 'Swisscom TV' by the end of the first quarter of this year, nearly double the amount of one year previously.

Source: IPTV News

Researchers Analyze Performance of First Updatable Holographic 3D Display

In 2008, researchers from the University of Arizona created a holographic 3D display that could write and erase images, making it the first updatable (or rewritable) holographic 3D display ever demonstrated. The key to the display was a photorefractive polymer material, which enabled the researchers to take advantage of the potential of holography to a greater extent than previously allowed. Now, in a follow-up study, the researchers have reported the results of their analysis on the performance of the display, including how the polymer enables display enhancements and what more needs to be done before such displays can be widely used.

As the researchers explain, there is a big jump between developing static holograms, such as those that appear on credit cards and drivers’ licenses, and updatable holograms. A variety of materials can be used to make full-color, large-size static holograms, but none of these materials are updatable. As the researchers’ previous study showed, photorefractive polymers have the potential to offer colorful images and large sizes in an updatable display. The display they demonstrated was, at 4 in. x 4 in., the largest yet created. It could display new images every 3 minutes, and images could be viewed for several hours without the need for refreshing. With these features, the display could serve as the basis for future displays that could offer a variety of glasses-free 3D applications in medical, industrial, military, and entertainment imaging.

“Photorefractive polymers are primarily beneficial because the method for achieving an index of refraction change is reversible and can be very fast, which is necessary for a real-world display,” coauthor Cory Christenson from the University of Arizona told PhysOrg.com. “Some materials currently used to make holograms are permanent and take hours to write. Additionally, the material permits making displays with large sizes (at least 4 in. x 4 in.), and in principle is scalable. Also, a single display device is stable for many months to a year or more before a noticeable drop in performance is observed. Photorefractive polymers are also attractive because modifying them with different polymers is relatively easy. If we want to test the effects of a different or new polymer to see if it helps increase speed or efficiency, it is not a significant challenge to make that composite.”

Holograms, like photographs, are recordings of reflected light. Here, the researchers created a hologram based on a 3D model of an object on a computer, and no real physical object was required. They then generated 2D perspectives of the object on the computer, which were processed and combined to create about 120 holographic pixels, or “hogels.” To create a single hogel, the researchers modulated a laser beam with that hogel, focused the beam on a thin vertical line, and made the beam interfere with a second, unmodulated laser beam. The entire hologram could be written by repeating this process with all 120 hogels and positioning them next to each other. After all hogels were written, the researchers could illuminate the sample with a simple LED to make the 3D hologram viewable. The sensation of 3D is created due to parallax: each eye is seeing a different perspective of the object.

Holograms created with the photorefractive polymer in an updatable holographic 3D display

Ideally, a polymer material should have a combination of a fast write-erase rate (required for video applications) and a high efficiency (required for bright images). Getting a high efficiency means adding traps for the charges generated, but traps also take time and slow down the write-erase rate, resulting in a tradeoff between these two features. In their study, the researchers tested two slightly different copolymers, each of which exceeded in one of the two areas.

“In looking at both the standard display material composition and one that was slightly different, we were able to study the effects of adding more sensitizer and traps (in the form of C60) to the material,” Christenson said. “The greatest significance of this is a more in-depth understanding of the physics that leads to the formation of the hologram. This understanding gives us a better idea of its potential for use in new applications and will guide future studies as we attempt to improve the material.”

The researchers determined that improvements could be made by mechanisms such as pulsed writing and reflection geometry, with the ultimate goal of creating realistic 3D holographic applications.

“The primary area for improvement is the sensitivity of the material,” Christenson said. “The media for permanent holograms is more sensitive to light than these photorefractive polymers, which permit better looking holograms. We are trying to find ways of decreasing the light needed to write a hologram, which will make it much easier to expand into the areas mentioned in the paper, such as white-light viewing and writing at video rates.”

By Lisa Zyga, PhysOrg

3DTV Not a High Priority for BBC

The BBC appeared to kick 3DTV into the long grass this week, with Danielle Nagler, Head of HD at the UK public broadcaster, giving a long list of reasons why this will not be a focus for the corporation any time soon. She talked about the need to focus on technology that will become universally available, said early adopters of 3D television sets will not be the BBC’s mainstream UK audience and highlighted the cost of producing content in both 2D and 3D.

Speaking at the 3DTV World Forum in London, Nagler made it quite clear that the BBC has no ambitions to be first in 3DTV. However, the broadcaster hopes to provide live 3D coverage from the 2012 Olympics including the opening ceremony, depending on the interest from other broadcast partners.

She ruled out any possibility of launching a 3DTV channel for several years, explaining: “At the moment there is virtually no money to spend on 3DTV.” The broadcaster is involved in some 3D experiments but Nagler told the audience that the BBC will not replicate the 3D work that other broadcasters are doing and would aim to complement them.

One of her main themes was that 3DTV is a “bit of a distraction from HDTV”. She said: “It feels to us like there is a lot of work still to do in terms of normalizing HD and driving quality across the board and explaining HDTV to consumers and getting them to invest in HD and connected television sets.

“In the next couple of years we are looking to move from probably around 30-35 per cent of our content being made and delivered in HD to close to 100% of our content being delivered in HD. While the cost of HD has fallen substantially compared to five years ago, there is still a residual cost compared to SD. Adding the cost of 3D, for an audience that is not really there at the moment and is still likely to be small in five years time, is not the best use of limited license fee money,” she declared.

It does not appear the BBC is entirely convinced by the whole concept of 3D television, anyway. “It is not clear what makes good 3D content and it is certainly not clear what makes good television,” Nagler stated. "It is interesting and stunning but I’m not sure what I have seen feels like it has the potential to become part of the grammar of the television programmes we make.”

By John Moulding, Videonet

Record Sales Predicted for 3D

Panasonic says it expects to sell around 1 million 3D TV sets this year globally. "Demand is much greater than we expected," said Panasonic's Mike Miyata, who runs the company’s TV division.

Panasonic unveiled the latest 50" unit at the Roland Garros tennis tournament in Paris on May 26, where in partnership with Orange TV, Eurosport and the French Tennis Federation, they all combined to "kick start" true 3D transmissions for Europe. The transmissions were beamed to some 58 countries under the Eurosport footprint, using Eutelsat and GlobeCast, as well as to Orange TV HD (ADSL and Fibre) subscribers throughout France (on Channel 33).

Laurent Abadie, Panasonic's CEO for Europe, praised the 50" set as being a nice size, but said "we know it isn't enough for some people. We will launch a 65" next month because we know that with 3D you need a larger size set. At IFA in September we will demonstrate a 152" set for 3D, the largest-ever for TV.

Orange TV's Xavier Couture, head of content at Orange, said the partnership, and this first full 3D service in France, was important. "Our R&D team have worked very hard on 3D since 2008, and have been capturing the Roland Garros for the past 2 years, and we will be at Roland Garros for the next 2 weeks ensuring that everything is perfect. But we see 3D as the next revolution in television. We know our customers want 3D and we have carried out a number of fascinating experiments on 3D content, including ballet, theatre as well as soccer, rugby, boxing and other sports and movies."

Couture explained that Wednesday's top-rated talent show ('Star Maker') on M6 was also being carried in 3D on Orange. "It is now time to move on, and make a real start in 3D. 3D is perfect in that it provides an immersive experience, and is a positive move for the industry."

Eurosport's CEO Eric Le Lay explained that Eurosport partnered with Panasonic on HDTV, and that this 3D activity was a natural extension of that relationship. "The idea was to make this broadcast available for everyone, in about 4000 retail shops across Europe. This sporting event is just the beginning. I am very excited by what is possible in other sports especially rugby and soccer, as well as basketball. They all represent a learning process but we are learning fast." Le Lay expressed a firm opinion that 3D could actually take off and make a larger impact than HDTV. "I think 3D will go very quickly."

