3D Distribution

A white paper by Grass Valley.

World Cup 3D Production Proves Fertile Testing Ground for Sony

For four weeks, the World Cup in South Africa is serving as a fertile testing ground for live 3D sports production. Sony is sponsoring the 3D production of 25 matches and providing much of the equipment being used to do so, so the company hopes to come out of this month knowing not how to make 3D images, but how to make good 3D images. Through the first half of the tournament, Sony has learned a great deal and is already applying that knowledge to its next project – possibly the 2012 Olympics.

“Every game gets a little bit better,” explains Robert Willox, director of marketing for Sony Professional. “I think they’re really in a position now where they’re telling a story with the equipment.”

Equipping the Host with a Host of Equipment
That equipment includes 6-7 camera rigs for each game, each comprised of two Sony HDC-1500 cameras mounted on Element Technica rigs. Sony HKC-T1500 block adapters in the mobile production trucks enable flexibility in the setup of those rigs, but the locations of the cameras are not quite ideal.

“We made a decision to telecast this in 3D after they’d started selling tickets, so you really have to work with the venue to find camera positions,” Willox explains. “The field level slash positions are great, but the positions that are up in the stands have to be renegotiated.”

A Sony MVS-8000G production switcher with a 3D software package is installed in each production truck, along with 24- and 42-inch LMD series 3D monitors. PVM 23-inch monitors are utilized to view camera setup and channel balance. The matches are recorded in HDCAM SR (SRW-5800) with full-bandwidth left- and right-eye signals on a single tape.

Help Is On Site
Sony’s MPE-200 multi-image processor with MPES-3D01 stereo image processing software controls the rigs, maintains camera alignment, and corrects for image geometry and color matching, among other errors. The MPE-200 was developed at a Sony research lab in England and the engineers who worked on it are on site in South Africa.

“If they need to revise something or if they find a problem, there’s a pretty quick feedback loop back to the code writers,” Willox explains. “This is as big as an Olympics for us in terms of technology. We need to be ready if there is a need to add some 3D capability to London [for the 2012 Olympics,] so whatever we do here is a huge learning ground.”

No More 2D Equipment for 3D Productions
Most of the equipment currently used for 3D was designed around 2D requirements, and is being re-tasked to work in 3D, but Willox says those quick fixes will soon hit the end of their life cycles.

“We’re going to have to make 3D-specific technologies, but we don’t want to build until we know that this is really going to fly,” Willox says.

Lenses, however, is one part of the production process where companies cannot afford not to build. In an over-under rig, positioning an older lens with the lens barrel pointing straight down toward the mirror can pose some problems.

“It’s not designed to work in that mode, so the zoom motor might not be smooth enough to move as easily vertically as it does horizontally, or it may sag a little bit,” Willox explains. “Working with the compound rigs and mirrors is really tough. Taking yesterday’s lens technology and adapting it for today’s events can be the most taxing.”

Two by Two for Life
One way to avoid some of that taxing work, Willox says, is to identify pairs of lenses that work well together, and keep them in pairs for their entire life.

“And if you can keep that pair of lenses with that camera, on that rig, that’s most preferable,” Willox explains. “In a lot of ways it’s like working with that 1977 technology where you had that one lens that worked with that one set of satcoms. You would like to keep everything together.”

Creative Opportunities
On the creative side, 3D enables camera operators to finally leave the 4:3 “safe area” and use the full 16:9 screen area, as there is no letterboxing in 3D. In 3D, graphics can be pushed to the true edge of the picture and the full screen can be utilized for game action.

“After 16:9 being available for 10 years, let’s start optimizing for it,” Willox says.

By Carolyn Braff, Sports Video Group

At World Cup, ESPN 3D Focuses on Transmission

Host Broadcast Services is providing all of the creative personnel in charge of producing 25 World Cup matches in 3D. While that personnel arrangement means that ESPN’s 3D directors do not get a chance to practice their craft in South Africa, the network is free to focus on the transmission of the 3D signals, which provides a great opportunity for ESPN to test the waters before its full 3D schedule of events kicks off in earnest.

“From the 3D perspective, our efforts down there are all about transmitting the signal, and that’s been relatively good,” explains Jonathan Pannaman, senior director of technology for ESPN. “We’ve got some new encoding technology that has given us a few blips but they’re not really 3D-related problems, just new technology-related problems, which is good.”

ESPN is benefiting immensely from working on the transmission of the World Cup in 3D precisely because the network is not involved with the production. With transmission the sole focus of the ESPN 3D team in South Africa, that group can learn the ins and outs of the transmission process before ESPN’s 3D production debut at the Home Run Derby in July.

To get the 3D signals back from South Africa, ESPN is utilizing new encoding technology developed in-house.

“They’re MPEG4 encoders, but there’s a scheme developed between them,” Pannaman explains. “One is the master and it sends timing information to the other encoder, the slave. That information gets embedded in the stream, so that wherever you pick up those two streams, the decoder can see that timing information.”

At the decode end, there is also a master and a slave. The master sends the time that it has just received to the slave. The slave outputs the stream, lining up the time that it receives on the incoming stream with that of the master.

“The whole key is the synchronization,” Pannaman explains. “We also don’t reduce the resolution of the two discreet eyes before we get it back, which is huge.”

The signals travel via fiber from South Africa to Bristol on two paths, one across the Atlantic Ocean and one across the Pacific Ocean.

“One’s slightly longer than the other,” Pannaman smiles. “It’s coming back on dual path.”

So far during this World Cup, ESPN has run into one hurdle that had the potential to cause a huge problem.

“We did have a situation where one eye was one field out,” Pannaman explains. “It’s 1/16 of a second, a tiny problem, but when the guy is running, his legs would look like Edward Scissorhands. It’s a subtle problem that I’m sure after a while would get very fatiguing. We didn’t air it, we resolved it, but that slight timing error was enough to throw everything out of whack.”

