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