Tournament Director at Roland Garros, Gilbert Ysern, said 3D's time had come as far as the French Tennis Federation was concerned. "It is a major step forward for the sport as well as our event, it being the first in the world." He explained that finding the extra camera positions for 3D was a challenge, "but we managed".

Tom Morrold, senior analyst at Screen Digest, said the company’s studies indicated that even though this was an embryonic business, several millions of sets would be bought. By 2014, he said, around 20-25% of homes in the major ‘Western’ markets would own a 3D set, helped by games and the availability of other packed media, not least Hollywood movies in 3D.

By Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News

3D Makes Progress for Gamers

3D is becoming increasingly important in the gaming world, with 3D compatibility a function of all leading titles, and as we move forward content will align with a developing base of 3D-enabled consumer electronics devices, says a study from Futuresource Consulting.

“Based on the many 3D demos that we have experienced and played here at Futuresource Consulting, I'm sure that the additional immersive experience it provides will power 3D gaming right through the consumer adoption curve and into the mainstream,” says the study.

“However, the uptake of 3D video games may take longer to arrive than film, as movies can be experienced in the cinema long before consumers start to install 3DTVs in living rooms. That said, once 3DTVs reach a satisfactory installed base, we will see a far bigger push on 3D games advertising and promotion,” adds Futuresource.

“Focusing on the consoles, the Xbox 360 and PS3 are essentially 3D-ready; Sony will release a dedicated 3D firmware update for the PS3 this summer. The first rush of 3D gaming is expected to be distributed via download initially, with Sony releasing four games, including Wipeout, together with the firmware update. Here at Futuresource, we expect to see a significant proportion of disc-based games titles featuring a 3D option very soon, perhaps becoming prevalent by 2011. In addition, Nintendo is expected to announce details of its new 3DS device at next month's E3 show. The portable gaming machine could be many consumers' first experience of 3D gaming and will feature an autostereoscopic 3D-enabled screen, negating the need for glasses.

“There are no major obstacles to 3D games development and production, the process is relatively straightforward and is all done in post production. Including the 3D functionality, development costs of a 3D game are only 10% to 15% higher than a 2D game. Most developers and publishers are already fully geared up for 3D - it's all about the consumer catch up. As 3D functionality becomes more popular we expect prices to drop and 3D to roll out as standard on a wide variety of games,” says the company.

By Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News

Topfield Hits Back at TiVo's First 3D PVR Claim

Topfield has today hit back at TiVo, rejecting Hybrid TV’s claim that it is the first to supply a PVR capable of recording in 3D. Topfield already has seven PVRs with 3D recording capability in the marketplace, according to product manager Robert Bonanno.

In a media release yesterday, Hybrid TV claimed its TiVo device was “the first PVR with the ability to time shift any free-to-air 3D broadcast”. This claim is now in dispute, with Bonanno saying Topfield already had products in the market with that capability.

“Topfield can advise that you can record 3D to the following Topfield PVR models: TF7050, TRF7060, TRF7160, TBF7120, TRF7100PLUS, TRF2400 and TRF2460,” wrote Bonanno in an email to Current.com.au.

Bonanno also emphasised that this can be done without an internet connection.

“When the Topfield PVR records the HD side-by-side image, this signal will be able to be decoded by a true 3D TV at any time in the future. The Topfield PVRs will record the 3D signal as a split screen HD signal. Then the TV will use its 3D engine to overlap and develop the true 3D signal in 16:9.”

By Patrick Avenell, Current

Stereoscopic 3D Compression

Side by Side, Top and bottom, Line interleaved and others, all compression technology foreseen for the distribution of stereoscopic 3D content is presented in a single and simple document.

Source: ATEME

Eurosport Planning Regular 3D Channel

Eurosport is planning to launch a regular 3D channel as soon as practicable, according to Eurosport general director of distribution and development Jean-Thierry Augustin. “I don’t know if it will be in time for the Australian Open next year, but the facility to do so already exists at Eurosport,” said Augustin.

The plans build on the two-week 3D coverage of the French Open Tennis, currently underway in partnership with the manufacturer Panasonic. Augustin said that further 3D coverage of the US Open at the end of August was also a possibility. “Tennis is an obvious sport, there’s movement, and some depth,” he said. “3D makes Eurosport more attractive as a brand, which makes it good for the viewer and good for advertisers”.

The 12 Mbps side-by-side 3D signal is being uplinked via Eurosport’s facility in Paris to four satellite positions; the two SES-Astra slots at 19 and 28.5 degrees East, the Eutelsat Hot Bird (13 degrees East) and the Telenor position at One West. The feed is being presented without any commentary.

“We did HD so well that we can now afford to do another channel in 3D. We’re risk takers in technology and decided that this was the way to go,” said Augustin. Eurosport’s final decision to go ahead with 3D transmissions was only taken on February 15.

Eurosport’s venture into 3D follows a highly successful rollout of two HD channels. Eurosport 2 is already available in 890,000 households just 10 months after its launch and Eurosport HD has 5.2 million households. Poland in particular has proved strong for both channels with 793,000 households for Eurosport HD and 192,000 for Eurosport 2 HD. The UK (2.1 million) Norway (534,000), Sweden (171,000) and Denmark (199,000) have also proved happy hunting grounds.

The percentage of Native HD programming is also increasing, from 31% in 2008/09 to a projected 50% in 2010/11 with the majority of landmark events such as the Tour de France, French Open Tennis and the Le Mans 24 hour rally already in the format.

Telenor’s involvement in the broadcast from Roland Garros represents the first time the Nordic broadcaster has been involved in a 3D transmission. “3DTV provides a new level in engaging the viewer with TV content and is shaping the way we may watch and experience TV in the future,” said Cato Halsaa, Vice President and CEO of Telenor Satellite Broadcasting. “Satellite is a perfect platform for transmitting high-quality 3DTV signals because its ubiquity of coverage delivers 100% reach in chosen markets while its available spectrum provides unrivalled potential for DTH operators to immediately launch new services, like 3DTV, with unlimited capacity constraints.”

The Eurosport 3DTV signal on Thor 6 is encrypted and will be made available only to the closed group of Panasonic dealers across the region.

By Julian Clover, Broadband TV News

Aiptek Debuts 3D Imaging Product Lines

Aiptek International, a Taiwan-based maker of digital imaging devices for sale under the own brand Aiptek, on May 25 unveiled the i2, a pocket-size 3D HD digital video recorder for launch in July 2010. In the Taiwan market, retail price is recommended at NT$7,990 (US$250), according to the company.

Aiptek i2 pocket-size 3D HD DV

The camcorder features a video recording resolution of 1280×720p, CMOS resolution of 5-megapixel for taking pictures, a dimension of 118×72×23mm and 2D/3D dual lenses, Aiptek pointed out.

Aiptek also unveiled a 3D digital photo frame, 3D digital album and 3D webcam and plans to offer 50-lumen glasses-based 3D pico projectors in March 2011 and 100-lumen glasses-free models in 2012.

With 70-80% of total revenues coming from DV sales currently, Aiptek expects the 3D lineup to account for 15% and 30% of total revenues in 2010 and 2011 respectively, the company noted.

By Erica Yen and Adam Hwang, DigiTimes

Consumers Start Buying 3-D Televisions—but Challenges Loom

Although consumers have started to buy 3-D TVs, a number of challenges—including standardization, content availability and interoperability—must be resolved before the new television technology can take off, according to iSuppli.

Worldwide shipments of 3-D TVs—introduced to the market for the first time in March—are expected to reach 4.2 million units in 2010, thanks to increasing traction and acceptance from enthusiastic early adopters. Global 3-D TV shipments will then triple to 12.9 million units in 2011 and then more than double to 27.4 million units in 2012.

In 2015, 3-D TV shipments will reach 78.1 million units, rising at a vigorous Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 80.2 percent from 2010.