By Carolyn Braff, Sports Video Group

3D Plasma Display Panel TV to Represent Over 86% of All PDP TVs in 2013

Displaybank announced that the share of 3D Plasma Display Panel (PDP) TV is expected to represent over 86% of all PDP TVs in 2013. According to recently published "3D TV Industry Trend and Market Forecast" report, PDP industry is to gradually expand 3D capable products that allow technical benefit and increased profitability that most PDP TV will be equipped with 3D function in 2013.

Panasonic currently manufacture 3D TV in all HD and FHD models (excluding 37-inch) and Samsung SDI manufacture 3D TV in 50-, 58- and 63-inch FHD model. LG Electronics is preparing 50- and 60-inch FHD model to sequentially launch 3D PDP TV starting from July. PDP makers are expected to equip 3D function to 42-inch HD PDP TV products that comprise highest share, from next year and 50-inch HD 3D TV is expected to be launched within this year.

3D Lineup by Major PDP TV Maker

3D PDP TV is expected to appeal to consumers from more reasonable price perspective point as the product widens price gap from highly priced 3D LED LCD TV. Compared to LCD, PDP has relatively lesser cost increase factors that consequently lead to increased profitability on PDP industry such that the share of 3D PDP TV in all PDP TV market is expected to sharply increase.

3D PDP TV Penetration Forecast

Jusy Hong, senior analyst in Display research group at Displaybank noted "PDP industry suffers from lesser production capacity as well as marketing capability compared to LCD and from not having new investments that market expansion will become difficulty due to the limit in production even with the recognition coming from consumers. 3D PDP TV will remain at the limit of replacing 2D PDP TV under the limited PDP TV market."

Source: Displaybank

The Anatomy of a “Good Start”

Like a milepost on the way to market, a recent study by NPD Group shows that $55M in 3D-capable flat-panel TVs and BRD players were sold in the US in the first three months since their launch in February. In just going with the numbers, the mainstream press seize on the fact that the $55M in sales or about 20K sets represents just a tiny fraction of total TV sales.

To help put things in perspective, Riddhi Patel of iSuppli said, "Shipments of all types of LCD-TVs are expected to hit 170M this year, while shipments of LED-backlit sets will reach only 26M globally in 2010."

Insight Media pegs the 2010 3D sales number at 3.3M units, or just about 2% (1.94%) of iSuppli’s total unit TV sales number.

Global sales in 3D technology are likely to range between 50M units by 2015 (Insight Media forecast) to 78M units (iSuppli forecast) by the end of that year. According to Patel, "Robust growth of 3DTV sales appears to be assured during the next few years." But she cautions that full adoption of 3DTV is still hampered by issues of "standardization, content availability and interoperability of the 3D glasses."

But that’s just the point, anyone buying a 3DTV capable set today is either an early adopter, or wanting to "future-proof" a flat screen purchase they would have made anyway. For now, we see home 3D viewing as event driven, not a ubiquitous upgrade that forces the family to wear glasses every time they turn the set on, but rather an enhancement that adds to the viewing experience.

But does the $55M in sales represent a good start, or slow start for the industry? The LA Times took up the question today, with the headline: "3-D TV sets are selling, but no instant craze." They quote the NPD study and estimate that 20K sets were sold to make the $55M number. Then, they turned to CEA to get an overall 7M sets sold in the same period. That’s just 0.28% of the total sets sold in the same period. Let’s call that 3 TV sets out of every 1000 sets sold in the US were 3D capable in the first three months of sales.

At face value, it does seem like a slow start… But we think the early numbers suggests that the 3D CE-product market is about to catch fire among consumers. And, the party is just beginning, according to Ross Rubin, executive director at NPD. "3DTV and Blu-ray players are seeing steady growth even as major product line launches are slated for the coming months," he said.

In Europe, GfK Group said 25K 3DTVs had been sold by the end of May. Samsung was first over there with a 40-inch 3D set (UE40C7000) that started selling in late February, but the company recently upgraded its offering with a larger 46-inch display (UE46C8000) currently going head-to head with Panasonic’s 50-inch 3D capable PDP set. The point is, this is still early days for 3D in the US and Europe with plenty to still be worked out by the industry.

Also, the NPD numbers do not show some major 3D product rollouts (i.e. Sony’s), which hit the market in July, nor do they reflect the spike in demand some analysts predicted would come from the World Cup finals and their broadcast (in part) in 3D by ESPN.

Add to this a recent Parks study that looks at 3D content preference that seems to indicate 3D films will drive sales with 40% of the respondents saying they are interested in viewing movies in 3D on their TV. The string of 3D box office hits coming out of Hollywood of late will help drive demand for home 3D viewing even further.

So take your pick, is the glass half full, or half empty? "3DTV will be a premium home entertainment experience in 2010," said NPD’s Rubin. We agree, the road ahead for 3DTV adoption seems to be clear, particularly in mature TV regions like the US and Europe. There are still bumps to navigate. This includes quality of 3D content, availability of 3D content, as well as standards and interoperability issues (for both the TV sets, content delivery and glasses). Nevertheless, we see the summer 3D blockbusters and special 3D sports venues helping to heat up the market, giving those early adopters something new to show off in the living room.

By Steve Sechrist, Display Daily

BBC 3D Olympics Moves Closer to Reality

The BBC has said that is looking to video both the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics in the 3D format. However, the corporation has emphasized that while it intends to capture the Olympics in 3D, this is not committing to their transmission. Last week, the BBC’s head of 3D and HD Danielle Nagler told the 3D Masters Conference that in addition to the ceremonies selected events from the 2012 Summer Olympics would also be included.

“The BBC is considering a small number of 3DTV editorial experiments in the lead up to the 2012 Olympics. These experiments will be undertaken with editorial and technology partners to explore the creative potential of the new format, evaluate the different technology options and help us contribute to the standardisation process,” a BBC spokesperson told Broadband TV News. “As is always the case with technological innovations, BBC is committed to exploring 3D developments in television on behalf of licence payers to examine how they may add to the delivery of our public service objectives.”