Among U.S. consumers who purchased a new television in the first quarter of 2010, 4 percent indicated they were acquiring one that was 3-D capable, with 60 percent buying a 3-D LCD-TV and the remaining 40 percent preferring a 3-D plasma set. As of April, 26 television models featured 3-D capability, compared to 23 the previous month.

The majority of 3-D TV sales in 2010 will occur in the mature television regions of the United States, Japan, and Western Europe, where sizable markets exist for upgrading or replacing older, non-3-D sets. Other countries that have rolled out 3-D trials include South Korea and Australia.

Despite such an apparent strong showing, 3-D TVs occupy only a small portion of the overall television market. Shipments of all types of LCD-TVs are expected to hit 170 million this year, while shipments of LED backlit sets—the LCD-TV submarket employing light emitting diodes as backlight—will reach only 26 million globally in 2010.

“Although robust growth of 3-D television sales appears to be assured during the next few years, mass consumer acceptance will not come until three critical issues are resolved concerning standardization, content availability and interoperability of the 3-D glasses used to view the sets,” said Riddhi Patel, principal analyst for television systems at iSuppli.

In the case of standards, the Blu-ray standard for 3-D TV establishing 1080p 3-D to each eye was set in 2009. However, other standards still being worked out to ensure a successful rollout, including HDMI 1.4 for a variety of 3-D formats, SMPTE for 60 frames-per-second resolution, CEA for 3-D glasses and SCTE for 3-D content over cable.

A third issue concerns the use of 3-D glasses or eyewear. 3-D glasses are among the most common 3-D TV bundles preferred by consumers, aside from 3-D Blu-ray players and 3-D Blu-ray movies.

While television manufacturers might throw in one or even two pairs of 3-D glasses to sweeten a 3-D TV purchase, additional glasses to accommodate more viewers—either other family members or guests to share the 3-D viewing experience—could be expensive. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that 3-D glasses will be interoperable among brands—that 3-D eyewear bundled or purchased with a particular TV will work with another.

Technology for watching 3-D TV without glasses is at least several years away, analysts say.

Concern also has been expressed about potential health hazards posed by viewing 3-D TV content. Samsung Electronics has cautioned its Australian customers, for instance, about potential dizziness, motion sickness and disorientation.

Likewise, a research group at the University of California in Berkeley has confirmed the phenomenon of vergence-accommodation conflict, which can lead to fatigue, eye strain and headache. The issue results from the disparity between where the viewers’ eyes focus on the screen and where in the 3-D image the viewers believe they are looking.

Overall, standards will play a key role in promoting increased adoption of 3-D TV in the consumer space, iSuppli believes. Because the 3-D value chain from content creation to content consumption is a complex and multilayered system, standards are needed to ensure interoperability, reduce risks in product planning and foster innovation. A lack of standards, on the other hand, will create substantial uncertainty throughout the value chain, hinder 3-D product development and discourage consumer adoption.

By Riddhi Patel, iSuppli

TiVo kicks off 3D PVR Battleground

TiVo has declared itself the first PVR to be able to timeshift 3D free to air broadcasts. In addition, TiVo has also announced that 3D content will soon be ready for download through its video on demand Caspa service. Although no firm date has been released, TiVo expects to offer 3D downloads sometime in June 2010. At launch, only movie trailers and short animations will be available, though this is expected to be expanded to include movies and documentaries after the initial period.

By Patrick Avenell, Current

ESPN 3D Focused on Home Market, Not Theaters

ESPN expects to deliver close to 100 events in 3D over the next year, up from the original promise of 85, according to Sean Bratches, EVP of sales and marketing. More important, he adds, the network’s 3D efforts will be focused on the home and not on theaters and other potential venues.

“Based on our affiliate relationships, we don’t want to circumnavigate the home. There is interest in the theater market, but our decision to go in the home is based on the fact that that is where we can drive the largest audience and our affiliate business.”

Bratches said that ESPN 3D carriage on DirecTV and Comcast Cable will put it in more than 40 million homes when it launches on June 11. That number, he said, is larger than the number of homes that could receive ESPN HD when it was launched in 2003.

“We’re very encouraged as we look at the horizon, both from a fan standpoint but it is also very important from a distributor standpoint to have new products for our affiliates,” he added. “And the consumer-electronics industry can expand beyond HD and use our brand as a driver.”

One of the big revenue questions facing the industry concerns 3D-related advertising, both the 3D kind designed to take advantage of the format and the 2D kind designed to sell 3D sets. With respect to the former, Bratches said that only 3D commercials will run on ESPN 3D and that the network has already finished promos for SportsCenter and spots from other partners, like Sony, will be available in 3D on June 11.

“The big opportunity is on our [2D] linear networks and digital platforms,” he said. “We have such an interconnected biosphere that 3D will elevate our brand and help us drive revenues across all our platforms. It is a marketing tool that elevates affiliate revenue, advertising revenue, and the perception of our brand.”

Will consumers understand the value proposition? Bratches believes that the consumer already has a better understanding of the 3D value proposition than they did the HD value proposition when it launched.

“This is a real new driver of business for 3D affiliates,” he said. “And, like in HD, consumers will ultimately want content that makes sense, and we are in a good position to deliver that [content].”

By Ken Kerschbaumer, Sports Video Group

With 3D Programming, Comcast and DirecTV Choose Reach Over Exclusivity

Comcast has already gotten its feet wet in the 3D space, having distributed the Masters golf tournament in 3D in April, but, this summer, both Comcast and DirecTV will be major players in distributing 3D content. At SVG’s first-annual 3D Sports Transmission and Production Summit on May 20, executives from Comcast and DirecTV took the stage to delineate their 3D strategy moving forward — including their thoughts on sacrificing exclusivity, at least in the short term, in favor of building awareness of the new format.

Best of the Best
“We’re looking at 3D as the next evolution of the best in home entertainment,” explained Jay Kreiling, VP of video services for Comcast. “It represents the best available in content. Sports content needs to be live and on a linear channel, but movies present a huge opportunity from an on-demand perspective.”

DirecTV also is dedicated to 3D and hopes to rapidly expand its footprint. Its first 3D transmission will be 25 matches from the World Cup next month.

“As a company, we are going to do as much of this as makes sense,” said Bob Gabrielli, SVP of programming operations and distribution for DirecTV. “We are out there trying to find products and partnerships. It’s not an issue of having too much content, as we certainly have the capacity and the bandwidth to handle it.”

DirecTV has assigned some networks to 3D channels on its system, such as Discovery3D and ESPN3D, but left some spaces open for growth as well. Similarly, Comcast hopes to load its on-demand VOD servers with such 3D content as movies, which is extremely bandwidth-efficient: “You don’t have to broadcast a channel out there 24/7,” Kreiling pointed out.

Keeping It Clean
Currently, DirecTV has about 20 movies and 20 documentaries in its 3D stable. As live 3D events are completed, the company hopes to acquire the replay rights to them and add them into the mix.

“As we get replay rights, we’ll add those to the 3D channel and do more looping of events,” Gabrielli said. “But we don’t want to muddy the waters with this. We’d rather have less content than throw a bunch of bad content on there.”

Increasing Awareness On Demand
In addition to movies, where Comcast sees a large audience for pay-per-view opportunities, much of the cable service’s first 3D programming will be event-driven, as was the case with the Masters.

“We wrapped it as a television event but also had distribution online at Masters.com,” Kreiling said. “It was a live event available in 3D, but the content was also available on demand in 3D. We took that as an opportunity to create awareness. We try to partner and do things both on TV and online to fit into our overall content strategy of having content available anywhere anytime.”

He also explained that customers who were interested in the 3D content but did not yet have a 3D-capable set could record the event and keep it on their DVR until they purchased a 3DTV. The on-demand viewing option, he added, will help differentiate the 2D-to-3D transition from the SD-to-HD switch, which is still taking place.

Not Necessarily Exclusive
Although Comcast was the first cable provider to announce a deal with ESPN3D, Kreiling said, exclusivity is not necessarily a top priority for the company.

“Some types of content, like the Masters, are one-off opportunities where content will be exclusive to one place or another,” he explained. “But the larger interest is in driving content overall. The interest is in driving distribution as broadly as possible, so it’s not in a producer’s interest at this point to do an exclusive deal.”

At DirecTV, there is a similar feeling that exclusivity should be a future goal for content deals, but today awareness is king.

“If it’s economical for us to do the exclusive amongst everything else we want to do, then we’ll do the exclusive,” Gabrielli said. “But, at this point, there’s not enough content that I think we should be the only people to have it. In the very beginning, we have to share as much of this stuff as we can. Given that we’re all competing, it needs to have a certain swell to it, but we’re less concerned about exclusives now than we will be five years from now when this all takes off.”

In that vein, this summer’s World Cup matches on ESPN3D will be available through both Comcast and DirecTV.

Building a Support Network
DirecTV is currently in the midst of training 12,000 employees at all its call centers to help consumers understand why they may not be seeing 3D properly. The employees will all watch 3D and learn how to ensure that a set-top box interfaces properly with a 3D set, and they should be able to help customers make sure that what they think is 3D truly is 3D.

“We hope that training will be done before June 11,” Gabrielli said.

Those call centers may begin to get busy on that date, which is when the 2010 World Cup begins. How many customers buy 3D-capable sets in time to watch the 3D matches, however, remains to be seen.

By Carolyn Braff, Sports Video Group

Partnering with RAI, Astra Enhances 3D Demo Channel

SES Astra said it has enhanced the programme offer for its 3D demo channel and entered into a partnership with Italian public broadcaster RAI for the delivery of experimental 3D content. The Astra 3D demo channel is broadcast free-to-air via their orbital position 23.5 degrees East and features high quality 3D content including sports, music and entertainment.

Markus Fritz, SES Astra’s Vice President & General Manager Marketing and Managing Director of SES Astra in Italy, said in a statement: “We are very pleased to have entered into this cooperation with Rai which significantly enhances the variety of 3D programming offered via our demo channel. Following the first 3D television sets now available in the market, we are confident that our 3D demo channel will significantly help retailers, installers, the manufacturing industry and our customers to promote 3D television and bring this exciting new technology to the end-consumers.”

To receive 3D television signals from Astra’s 3D demo channel’s viewers need a 3D enabled television screen, and HD set-top-box and 3D glasses. The reception parameters are as follows: Satellite: Astra 1E (until Astra 3B is operational), Position: 23.5 degrees East, Transponder: 3.204, Frequency: 11,778 GHz, Polarisation: Vertical, Symbol Rate: 27.5 MS/s, Modulation: DVB-S2 QPSK, FEC: 9/10 and pilots: off.

By Robert Briel, Broadband TV News

3DTV Right Now is an Engineers' Challenge

On a searingly hot sunny day in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, Orange welcomed a group of French and British journalists to its pavilion within the sponsors village of the tournament. Over lunch we heard from Raoul Roverato, Executive Vice-President of New Growth Businesses at Orange and winner of the Outstanding Industry Contribution award at this year's IPTV World Series Awards ceremony.

Although this is not the first year in which Orange has broadcast 3D coverage of the French Open, the launch of a dedicated channel for 3DTV on its IPTV platform (delivered via DSL and fibre) marks a crystallising of opinion within Orange management that the technology will be Big News, and that it is starting to catch up with operators' aspirations.

Acknowledging that 3DTV is at present an engineering challenge, Mr. Roverato revealed that delivery of 3D content to consumers requires about the same line speed as HDTV - in the case of Orange TV, around 8 Mbps - and that delivery of high-definition 3DTV is only possible with the higher downstream speeds facilitated by fibre connections.

Regarding other potential markets for a 3DTV channel, Mr. Roverato indicated that Poland could be the next country to see such a launch, and while he does not expect this to happen this year, the Euro 2012 football tournament in Poland and the Ukraine could be the perfect launch event for such a channel, he said.

When asked how long he believed it would take for 3DTV to become mainstream, he suggested that this could be at least five years away, adding that at present the new 3DTV channel on Orange TV is more of a marketing initiative, used to show the platform's potential and accustom consumers to the idea of watching content in 3D. However, Orange is already investing a few million euros each year in commissioning and delivering 3D content, and 40% of top-end televisions now have the capability to deliver 3D, he said, suggesting that it is already starting to become a reality.

With a content business that is growing in the double digits each year, and a stated aim to be more than just a utility to its customers, Orange appears to be one of the few IPTV operators worldwide to be taking 3DTV seriously enough to be putting it into operation now, rather than adopting a "wait and see" approach.

An afternoon tour behind the scenes of the tournament's production facilities gave a chance to see the production process of content for the Orange sports channels, and to experience the new 3D channel.

Thanks to the new Panasonic 3D cameras which Orange recently took delivery of (and proudly showed to the journalists present), the 3D aspect gave a striking sensation of depth to the content, using passive glasses. Picture definition appeared crisp, colour fidelity true, and high-speed action was easy to follow - handy when Serena Williams was powering up her first serve.

Then followed a tour of the production truck where live content for the channels is mixed - crammed full of screens, mixing desks and their operators, the task appeared incredibly complex, with a 3DTV screen nestling in amongst all the other 2D feeds (middle left in the below picture):

While many in the pay-TV industry are sceptical that 3D will become the norm any time soon (high-definition has still not fully supplanted standard-definition, after all), the overriding impression given was that the technology required for filming, distributing and displaying content in 3D is already present - in France at least. Whether that one 3D screen nestling within the bank of 2D screens in the production truck eventually becomes many, only time will tell.

Source: IPTV News

Orange 3D Available FTA on Hot Bird

Two 3D HD channels are currently broadcasting from the Hot Bird position at 13 degrees East, one of them transmitting free-to-air. Orange 3D TV has started broadcasting the Roland Garros tennis tournament in 3D and is available free-to-air within the Hot Bird footprint. Most modern satellite receivers will be able to process the signal, but for the complete 3D experience, a special 3D screen is necessary.

Alongside the Orange 3D signal, Eurosport 3D is also broadcasting on the same transponder with an encrypted signal. Eurosport 3D is also available on the Astra position at 19.2 degrees East and at the Eurobird position at 28.5 degrees East. The Eurosport feeds are destined for the showcases around Europe, which it has organised together with Panasonic. Retailers across the continent are showing the 3D pictures at specially selected places.

Both Eurosport 3D and Orange TV 3D are using the side-by-side version with a 1080i picture and 11 Mbps bit stream.

In a related development, private broadcaster TF1 said it will broadcast five World Cup football games in 3D including the opening game on June 11 th (South Africa – Mexico), the semi finals and the big final on July 11th. The broadcast will be made available to most platforms including fibre, satellite and IPTV.

By Robert Briel, Broadband TV News

Sky 'Sceptical about 3D Conversion'

Brian Lenz, director of product design and TV production development at Sky, has spoken candidly about 2D to 3D conversion technology, explaining that the results can be poor. Speaking at the 3DTV World Forum in London, Lenz said about the tech: "I am sceptical when it comes to 2D to 3D conversion – any attempts to do it quickly and cheaply will make it bad 3D."

3D conversion appears in the new Samsung 3D TVs and will also be integrated into Toshiba's Cell TV. The technology has been put into the television sets, mainly due to the lack of 3D content available. As its name suggests 2D to 3D conversion creates a 3D image in real time out of 2D images, processing the footage within the television.

There are problems with this, though, as Lenz explains: "Creatively, 3D is different to 2D. You want slower cuts, your editing style needs to reflect the 3D image. Because of this, 2D cuts don't work in 3D, so 3D conversion will never rise to the level of native 3D content."