Any 3D coverage would have to be discussed with the BBC’s fellow members in the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and would ultimately need to be approved by the host broadcaster, Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS).

The prospect of 3D coverage of the Olympics was first mooted at IBC 2009 by the BBC’s director for London 2012 Roger Mosey. He indicated the possibility of an Olympics both in 3D and Super HD, largely delivered to public displays. Since then the launch of regular 3D services by broadcasters including BSkyB and ESPN has brought the prospect of an in-home service closer to reality.

By Julian Clover, Broadband TV News

Dolby Publishes 3D Spec

As promised at NAB earlier this year, Dolby Laboratories has now released an open specification for broadcast 3D delivery, describing how 3D images can be encoded and carried using frame-compatible techniques through a conventional 2D broadcast infrastructure. As stated in their materials, the Dolby 3D Frame Compatible Open Standard is fully compatible with enhancement layer approaches, enabling extensibility to full-resolution 3D in the future.

Dolby’s specification incorporates the following recommendations: (1) side-by-side decimation and packing should be adopted as the method of implementing frame-compatible 3D systems, for both progressive and interlaced systems; (2) a complementary left-eye/right-eye decimation structure should be adopted, as this provides higher resolution at the screen plane in the case of 3D images, and it is also capable of providing full-resolution 2D images in the 3D SbS format without the need for receiver mode switching; and (3) if only one format is used for decimation and packing, it is not necessary to provide detailed signaling for these parameters down to the display. The image shows what Dolby means by complementary decimation.

In arriving at the spec (which carries the weight of an industry recommendation), Dolby studied the relative performance of the side-by-side (SbS), over/under (O/U), and checkerboard ("Quincunx") presentation formats. In brief, the spec recommends the use of the SbS 3D presentation for maximum compatibility with 2D systems as well as high performance for 3D encoding.

To arrive at a frame-compatible format, images must be down-sampled, so that two frames (i.e., from the left and right images) fit into the timing and bandwidth of one. Dolby tests showed that the compression efficiency for SbS (w/ MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 coding) was very similar to that of O/U. However, as a significant amount of legacy material is still produced in interlaced format, SbS is preferred, as it results in horizontal down-sampling, compared with the vertical down-sampling required for O/U, which is a more artifact-prone process when interlace is used.

Dolby also considered the two classes of horizontal decimation available for the left- and right-eye images: "common" decimation, where the resultant left and right images are formed by taking the same-parity pixels (e.g., all even) from the original left and right images, and "complementary" decimation, where the resultant left and right images are formed by taking the alternate-parity pixels (e.g., left-even, right-odd) from the respective originals. They also studied three situations: 3D half-resolution performance in SbS, 2D images encoded as SbS, and the efficiency of enhancement layer coding; for all of these, they found that complementary decimation works best.

When decimating images (or any signal, for that matter), some pre-filtering is required in order to minimize aliasing artifacts. However, because the human visual system (HVS) will fuse the left and right images, complementary decimation will provide the highest resolution (within the pre-filtering used) at the vergence point of 3D images. When 2D images are transmitted, Dolby says that it is preferable not to switch to conventional 2D processing, as many display systems cannot switch cleanly within a frame time. Therefore, Dolby recommends that 2D content be encoded as 3D SbS with complementary decimation; in fact, no pre-filtering is theoretically needed, as the HVS will fuse the images into a single, full-resolution alias-free image. This does, however, require signaling to the receiver to switch off the interpolation reconstruction filter; as this signaling is not present in current displays, some amount of pre-filtering may be desirable.

Dolby tests also showed significant overall gain in coding (enhancement) efficiency for 2D content, and for those portions of 3D content at the screen plane. Side-by-side formatting with complementary decimation therefore appears to solve a number of problems in 3D content transmission, and has the added benefit of reducing decoding hardware complexity in receivers, which should result in smaller memory size and less additional a/v sync delay. At the same time, because compression for wireless transmission may not achieve the signal quality afforded by disc media, it would be interesting to see additional data regarding the effects of lossy (perhaps even heavy) compression on the 3D image reconstruction (decoding) process.

This "specification" is really just a Dolby industry recommendation since specifications are issued by international standards bodies such as SMPTE or ISO. Dolby has made no announcement about submitting this to a standards-setting body so we must assume they have not.

Is there any Dolby IP in this? According to Dolby, "Dolby Laboratories, Inc. does not require consideration for the use of the information regarding base layer contained in this document. If Dolby Laboratories, Inc. develops an enhancement layer technology (see section 5 of this document), then a license to use such technology will be required."

As for who follows this Dolby recommendation, the value they have in the Hollywood production environment could get them a lot of clout with content distributors such as cable and satellite. 3D in broadcast ATSC is a different issue and it may be years before any significant standard is developed.

By Aldo Cugnini, Display Daily

Arqiva Plans Terrestrial 3D Tests

UK transmission company Arqiva is working on a terrestrial 3D test using the Service Compatible format favoured by public service broadcasters. Initial transmissions would be conducted outside of London to a closed user group. Arqiva has confirmed that following a series of internal tests, it was currently seeking rights clearance for some selected 3D content, though an initial licence application was already with Ofcom.

“What we’re trying to do is understand the techniques that we would have to employ and make to work if the BBC want to go down this route. With the digital dividend it may be that we have more T2 networks in the future and they may well want to do 3D if it is established by then and there is sufficient volume of 3D displays out there,” explained Mike Brooks, Arqiva’s head of technical development, DVB-T2. “The T2 network that we’re rolling out [in HD] is for a specific customer, the BBC’s public service multiplexes, so in terms of what the BBC are going to do that would be a question for them.”