When asked if Sky would use conversion technology in its 3D channel, Lenz was quick to note: "Sky is focused on native 3D. That's not to say that there will be advancements over time with 2D conversion, I don't doubt that that will be the case. But we are looking at native 3D."

Neil Dodgson, from the University of Cambridge and an expert in 3D agrees about converting 3D, saying: "Automatic 2D to 3D conversion is a poor substitute for real 3D. Converting 2D to 3D manually is adequate, but very expensive, costing 2,000 Euros a minute to convert. It also puts people off. Clash of the Titans was recently converted into 3D and got poor reviews. Bad 3D can put off moviemakers and that is not good for promoting the technology."

Dodgson believes that the best way for 3D to work is to make it a key part of filmmaking process.

"If 3D is to survive it must not be a gimmick but actually part of the moviemaking tool set", he notes. "Up and Avatar hold up well in 2D – they do look better in 3D – but this is because they are good movies without the 3D."

By Marc Chacksfield, TechRadar

Extra Sky 3D Goodies Coming Later This Year

Sky is to improve its 3D content later this year by adding extra functionality to its 3D channel. Sky 3D is the first three-dimensional channel in the UK, but at the moment it is no more than a showreel for content which will be added to the channel at a later date. This is set to change this autumn, when extra full-length content will be added.

To make sure those who are tuned into the channel are getting the best possible experience, Sky's Brian Lenz has announced that extra functionality will be added, including automatic switching between 2D and 3D.

"We are going to change the software preferences later this year," explained Brian Lenz at the 3DTV World Forum in London. "At the moment users have to press 3D on their TV remote to turn the TV into 3D. We will add a software update later this year which will automatically change the channel to 3D, it will then change to 2D when back in the EPG."

When asked why Sky won't be offering a 3D electronic programming guide, Lenz noted: "We are keeping it simple – there is no value in creating a 3D EPG for one channel. This may change at a later date, though."

Lenz is hoping that Sky 3D TV will be as popular as its HD service, but knows that 3D's popularity in the home won't happen overnight.

"Sky knows that 3D's success will be in the long term. And by success we mean repeating the take-up profiles of Sky +, HD and digital. Success for us would be that in two to three years time that we can add another 3D channel, as that shows that consumer appetite continues to grow."

When it comes to helping the 3D market improve in the UK, Lenz has ruled out any sort of subsidies to 3D TV manufacturers, despite its 3D content being worthless without a 3D TV.

"Sky will not subsidise 3D TVs, as we have enough challenges with subsidising the kit that we make," explains Lenz. "If you look at 3D TV prices now to what HD was like the first time in the market, prices are already a lot lower."

Sky has been ramping up its 3D coverage in pubs recently. Just last week, it showcased seven hours of live TV, showing the Championship play-off final, rugby Heineken Cup and Champions League Final back to back.

By Marc Chacksfield, TechRadar

Zoran Corporation Licenses RealD Format

Zoran Corporation, a global leader in semiconductors for consumer electronics, and RealD, a leading 3D technology provider for cinema, home and professional applications, announced that Zoran has licensed the stereoscopic RealD Format and will incorporate support for 3D content delivery and display technology into its TV, set-top box and Blu-ray products. Zoran’s TV reference design with integrated RealD 3D support is available now.

Manufacturers of set-top boxes, televisions and other consumer electronics products that use Zoran’s SupraHD, SupraXD and VaddisHD multimedia processors can now support content delivered in the RealD Format and display high-definition 3D with no additional hardware required.

The RealD Format is a patented version of a side-by-side 3D formatting technology. It utilizes a unique set of filters and other technology to multiplex left eye and right eye 3D image streams into a single channel for delivery of high-definition progressive or interlaced 3D video using today’s HD infrastructure, including existing HD set-top boxes and DVRs, to any 3D-enabled display type. The side-by-side format was recently named in HDMI Specification Version 1.4a as a mandatory format for the transmission of 3D content between devices.

Source: Business Wire

AUO Invests in China-Based 3D Display Software Developer

Taiwan-based TFT-LCD panel maker AU Optronics (AUO) announced the investment of up to HK$90 million (US$11.5 million) in Shenzhen Super Perfect Optics. Shenzhen Super Perfect is a developer of glasses-free 3D display software solutions based in southern China, and AUO will have a stake of about 15% in the company. AUO is optimistic about 3D TVs in 2010 and expects global 3D TV shipments to reach 4-5 million units for the year.

By Susie Pan and Yvonne Yu, DigiTimes

Spring Technology

It wasn't so long ago that deliverables -- the final copies of a movie that are distributed to theaters -- were synonymous with film prints. Then digital cinema came along, and more recently, 3D. Now theatrical deliverables are a combination of film prints and digital media with various technical specifications.

For international day-and-date releases (as far as tentpoles are concerned) the process of creating, managing and distributing these versions is astonishingly complex, and even more so when it comes to 3D releases like the monster May opener from DreamWorks Animation, Shrek Forever After.

The issue with 3D is that it doesn't represent just one additional version of the movie. The various 3D projection systems created by such companies as Dolby, Master Image, RealD, Xpand and Imax have different technical needs and therefore demand a whole range of versions. Add to that dubbed and subtitled foreign-language editions for each system, and the number of extra versions can be overwhelming.

"We have the same or tighter delivery timelines," says Ahmad Ouri, chief marketing officer at Technicolor, "and the number of deliverables are going up."

Nowhere was the complexity of these deliverables more apparent than with Avatar. More than 100 versions of Avatar were created, color-timed at different light levels, even with different aspect ratios, all planned for individual theater configurations. This result was made possible by a remarkable effort by Fox, Lightstorm and key suppliers, notably Modern VideoFilm and Deluxe.

"What Avatar demonstrated is, you can deliver day-and-date at a larger scale than ever before," notes Jim Whittlesey, senior vp operations and technology at Deluxe Digital Cinema. But at a larger cost, too.

When the digital cinema push began a decade ago, studios had an eye on the elimination of film prints as a way to save money. That was especially important as movies started opening on ever-more screens, meaning that studios had to pay millions of dollars for enough prints to launch a Spider-Man or Dark Knight across the world.

But today, the market continues to require 35mm film prints -- and hard drives and files sent via satellite. "And we are preparing to deliver via fiber and broadband soon," says Rick O'Hare, senior vp at Deluxe Entertainment Services Group.

What this means is that, even as the major distributors are working around the world to help movie theaters go digital, the savings could be quite a while in coming.

"We believe there is a long tail for this transitional period," Technicolor's Ouri says. "It's going to become more complex before it simmers down."

"That is part of the incremental cost for us," DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg says. "We now have a higher degree of complexity needed to put the right version of the movie in the right system in each theater. Logic would say there will be consolidation. But this is really the infancy of the platform, so it is difficult to predict."

New 3D systems could complicate the matter even more. One new version is Technicolor's 3D film format, which was used for the first time for Katzenberg's How to Train Your Dragon and has roughly 200 domestic installations.

Ouri says other 3D projection systems, some with 4K resolution (four times the picture information found in today's commonly used 2K digital projection systems), might at some point mean still more versions are needed.

So what's the good news? At least one issue, "ghostbusting" -- an extra post processing task that reduces or eliminates faint shadows around some images -- is getting resolved. So far, deliverables for the RealD format have required the ghostbusting postproduction process, while Dolby, Xpand and Master Image systems have required non-ghostbusted media. But RealD has been working to change this.

"I don't think we are going to see too many more, if any, new 3D releases that will require ghostbusting -- which makes our job a lot easier," Whittlesey says.

But that's just one of the many variants that must be resolved. To help streamline the process, Whittlesey says establishing standard industry practices is crucial. Like figuring out light levels.

"We have to figure out how to get to standard light levels for 3D," he says. "It is still a little bit Wild West right now."

DreamWorks Animation's movies illustrate the light problem. "The 3D version (of a movie such as Shrek Forever After) is timed differently from the 2D version," says Katzenberg, referring to the "color timing" process. "We know there is going to be diminution of light because people are looking through polarized lenses. So you have to overcompensate. It is considerably different in the color-timing than the flat version."

Beyond such problems, the shift to digital may be helped by the creation of a "universal file" or a master version of the deliverable readable by all theaters' technologies. A universal file could also accommodate multiple versions of a movie, including foreign-language editions and ones with various aspect ratios. Theaters would be able to extract the particular version they need.

"It is possible to have one version, with all subtitling, in one package in one hard drive," Whittlesey says. "But probably it will (come) down to five or six different packages that we ship around the world."

By Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter

Another ‘World First’ for 3D

Brazil’s free-to-air channel RedeTV! carried out its first live 3D TV broadcast today (Sunday May 23). "After carrying out internal trials successfully, RedTV! will carry out its first live 3D TV broadcasting in the world," the company announced last week. This latest ‘world’s first’ follows on from similar ‘firsts’ from a slew of broadcasters not least in Korea, Australia, the USA, Japan, UK, France and elsewhere.

The company did not disclose the investment amount that the project required. RedeTV Superintendent of operations, Kalled Adib, told Veja.com that "thinking that the technology works to watch TV the whole time is a little exaggerated. We are studying what type of programmes we can offer in 3D: sport, movies and entertainment are without doubt among those possibilities".

Earlier ‘world’s first’ 3D transmissions in Brazil included a 3D transmission during the Formula Indy car championships, held in Sao Paulo. But in that case, only Net's pay-TV clients had access to the signal. On the other hand, Globo announced an agreement with Cinemark aimed at broadcasting between 10 and 12 of the upcoming South African World Soccer Cup games in 3D movie theatres located in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

By Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News

ATSC Lays Foundation for Broadcasting’s Future

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) announced plans to explore opportunities in three important areas: terrestrial broadcast delivery of 3D TV, next-generation television broadcasting systems and Internet-connected TV technologies. The ATSC Board of Directors has formed planning teams to consider technical feasibility and market requirements in key future technology areas:

The 3D TV Team (PT-1) will analyze and report on the likely benefits and limitations of a standard for terrestrial broadcast delivery of 3D TV. The team will be chaired by Craig Todd, Chief Technology Officer of Dolby Laboratories.

The Next-Generation Broadcast Television Team (PT-2) will explore potential technologies to be used to define a future terrestrial broadcast digital television standard. PT-2 will be chaired by Jim Kutzner, Chief Engineer of PBS.

The Internet Enhanced Television Team (PT-3) will consider the opportunities brought about by Internet connected broadcast receivers. The team will be chaired by Rajan Mehta, Director, Digital Television Standards, Policy & Strategy, NBC Universal.

Source: ATSC

PopBox Leverages RealD Technology to Bring 3D Cinema Experience to HDTVs

PopBox announced that in tandem with RealD, a leading 3D technology provider for cinema, home and professional applications, it will equip all PopBox devices with the ability to display high-definition 3D content. PopBox is the first over-the-top set-top box to support the stereoscopic RealD format for the delivery and display of high-quality 3D content. PopBox will ship 3D-ready at launch, so consumers can enjoy 3D content on all 3D-ready HDTVs.

PopBox makes it simple and affordable to play all the movies, music, home videos, and photos from your home PC and network-connected devices, and content streamed from the Internet, on your HDTV. PopBox will be available soon, and is currently available to pre-order at Amazon.com. PopBox retails for $129.99, and PopBox Wireless for $149.99.

PopBox builds on the success of Syabas' award-winning Popcorn Hour lineup of Network Media Tanks, the Popcorn Hour A-200 and C-200. All Popcorn Hour A and C series devices will also have access to the RealD Format to enable 3D viewing.

"We're thrilled that PopBox has licensed the RealD Format to enable its community to enjoy high-definition 3D content," said Steve Shannon, EVP of Consumer Electronics at RealD.

The RealD Format is a patented side-by-side method of delivering 3D video. The RealD Format combines left eye and right eye 3D image streams into a single channel for delivery of high-definition progressive or interlaced 3D video using today's Internet or broadcast infrastructure, including existing PCs, HD set-top boxes and DVRs, to any 3D-enabled display type.

The PopBox platform will be 3D-ready beginning at launch. As new 3D content is available, consumers can enjoy the 3D experience in the home, on their 3D-ready HDTVs. The Popcorn Hour A-200 and C-200 will be field-upgradeable to enable 3D playback.

Source: PopBox

FIFA Splits with 3D Broadcaster

The planned worldwide 3D theatrical telecasts of the World Cup soccer tournament are going forward -- but without the company that originally secured the rights to the project. FIFA, the governing body for the World Cup, posted a terse statement on its website Wednesday stating that the org has "terminated its relationship with Swiss company Aruna Media AG in respect of 3D public viewing rights for the 2010 FIFA World Cup with effect from 10 May 2010." The statement goes on to say that Aruna no longer has World Cup rights "or any other FIFA rights."

FIFA's deal with Aruna and tech provider Sensio was announced only five weeks ago at the NAB Show. FIFA and Sensio are keeping mum on the details of what led to the falling out, and Aruna did not respond to a request for comment. But while Aruna is out of the picture, plans for the 3D telecasts seem to be going forward. FIFA says it is now handling the rights directly, and Sensio says it is pressing on with its work, just working directly with FIFA instead of with Aruna. FIFA will use Sensio's format to send the out-of-home telecast and will tap into Sensio's network of Live3D-enabled theaters worldwide.

By David S. Cohen, Variety

World Cup to Include 2D-3D Conversions

The production of select World Cup matches in stereo 3D will include camera angles converted from 2D HD into 3D. The vast majority of coverage will be captured in native 3D, but certain shots may be up-converted in order to deliver the best possible presentation of the action.

World Cup host broadcaster HBS is looking to convert occasional 2D shots from the armory of its 32 2D HD camera positions to augment the eight angles it is deploying per match in stereo 3D.

“Inevitably in this development phase of 3D there will be a need to include some 2D,” said Peter Angell, HBS Director of Production & Programming and FIFA special 3D project leader. “The technical challenge is finding the right way to do that. For example, if there’s a particular incident (such as the Zinedine Zidane head-butt in the 2006 World Cup Final) which has only been captured on a 2D camera, or a 2D camera has the best angle, then editorially that shot is critical to the story and we would be penalising the viewer if that weren’t included.”

Angell notes that some European broadcasters have cut 2D coverage into 3D OBs “which works for a short duration where the value of the shot itself is high enough.

“We have to be judicious about it,” he insisted. “The goal is to tell the story as well as possible but that doesn’t mean littering the coverage with 2D shots. Ideally we need a means of cross-conversion that retains enough of the 3D image so that it makes sense in the story we tell.”

HBS is yet to determine exactly how the 2D-3D conversion will happen, with a number of potential technology solutions still under investigation, including using the video effects function of the Sony vision mixer to create a ‘pseudo-3D’ image from 2D camera.

By Adrian Pennington, TVB Europe

Principles of 3D Video and Blu-ray 3D

An interesting white paper by CyberLink.

3DTV Broadcasting Development Center Website has Opened

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) announced the formal opening of the 3DTV Broadcasting Development Center website. At 3DTV Broadcasting Development Center website, you can access 3DTV and latest news and industry trends for 3DTV. Also, the website offers 3DTV program listings from May 19 to July 12, the trial run.

The 3DTV Promotion Center (actual center located in Kangnam) is where you can experience 3DTV broadcasting without charge. It has opened to increase public understanding of 3DTV. 3D trial services by Skylife, various contents via Blu-ray Disc player are available. And you can check the high definition experiments broadcasting 3DTV planned to start from October. The opening hours are 10 am to 5 pm from Mon to Fri.