“As you look at the technology development, Sky has generally lead with PVRs and set-top boxes, so what we want to do is to start look where we need to develop some of the Freeview-type services,” said Steve Holebrook, managing director, terrestrial broadcast, Arqiva. “Sky’s methodology of deploying this is right for them. They’ve got lots of bandwidth so they can broadcast a completely separate signal and take up the bandwidth that’s there. In general terms, Freeview has a degree of constraint on bandwidth, so we’re looking at different techniques that still allow us to deliver the same types of service to the customer but in a more efficient way.”

Service Compatible broadcasts a regular high definition signal to all viewers, while using additional data to complete the picture for those homes with a 3D display.

Holebrook confirmed that a number of tests had already been conducted “on the bench” and the next stage was to look at doing this over the terrestrial network. “We’ve been able to look at 2D plus Delta, which is significantly more efficient from a bandwidth perspective, which is vitally important for a DTT-type service, we’ve shown it working on the bench and think we can deploy it on a DTT network”.

Earlier this week Danielle Nagler, the BBC’s head of HD and 3D, told the 3D Masters conference that the BBC is looking to capture both the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics, along with selected events, in the 3D format.

Any 3D coverage would have to be discussed with the BBC’s fellow members in the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and would ultimately need to be approved by the host broadcaster, Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS).

Brooks said that the present ‘spare’ bandwidth within the UK’s only DVB-T2/MPEG-4 multiplex would be insuffcient for the additional 3D data required under the service compatible format.

By Julian Clover, Broadband TV News

SARFT, MIIT Develop 3D TV Standards

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) of China has begun formulating industry standards for 3D TV broadcasting, Sina reports June 21 citing an unnamed official from SARFT's Academy of Broadcasting Planning. Approximately seven to eight domestic TV stations have plans to launch stereoscopic channels or programs, according to the report.

The China Electronics Standardization Institute (CESI), an affiliate of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, is compiling a glossary of 3D television-related terms and is developing 3D television image quality tests, a separate Beijing Youth Daily report said citing the organization's senior engineer Zhang Subing.

Source: PacificEpoch

Technicolor, 3D partner of CANAL+ Group for 2010 FIFA World Cup

Technicolor announced that it is providing play-out services to the CANAL + Group for live 3D broadcast of 2010 FIFA World Cup matches, which began June 11 in South Africa. Working at the Technicolor play-out facility in Saint-Cloud (France), Technicolor specialists are handling live 3D program reception and broadcast, as well as insertion of additional 3D content and commentary from CANAL + sports journalists.

The broadcasts are carried on a dedicated CANAL+ 3D channel, launched June 8 by the CANAL+ Group. This is the first time in France that 3D content has been broadcast live, with full play-out services, including insertion of dynamic graphics.

Source: Technicolor

Sisvel to License TDVision Systems IP Portfolio

TDVision Systems and Sisvel announced that TDVision has granted Sisvel the exclusive rights to manage TDVision's diverse intellectual property portfolio of stereoscopic technology patents. This portfolio includes key patents related to current digital video standards and video gaming technologies, particularly in the North American marketplace. TDVision's technology promises to lead the way toward widespread adoption of 3D to the Home, including Blu-ray, Satellite, Cable, IPTV, Mobile, Videogames, and over-the-air signals.

TDVision's patents include the award winning and standardized 2D+Delta system. The 2D+Delta format is also known as TDVCodec and is a key part of the "Multiview Video Coding" (MVC) codec (ISO-MPEG-14496-10:2008, Amendment 1), an extension to the ITU-T H.264 Advanced Video Coding (AVC) recently adopted by the Blu-ray(TM) Disc Association as the Blu-ray 3D(TM) specification.

Terms and conditions of Sisvel's new 3D Licensing Program with TDVision will be made available in the near future.

Source: Sisvel

HBS 3D Efforts Continue to Evolve During World Cup Tourney

The 3D buzz at the World Cup continues to build and, more importantly, find new believers both among the broadcasters who have seen the productions and the production team themselves as Host Broadcast Services (HBS) continues to refine its 3D production technique every game.

For Peter Angell, HBS director of the 3D project, and the rest of the production crew, that means that by the time they finish producing the World Cup Final in 3D on July 11 they will all be among the world’s most experienced 3D production professionals. A total of 25 games will be shot and distributed around the world in 3D and the production process has already seen significant improvements, according to all involved.

The early matches were focused on broad, basic refinements like getting comfortable of the front bench and beyond with cutting from cameras, balancing game coverage vs. maximizing the 3D effect, and more.

“Now it’s about making the production slicker, working on the quality of cutting and the timing,” says Angell. “Now we have more affinity with the 3D world…less convergence errors, less short cut.”

Approximately 10 broadcast networks and 400 theaters are distributing the World Cup 3D feed, including ESPN, Al Jazeera, SBS Korea, SBS Australia, SogeCable in Spain, TF1 and Canal+ in France.

There are two 3D production units in use for the broadcasts: a vehicle from Telegenic and another from AMP. The AMP trucks handles 3D productions in two stadiums, Ellis Park and Soccer City in Johannesburg while the Telegenic truck is handling matches in Durban, Cape Town, and Port Elizabeth.

“The positions in each venue are pretty identical so we were lucky,” says Angell. Similar positions make it easier for the production crews to work in different venues without having to massively adjust production philosophies.

The eight-camera shoot includes four cameras positioned on the main stand, lower than the main 2D camera positions, along with four on the field level. Two are behind the right hand goal, on the near and far sidelines while cameras on the left side of the field are near the player bench and behind the left hand goal.

One of the interesting discoveries is that shooting in 3D allows the production to “cross the line” of the middle of the pitch. In 2D productions if the action is moving from left to right all the camera cuts need to be from the same side of the field to prevent the viewer from getting disoriented.

“With 3D it is easier for viewers to orient themselves and there is an increased perception of where the camera is on the field,” says Angell. “So we are cutting a lot to the cameras on the reverse side of the field from the main [game] cameras.”

Lessons learned from game one include the need to frame a bit tighter into the action by shooting less wide from the main game cameras in the stands. But the challenge is making sure that the camera isn’t too tight which, in turns, requires more panning to follow the action and introduces more motion blur and compression artifacts.