Since 3DTV is getting popular, the website is very helpful for understanding 3DTV for the public and to develop the technology in the long run.

Source: The Korea IT Times

DVB's New Standards for HD Delivery

Since the early 1990s, the Digital Video Broadcasting Project has been working on developing open standards for digital video over broadcast TV, satellite, cable and mobile. Today the not-for-profit consortium, based in Geneva, has over 250 members -- broadcasters, equipment manufacturers, network operators, regulatory bodies and others -- and its open standards are widely used around the world, with more than 500 million DVB receivers deployed. In this interview, DVB executive director Peter Siebert talks about the development of 3DTV.

You have also been working on 3D?
Yes, though we are focusing on a specific segment in the overall transmission chain. We focus at the input of the set-top box and we are working to specify the necessary signaling so that, for example, a set-top box knows if a program is 2D or 3D. That is what we are doing in the first phase of 3D. But there will certainly be a second phase where we go beyond frame compatible approach. We expect the documents will be finalized on this by the end of the year.

Of course, as I said, it is only a piece of the chain that we are doing and other organizations are doing other parts of the chain. MPEG [Motion Picture Experts Group] and SMPTE [Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers] will do coding, and HDMI [High-Definition Multimedia Interface] is the interface. Then, of course, maybe one day, you potentially could have standards for the displays.

Another area that we are focusing on for 3D is subtitles, so that the set-top box needs to know where in the third dimension the subtitles should be placed. This information must be transmitted to the set-top box, and we are looking into how best to do this.

How quickly do you see 3D progressing in Europe?
I think you have to look at two different camps. On one side, you have the pay TV providers, who see 3D as a possibility to generate a new premium offer to their users and get their users to pay extra money for a premium offer. On the other side, you have the broadcasters who see the cost involved with 3D and have no means to off load this cost to their customer because they are free to air.

So I think the pay TV operators have quite positive view of 3D. They are quite interested and keen to introduce new services and I think they will watch Sky [in the U.K.] very closely to see how successful they are with the service. If Sky is successful, I think they will jump on the bandwagon whereas free to air broadcasters are a little more reluctant and are taking a more wait-and-see position.

By George Winslow, Multichannel News

Reliance Ramps Up 3D Capability

Films like Avatar, with its record-shattering $2.7 billion global boxoffice, Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans, have convinced studios to spend extra cash and add a third dimension to movies to boost boxoffice earnings.

While film directors like Cameron debate whether converting 2D films to 3D, or filming directly in 3D, is the best way forward in the future, studios are using conversions as the most cost-effective way to meet audience demand.

Reliance MediaWorks, part of the conglomerate owned by billionaire Anil Ambani, has begun training more than 2,700 artists to make 2D pictures into 3D in the next year or so. Based in India, they aim to process between 10 to 15 films per year, each worth between $8-15 million to the company, targeting "blue chip" projects from major Hollywood studios.

"We are looking at focusing on A-list clients," Anil Arjun, CEO of Reliance MediaWorks, told Reuters. "And while scale is important, volume is not necessarily the key driver," he said.

Experts in the field warn that the laborious task of high-quality conversion is complex, but Reliance hopes to prove doubters wrong with its first film, likely this year.

When asked if he thought the 3D project a risky one at time of economic uncertainty, Arjun replied: "In 2009, probably the worst year for the world economy, the film industry grew substantially. And we also focus on next-generation applications like 2D to 3D and high definition."

Exploding Growth
In fact, the industry installing digital projection systems in theatres, anticipating huge future demand for 3D films. The number of digital movie screens in European Union countries, for example, went from about 1,500 in 2008 to nearly 4,700 in 2009, according to industry group MEDIA Salles. And consumer electronic makers such as Sony are just now starting to ramp up 3D TV set production for homes.

To insure quality, Reliance has linked with In-Three, an established 3D player in Hollywood which shared its technology and will oversee its progress via information sent down Reliance's high capacity fiber-optic cable.

"They reckon that a film like Clash of the Titans, even though the 3D was very poorly received (by critics), probably added $20 million to the opening weekend boxoffice in the United States," said Patrick von Sychowski, head of strategy at Film and Media Services, Reliance MediaWorks.

"That means (the conversion) probably paid for itself...in the opening weekend, so...it's something that studios are willing to spend on because they see the immediate paybacks. Right now, on the back of Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, everybody wants every one of their (major) titles to be in 3D. The world has only just woken up to 3D and you can't magically create a facility able to handle 10 to 15 titles overnight. We're ramping up really quickly."

As well as 2D to 3D conversion, another 1,200 artists will restore old films so they can be watched in high definition.

Damian Wader, vice president of business development at In-Three, said the Reliance tie-in was not about acquiring cheap labor in India, but did concede that it would represent significant savings.

"It's not this cheap labor that everybody keeps quoting," he told Reuters. "It is skilled labor. There's no doubt about it. But it certainly is done in a less expensive way than it would be if you ran something similar in America."

He added that providing another company with the company's technology should only help boost the nascent business.

"We already have turned people away," he said. "There's so much work to be done out there, we need to work together."

By Mike Collett-White, Reuters

Videogamers to Play in 3D

Stereoscopic 3D gaming hasn't really caught on, but it has certainly captured its share of headlines over the past 12 months. Now, one of the videogame industry's largest publishers says it expects the technology to break through into the mainstream within two years. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, in a recent earnings conference call, said he expects up to 50% of all games published to be 3D by 2012.

"The 3D games are going to come more and more with the TV screens that are available," he said. "We did Avatar last year, and the experience was enhanced by the 3D experience. On 360, PS3 but also maybe on portable machines. So we can count on substantial growth on the 3D aspect just because it's more immersive."

Guillemot expects 15%-20% of 2011's games to be 3D, with an even bigger jump the subsequent year. Ubisoft, so far, is the only company to push 3D on the console front. Avatar broke new ground with its stereoscopic 3D effects, but the game (which was also playable in 2D) was a sales disappointment -- and had a hand in the company's €60 million ($73.6 million) operating loss last fiscal year.

That's not stopping other publishers from dipping their toes in the water, though. Electronic Arts chief operating officer John Schappert recently announced the company would "show a marquee title in breathtaking 3D" at the upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo, the annual tradeshow of the videogame convention.

Also at E3, Nintendo will unveil its handheld gaming device -- the 3DS, which the company says offers stereoscopic 3D images without the need for special glasses. Despite growing competition from Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch, Nintendo is still the leader in the handheld market, meaning it will likely have substantial support from third-party game publishers.

Even with the 3DS and Sony's recent update to the PlayStation 3 making it 3D capable, Guillemot's claim is a bold one. 3D TV sets are still new to the market. While the adoption rate has been a bit more enthusiastic than some manufacturers were expecting, there's still a lot of ground to cover before there is a notable installed base.

Microsoft, for its part, says the Xbox 360 is capable of 3D gaming, but it has not shown a lot of interest in enabling the system to showcase the feature.

It's not hard for developers to add stereoscopic 3D effects to titles, and the cost is relatively low. However, doing so cuts a game's frame rate in half, which detracts from the experience. Many industry insiders say the real boom in stereoscopic 3D gaming will come with the next generation of consoles, which will be able to support the effect and still be able to boast 60 frames per second of gameplay.

By Chris Morris, Variety

World’s First 3D TV Terrestrial Transmission is On Air

Digital transmission specialist Broadcast Australia has today become the first to broadcast three-dimensional television (3D TV) signals terrestrially over the air. The trial 3D TV service was switched-on at Broadcast Australia’s Gore Hill transmission site in Sydney at 00:00 this morning.

This landmark 3D broadcast service launches a two-month trial undertaken by Nine Network Australia and SBS Corporation. The service will be turned-on progressively in seven major Australian cities over the next few weeks. As the major transmission partner in some of these cities, Broadcast Australia, working with TX Australia, will deliver to Australian fans up to 15 matches from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, plus three rugby league matches from the 2010 State of Origin Series between NSW and Queensland, live in 3D.