“Gradually we are pushing in a little more,” says Angell.

Ironically, while the cameras in the stand are going a little tighter the cameras on the field are going a little wider. Wider shots from the field level introduce more elements that can add depth to a scene.

“We are doing safe, calm, and easily viewable 3D,” adds Angell. “We are trading some 3D value but we don’t want to overdue the 3D to the point where viewers don’t have a good time. People are biologically linked to the experience.”

Production gear used includes Canon HJ22ex7.6B portable HD ENG lenses with Sony HDC-1500 cameras brought together in Elements Technica 3D rigs which the HBS team was first exposed to at last year’s IBC in Amsterdam.

“It’s been working out really well,” says Angell. “It is flexible enough to adapt to our needs and now we can set the rigs up in two hours.”

That ability to quickly break down and set up the 3D production gear has been almost as important as the new skills related to the production. The team quickly realized that by color coding all of the equipment for a given rig it was much more easy to ship and assemble.

“Mechanically the Element Technica rigs hold their alignment very well,” says Angell. About an hour of optical adjustment is all that is required to get the cameras ready for the match.

Also helping with the quality of the production is the decision to match up a cameraman with a convergence puller. HBS even made the teamed up cameraman and convergence operators swap roles to understand how the other half live and allowing them to learn how things they do in their regular position can lead to problems for their partner. “They need to develop a close relationship,” says Angell.

The directors for the broadcasts are Bruno Hullin and Jean Charles Van Kerkoven, great 2D football directors who also are relearning their craft. Duncan Humphries, a 3D consultant, has also played an integral role in shaping the coverage.

“For the directors it is really about leaving aside their instincts and having much calmer coverage where they get down to the field-level cameras as early as possible,” says Angell. “That’s where the interesting 3D shots are.”

By Ken Kerschbaumer, Sports Video Group

TV Globo Keen on 2D/3D Conversion

One of the main themes to emerge from the 3DTV World Forum in May was the relative merits of shooting native 3DTV content versus up-conversion from 2D to 3D material. The most popular view was that creating native 3DTV is the best approach but it was also clear that 2D/3D conversion also has its supporters.

One of them was Jose Dias, Director of Multimedia R&D Department at TV Globo, the Brazilian content producer and broadcaster. And he backed his faith in the technology with a number of demonstrations including soccer and soap operas.

“We are very interested in the market opportunity for 3D but we need a continuous flow of 3D content if we want to open a television channel,” he told the London conference. “I believe conversion of 2D into 3D could be a key factor in opening a channel fairly soon. TV Globo has 2,500 hours of production every year. If we were to show our soap operas in 3D the cost would be maybe 30% higher and we would also need a large investment in equipment. So we did some trials to convert our soap operas from 2D to 3D.”

The content was converted in real-time and the effect is what Dias calls ‘negative 3D’ meaning that all the depth is behind the screen. This is actually an approach that seems to work well when content is shot natively in 3D and the demonstration TV Globo provided at the conference, with glasses, seemed reasonable quality. The company also provided examples of soccer that had been converted in the same way. The depth was clear on the close-up shots but wide angle views did not seem to provide any additional depth to the action compared to 2D viewing.

“It is not as good as shooting 3D, of course,” Dias noted. “But it is the beginning of something and it is important if you are a content producer, like we are, and you have lots of material and you want that material converted to 3D. We have some dilemmas about going to 3D, like the limitations of cameras and rigs and whether, if we shoot soccer, we should have different production crews [for 2D and 3D] or one crew for both.”

Dias offered a number of 2D to 3D conversion demonstrations, even including a sequence from a soap opera that very effectively combined studio shots with computer generated images of the background.

TV Globo also shot live 3D coverage of the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro this year, working in partnership with Sony using their new cameras, a 40 camera OB operation in total, and a six man production room. The content was transmitted as side-by-side (frame compatible) 3DTV.

By John Moulding, Videonet

3D Bottleneck at Foreign Box Office

Overseas audiences will have plenty of 3D options to choose from this summer -- perhaps too many -- as several 3D titles squeeze into a short time frame following the World Cup soccer tourney. According to some B.O. observers, the summer's 3D crunch is a result of delayed overseas bows to avoid competing with the monthlong sporting event, as well as pics stacking up to benefit from youngsters on summer vacation.

The worldwide 3D screen count stands at approximately 16,117 locations, with 5,700 in Europe and 4,300 in the Asia Pacific region. Paramount plans to launch two 3D pics, Shrek Forever After and live actioner The Last Airbender, in mid- to late July and early August, while Disney's 3D toon installment Toy Story 3 is skedded to expand to major overseas markets in Europe and Asia within weeks of the Par pair.

Studios often delay major releases until after the World Cup, ending July 11 this year, but for the first time, studios are faced with a 3D logjam caused, in part, by the tourney. Andrew Cripps, prexy of Paramount Pictures Intl., said an influx of 3D titles held over during the World Cup creates a higher-than-usual strain on 3D screens.

"The market is far more competitive in July and August than it normally would be because there are more movies trying to fit in to that time period," Cripps said. "And there are five or six major 3D movies coming into a market that may not have enough 3D screens to go around."

Shrek launched day-and-date in Russia on 354 3D screens, with $20 million, and has since cumed $48 million in that territory. Toon has grossed an overall $48 million, of which 68% came from 3D-equipped screens. Likewise, Toy Story 3 will kick off its overseas run this weekend in 25% of the overall world market, led by Russia and China, with most other territories set to follow during July and August. Disney estimates the toon will play a total of 8,700 3D screens internationally, while Par plans to screen Shrek on approximately 250-350 3D-equipped screens in major markets.

"You have to be very specific in where and how you address each market," said Disney prexy of global distribution Chuck Viane. "It's not easy, but people are so enamored by the story of Toy Story 3, overseas exhibs were very helpful at helping us line up what we believe to be the proper dates."

While targeting younger auds, Cripps said Airbender should also appeal to older demos, which could differentiate the film from the 3D toon offerings. Par will look to maintain its share of 3D screens when it launches The Last Airbender, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, during July and August. Pic will debut in the U.S. July 1, followed a week later by Russia.

The increase of 3D product is spurring efforts to meet the demand for more screens. Global digital cinema projection company Christie has established a new manufacturing facility in China to help meet the demand for 3D screens in growing Asian markets. With an estimated 5,000 total screens in 2009, China is adding an average of two every day.

"Certain 3D titles have encouraged exhibitors to keep making the investment in increasing their capacity," said Par vice chair Rob Moore. "If the movies work, people ultimately find a way to see them in 3D."

By Andrew Stewart, Variety

Panavision Projects its Technology

One of Hollywood's great names is jumping into the increasingly crowded 3D projection-tech market. Panavision, best known for its film cameras and lenses, has begun demos of its 3D projection system, offering one feature that no one else does: Its system works for 35mm film and digital projectors. The system will be formally introduced and demonstrated at Cinema Expo in Amsterdam next week. Company expects it to be available in the fourth quarter.

The Panavision 3D system, a distant cousin to Dolby's approach, uses "spectral comb filtering" to dissect the visible light spectrum into narrow bands that are split between the left and right eyes. Each eye perceives full color. Panavision's pitch is that its system offers a uniquely simple migration path. Users can get the 3D add-on for their 35mm projectors, then incur only minimal charges repurposing the system for digital projectors.

It works with a standard white screen, not the silver screen required by RealD and MasterImage. Silver screens are a major cost for exhibitors. For film, it can take the same "over-under" release prints as Technicolor 3D. Glasses are reusable and expected to cost $5-$7 each new.

"Studio reception was, in our view, positive," Panavision prexy-CEO Bill Bevins told reporters Tuesday, adding, "There are studios that have no interest in printing film 3D."

Even in Panavision's state-of-the-art screening room, 3D trailers for Avatar and Despicable Me were noticeably softer on film. Panavision execs did not disclose pricing at Tuesday's demo and said the business model is still to be determined. They expect to sell the systems outright to exhibitors. They have ruled out the per-ticket royalty model favored by RealD, but may charge a per-screening royalty. Rental and lease -- familiar to Panavision from decades of renting equipment to TV and film shoots -- are also possible.

Panavision has made only one prior venture into exhibition tech, selling some 30,000 anamorphic lenses for film projectors in the 1950s and '60s. Some exhibitors still have those lenses. Panavision is positioning its foray into projection and exhibition as a move by an established showbiz brand into new and growing markets. However, it can also be interpreted as an attempt at survival.

While the company, which is heavily in debt, is the dominant world player in film camera manufacturing and rentals, its share of the digital camera market is small. This puts it in a difficult position as film production declines while digital production is on the rise. Panavision's main digital offering, the Genesis camera, developed with Sony Electronics, competes in a crowed field that includes Sony's other digital cameras, not to mention other brands like the Alexa (made and rented by Arri, Panavision's main rival in the film space) and the increasingly popular Red.

In March, Ronald Perelman -- whose MacAndrew & Forbes Holdings also owns Deluxe -- agreed to turn Panavision back to its creditors in a financial restructuring that extends the maturity date of the company's debt. The deal cut the camera company's debt by $140 million while adding an "infusion of new money to fund strategic initiatives and ongoing operations."

"This debt-for-equity exchange provides the foundation for the creation of a long-term sustainable business model that parallels the new direction of the industry and technology," the company said in a statement at the time.

By David S. Cohen and Peter Caranicas, Variety

Strong Start for 3D TV Says GfK

Despite very few models being available, Europe saw sales of 25,000 3D TV sets by the end of May, according to new figures from GfK. With sales starting only in April and very little content available, take-up of 3D TV looks strong.

As the world starts to recover from the global financial crisis, GfK says that consumer spending on electronics such as TVs is recovering. GfK Retail and Technology is forecasting sales of 252 million televisions in 2010, up 5% from 238 million in 2009.

"Televisions generate the most sales in the consumer electronics segment. Flat-screen technology has now established itself successfully and the trend is moving towards state-of-the-art technical equipment for the home with increasingly larger TV screens,” says GfK. “Furthermore, a rising number of retailers are offering televisions with LED technology, which consume little electricity while also offering improved picture quality. The distinctions between different CE devices are increasingly blurring as consumers can, for example, access Internet pages and download videos on their televisions. Although 3D technology for the living room is currently still in its infancy, almost every notable television manufacturer does now offer TV screens with 3D settings, or will soon have them in their product range. By the end of May 2010, more than 25,000 flat screen televisions with 3D technology had already been sold in Europe."

By Rose Major, Rapid TV News

3D Motivates Comcast to Think MPEG-4

The FIFA World Cup featured on the ESPN 3D channel is the source of all the recent buzz. Carriers of the new 3D sports channel include Comcast, AT&T's U-verse and DirecTV. Whether a customer’s provider is cable, telco or satellite, viewers must own a 3D TV and glasses, but Comcast customers have an additional hurdle to jump: They also must have an MPEG-4 set-top box.

If a customer calls us and says they have a 3D TV and want to watch the World Cup, we'll provide them with an MPEG-4 set-top, said Mark Francisco, a Comcast Fellow, yesterday at a meeting of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the SCTE in Denver.

Francisco said Comcast has about 10 million MPEG-4 set-tops in the field. "3D is going to be the first MPEG-4 service that Comcast launches," he noted, adding there are some 25 million deployed set-tops capable only of MPEG-2.

According to Francisco, ESPN 3D is now available in MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, but in August, Comcast is planning to "switch the firmware that allows MPEG-4 to work. We can change our broadcast to MPEG-4," adding, "Those (MPEG-4) boxes are always associated with HD households. The vast majority are DVRs."