“Broadcast Australia is thrilled to be involved in this trial and to broadcast the first-ever 3D TV content via terrestrial means,” said Broadcast Australia’s Managing Director Graeme Barclay. “We applaud the ACMA’s decision to grant the temporary license to Nine and SBS jointly, allowing Australia to help demonstrate the future possibilities for new broadcast technology platforms. It is this sort of innovation that highlights the need to reserve new broadcast spectrum for new broadcast services in the Government’s forthcoming spectrum plan.”

In a fast-tracked engineering project, Broadcast Australia has modified several of its broadcast transmission systems to support the 3D TV signal, which is encoded using the latest MPEG-4 compression standard and utilises a side-by-side ‘frame compatible’ 3D transmission technique. These systems have been integrated into Broadcast Australia’s Network Operations Centre (NOC) in Sydney, for 24-hour monitoring and control of the 3D signal. The spectrum used for the trial is one of the ‘unassigned’ UHF channels in each city—in Sydney, it is the same channel vacated on 30 April 2010 by Broadcast Australia’s ‘niche TV’ trial service.

The first live 3D TV broadcast will take place on 26 May, when the first State of Origin match is scheduled to be played in Sydney. This will be followed by two more State of Origin matches and up to 15 World Cup soccer matches until the trial ends in mid July. In the meantime, demonstration 3D content will be broadcast from Broadcast Australia’s Gore Hill site.

Source: Broadcast Australia

Spain's TV3 Bets on 3D

Spain's Catalan public broadcaster TV3 will initiate its first 3D broadcasts this coming Saturday. Through its test 3D channel TV3HD, the company will offer 3D documentaries. It will also produce and distribute the signal of the final of the Champions League in 3D. That feed will be available worldwide. By means of this actions Televisió de Catalunya, TV3's owner sets the basis of its will to innovate and of its bet on new technologies.

The documentary series the Catalan broadcaster will offer on a weekly basis was shot in HD through the Cineflex system which is unique in Europe. Its image quality, the features of the venues chosen for the production and the technical resources (HD cameras, helicopters) guarantee the spectacular images in 3D.

Format Side by Side has been chosen for the 3D broadcasts as it is one of the most internationally renowned. This format sends two images on the same channel, one addressed to the right eye and the other addressed to the left eye. What a viewer would watch on a non-adapted 3D TV set is the screen divided in two different images which are apparently equal. Those equipments adapted to 3D match the two images in one.

This is the first step of a series of further 3D offerings of the Catalan broadcaster in the future.

By Iñaki Ferreras, Rapid TV News

Toshiba Mobile Display Develops OCB Liquid Crystal Panel for 3D Glasses

Toshiba Mobile Display has developed an OCB (Optically Compensated Bend) liquid crystal display panel for 3D glasses suitable for watching 3D television, enjoying 3D movies, or playing 3D games.

A 3D image is created by providing slightly different images to your left and right eyes. There are two methods of separating a picture into left and right images: one uses special glasses, and the other is without glasses, called auto-stereoscopy. The with-glasses approach is applied to movies and TV, and there are two primary methods: one uses polarizing filters, and the other is based on time division. This new LCD panel employs the latter time-based, with-glasses approach.

In the time-division with-glasses method, images for the left and right eyes appear alternately, with the special glasses working as a synchronous shutter. That is, when the left image appears, the left liquid crystal shutter opens while the right shutter closes. When the right image appears the right shutter opens while the left shutter closes. Repeating this operation at high speed allows the user to synthesize the left and right images in their brain and to recognize them as a 3D image.

If the right image is sensed by the left eye, or if the left image is sensed by the right eye, double vision occurs which is called 3D crosstalk. This phenomenon degrades the quality of the resulting image and causes eye fatigue.

In this new liquid crystal display panel, suitable for application in a pair of glasses, TMD has used OCB technology to achieve both high-speed response and a wide viewing angle while maintaining high contrast. Glasses adopting these panels feature high-speed shutter opening and closing, yielding a significant reduction in 3D crosstalk. In addition, the wide viewing angle provides vivid 3D images across a wide field of view, such as in movie theaters and living rooms. Glasses adopting these panels would allow the viewer to enjoy high-quality 3D images in comfort with minimized fatigue when watching TV, viewing a movie, or playing a game for a long time.

Source: Toshiba Mobile Display

"Grizzly" Gang Takes 3D Leap of Faith

While Hollywood ponders when and how to convert library titles to 3D, one content owner is making a leap of faith into the stereoscopic format. Family and faith-based production company Grizzly Adams Prods. is joining forces with 2D-to-3D conversion company Passmore Labs to convert its entire library, some 700 programs totaling around 500 hours, to stereoscopic 3D. Company says the a project is expected to cost $200 million over seven years.

That makes it the largest 3D conversion project announced to date, whether measured by number of programs, total hours or cost.

The majors have been sending footage out for tests and pondering when and how to convert library titles to 3D but have been slow to move ahead, in part due to concerns over the number of 3D screens.

Lightstorm Entertainment producer Jon Landau recently told Daily Variety that a 3D version of Titanic is "going to happen," though the project has not been officially greenlit and a conversion vendor has not been named. George Lucas has said he will convert the Star Wars pics to 3D, and those plans are firming up, though that project, too, has yet to be greenlit.

David Balsiger, senior producer and VP at Grizzly Adams, told Daily Variety : "If you get in on the beginning of the trend, you can get a big piece of the market. If we can get ours done ahead of (the studios) with very little product on the shelf, we should establish ourselves as a pretty good come-to source for family entertainment."

Passmore decided getting in early makes sense and has arranged funding through a combination of private placements and internal financing. The company will split revenue with Grizzly Adams Prods., which is putting up only about $250,000 but will handle marketing and distribution.

The first 20 programs to be converted are being selected now, with 75-100 titles to be converted annually. Balsiger said the initial group will include five faith-based programs, programming on UFOs and some of the company's higher-rated documentaries.

Balsiger said religious networks have also indicated to him that they are looking at starting a 3D channel. "We'll probably be their only supplier," he predicted. Another target market for the venture: megachurches, which are installing 3D-capable projectors.

Greg Passmore of San Diego-based Passmore Labs said, "We're doing it because the Grizzly Adams library is a unique demographic. We think it's an underserved market."

Conversion has already been completed on one title, Shroud of Turin doc The Fabric of Time. Family-friendly feature Friends for Life is due for 3D homevid release within six weeks.

Some of the Grizzly Adams library is standard definition and will need to be converted to high-def as well.

The Grizzly Adams TV series is not among the first group of programs to get the 3D treatment. However, an original 3D movie reboot, Grizzly Adams Begins, is on the slate. Pic is among 18 original features covered under the agreement, all of which will be shot 2D and converted to 3D by Passmore.

Passmore Labs, which has converted the original Night of the Living Dead, generally specializes in niche pics and programs. Passmore added that the company is pursuing other niche libraries for future conversions, all aimed at TV and homevideo. He conceded that the conversion process is very labor intensive and "outrageously expensive for television" at around $10,000 per minute, though he expects that figure to come down over time.

Passmore added that the project would require "an insane amount of capacity," so company expects to triple its workforce, which is mostly in Manila, with programmers in San Diego and Russia and a sales office in Los Angeles.

Grizzly Adams and Passmore management were encouraged to make this commitment by brisk sales for the first 3D TV units and a projection by Futuresource Consulting that 45% of U.S. households will have a 3D television set in four years.

But Passmore says his company and Grizzly Adams are prepared to wait for their return should the rollout take longer. Passmore said, "This is either the smartest thing or the stupidest thing I've ever done in my life, and it'll probably be 10 years before I know which."

By David S. Cohen, Variety