And the MPEG-4 set-tops are mostly Motorola boxes, he said.

News reports this week say Comcast has chosen U.K.-based Pace for its next major set-top box platform that will incorporate the Intel Media Processor CE 3100 and will be Tru2way-capable. In addition, the Pace boxes will support two HD 1080i video streams in MPEG-4 H.264.

According to Comcast's FAQ page, "Carrying 3D content in MPEG-4 format allows for greater efficiency with our network capacity, and will allow us to add even more 3D content going forward, both for linear channels and OnDemand content."

In addition to MPEG-4 compression, Francisco also mentioned switched digital video (SDV) as a way to more efficiently manage bandwidth resources for more 3D video in the future. Currently, 3D on cable basically is half resolution, and offering full-resolution 3D will require more bandwidth.

By Linda Hardesty, Cable360

DDD Broadens Scope of 3D Licence Deal with Samsung

Shares in AIM listed DDD Group Plc jumped by 7.5% to 28.75p this morning on news that the US based 3D software and content specialist had expanded the scope of its license agreement with Samsung Electronics. The new deal means the Korean electronics giant can use DDD's automatic 2D to 3D conversion technology in its new 3D consumer displays and devices.

As a result of the revised agreement, Samsung is now licensed to include the embedded 3D processing chips containing DDD's 2D to 3D conversion technology in Blu-ray players, LED and LCD monitors and large format displays. DDD said it expects that Samsung will begin shipping the first of these new product categories in early 2011 and did not currently anticipate any additional income for the 2010 financial year as a result of this change. The five-year license agreement was announced in February 2008 and involved DDD and Samsung collaborating to implement DDD's TriDef real-time 2D to 3D conversion and 3D image processing architecture in the embedded 3D processing chip developed by Samsung for their next generation 3D HDTVs and other categories of 3D consumer product.

In late January, Samsung announced that it started mass producing both light-emitting-diode (LED) and liquid-crystal-display (LCD) compatible panels for 40", 46" and 55" 3D TVs. Samsung's 3D LED, LCD and Plasma TVs are now available in many countries worldwide and it was recently reported in the South Korean 'Chosun' newspaper that Samsung has secured an estimated 90% market share of all 3D TVs shipped to date.

Chris Yewdall, DDD’s chief executive, said: “We are pleased to report continued progress in our relationship with the world's leading TV manufacturer. The quantity of chips manufactured by Samsung in the first quarter of this year was ahead of our projections and presently leaves them on target to achieve the higher end of our expectation for 2010. Expanding the license to include other high volume consumer products such as Blu-ray players and PC monitors should allow us to further increase the footprint of TriDef enabled 3D devices in 2011.”

In May, DDD raised £3.5m in a share placing priced at 25p per share in order to fund “identified opportunities” over the next 12 months. In the year to December 2009 the company posted a 138% rise in sales £1.41m and a 41% fall in losses to £0.85m.

Source: Stockopedia

Microsoft Working on Glasses-Free 3D Display

Although today's 3D displays require viewers to wear special glasses, many research groups are working toward glasses-free 3D displays. Most recently, Microsoft’s Applied Sciences Group has demonstrated a stereoscopic 3D display that projects different images to a viewer’s left and right eyes, and doesn’t require glasses. The display uses a viewer-tracking system, which consists of a camera that tracks viewers’ eyes and a lens that steers light directly into the viewers’ eyes by switching LEDs along its bottom edge on and off.

The key to the lens design is enabling it to control light in a specific way. The lens is tapered, with an 11-mm thickness at the top and a 6-mm thickness at the bottom. The LEDs shine light into the back of the lens at a certain position and angle, and the lens determines how the light bounces around and where and at what angle it escapes the lens. By replacing the traditional backlight in an LCD TV, the thin lens can turn a 2D display into a 3D display.

At this stage in development, the 3D display can project images to only two viewers, since a standard 240Hz LCD TV can project four 60Hz views. A refresh rate of 60Hz is about the slowest possible before the frames start getting jerky. At this speed, the display can also project 2D images to four people, since each viewer only needs one view. In order to accommodate more viewers, Microsoft is pushing display manufacturers to make faster LCDs. The company also hopes to increase the 20-degree viewing angle to at least 40 degrees by tweaking the lens design.

The stereoscopic 3D technology could also have applications besides 3D TV due to the fact that each viewer receives their own unique view. This feature makes it possible for viewers to see completely different things on the same screen. Microsoft is investigating how to integrate the lens into the backlight of a laptop, where it could project a private view to the person sitting directly in front of it, and a completely different public view in all other directions.

Although the concept of viewer-tracking 3D displays has been around for a long time, only recently have computers become fast and inexpensive enough to accommodate the high-speed requirements of viewer-tracking systems. Microsoft’s display, with its novel thin lens design, overcomes another challenge: reducing the bulkiness of earlier prototypes. The lens shape allows the researchers to decrease the distance between the projector and the screen because light can travel within the lens rather than in air.

Since the market for 3D TV is expected to grow from 2.5 million sets shipped in 2010 to 27 million in 2013, Microsoft’s 3D display and others will likely continue to improve over the next few years.

Watch the video

By Lisa Zyga, PhysOrg

ESPN’s 3-D Channel Takes Baby Steps

ESPN’s dedicated 3-D channel went live on the air last week, starting with coverage of 25 World Cup matches from South Africa, and, if you like 3-D TV, it went off well, technically. There were a few glitches, and graphics were sorely lacking, but it’s clear that these early days of 3-D TV are proving to be a lot less painful than the early days of HD production.

Taking a live 3-D feed from South Africa, the new channel is based at the sports network’s main HD production facility in Bristol, CT, and is managed by a “temporary” and rather small 3-D control room that was hastily built within the last six weeks.

Comcast, DirecTV and AT&T’s U-verse are carrying the 3-D programming from ESPN. While there were no major problems with the initial 3-D feed from host broadcaster HBS in Johannesburg, the picture froze briefly a few times due to compression issues, something which has been seen this with other earlier 3-D broadcasts. Viewers of the first broadcast said some game shots gave more of a feeling of depth than others, with flags waving in the crowd being one of the most impressive shots.

Occasional 3D FIFA graphics flew across the screen (created with Vizrt 3-D graphics software). The only full-time graphics on the screen were a score bug in the upper left corner of the screen and a small ESPN 3-D logo on the upper right.

Beginning with the World Cup tournament, ESPN has required all commercials for the new channel to be produced in 3-D. As a result, it was estimated that the cost of 3-D commercials increased by 30 to 40 percent. Sony, Pixar, Gillette and Proctor & Gamble were the first to advertise with 3-D spots. The channel also aired a new 3-D “This is SportsCenter” spot, which showed anchor Stan Verrett demonstrating 3-D to Los Angeles Dodger Andre Ethier who accidentally breaks a 3-D camera with a baseball bat.

ESPN (and its parent company Walt Disney) is operating a special laboratory in Austin, TX, where researchers are analyzing user response to the 3-D channel and its ads. The data will be used to enhance and shape future 3-D broadcasts. In a controlled living-room setting, scientists measure heart rate and skin conductivity and track the gaze of up to 4000 participants who will be exposed to new ad models over the Internet, mobile devices and TV screens.

After the World Cup ends, ESPN plans 3-D broadcasts of the MLB Home Run Derby on July 12, the ACC Championship and the BCS National Championship games in college football, and next year’s Big East tournament in college basketball. The network said it expects to carry about 85 3-D broadcasts this year. The rest of the time, the channel goes dark.

So far, there aren’t that many 3-D TV set owners to watch ESPN’s broadcasts in their homes. Certain ESPN restaurants are carrying the programming, as are participating 3D movie theaters, and Sony, a sponsor of the channel’s launch, supplied a number of its new 3-D LCD sets to “ESPN Wide World of Sports” facility in Orlando, FL, where ESPN hosted a viewing party for fans.

Niclas Ericson, TV director for FIFA, told Wired magazine that he expected an audience of “at least a few hundred thousand per match” worldwide to watch the games in 3-D. That’s an inconsequential number compared to the more than 26 billion cumulative viewers estimated to be tuning in to the regular HD broadcasts, but that is expected given the cost and other hurdles consumers must overcome.

Bob Toms, vice president of production enhancements for ESPN, said that the network would have a more usual complement of graphics for the first 3-D event it personally produces, the MLB Home Run Derby in Anaheim, CA, on July 12. But he said ESPN’s overall graphics approach for 3-D will be more subtle than conventional HD to “let people live in the picture more.”

Kevin Stolworthy, senior vice president of ESPN technology, noted that soccer was a particularly challenging sport for 3-D because of its continuous format. He said he’s looking forward to American sports in 3-D that will allow for more replays, which are particularly dramatic in 3-D.

“Soccer is such a tough sport, because it’s nonstop action,” he told reporters. “You see a replay for five seconds, and, boom, you’re cutting back to a live camera.”

By Michael Grotticelli, Broadcast Engineering

Discovery Unveils 3D World Plan

Discovery Communications' 3D channel, due to bow in the U.S. early next year, will roll out more slowly around the globe, according to prexy-CEO David Zaslav. At a breakfast in London on Tuesday to mark Discovery's 25th anni, Zaslav said that rather than setting up local versions of the 3D web, he would gauge what platforms in different markets required.

For instance, in the U.K., he said he would wait to see what pay TV platform BSkyB could accommodate. "Maybe there's a case for offering our 3D content via video-on-demand or providing it as part of Sky's 3D channel, rather than as a standalone channel," he said.

The high costs involved in 3D and the dearth of content were, Zaslav indicated, the main reasons why Discovery had pacted with Sony and Imax on the 3D channel. The partnership taps Sony's library and 3D technology experience and Imax's content and proprietary 3D technology.

"It is cheaper to make a new show in 3D than it is to convert an existing one, which frame-by-frame costs 100 times as much as a standard definition show," Zaslav explained.

He said about a third of the content on the new web would be provided by Discovery, but not all its programming would work in the format. "Deadliest Catch is maybe not a great 3D show because there is too much motion. Besides we'd send them out with cameras and they'd come back with none," quipped Mark Hollinger, prexy and CEO of Discovery Networks Intl. "How you produce 3D content economically is something we are asking ourselves," he added.

Zaslav said there was a chance that Discovery 3D, hailed as the world's first 24-7 3D channel, could bow before the end of the year, but a 2011 start-date was more likely. The earlier the launch, the better for Sony, which hopes that 3D TVs will be big sellers in the U.S. in the run-up to Christmas.

Both toppers said that in terms of distribution, Discovery's highest levels of future growth were likely to come from emerging markets in Eastern and Central Europe such as Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Turkey.

Discovery has continued to increase its investment in content despite the economic crisis, spending around $800 million a year.

By Steve Clarke, Variety

South Korea Cinemas Get 3D Soccer

The World Cup soccer festival is already proving a hit with South Korean cinema owners. 50 cinemas are showing live satellite feeds of the games in 3D in the first-ever live screenings in the country.

Ericsson has supplied CJ Golden Village (CGV), South Korea’s largest multiplex cinema chain, with specialty kit to handle high quality compressed signals to show World Cup action in 3D – the first live event ever to be shown in 3D in digital cinemas in the country.

South Korean soccer fans will be able to watch World Cup action in 3D at 50 cinema screens across the country using 3D glasses. Ericsson has supplied CGV with its EN8090 MPEG-4 AVC HD encoder and RX1290 receiver solutions, with video being distributed over an LG Telecom fibre network.

By Chris Forrester, RapidTV News

New Cinema System from Panavision Makes 3D ‘Simple’

Panavision announced the first 3D system compatible with all cinema screens – white or silver – and all cinema grade projectors – film or digital -- used in theatres worldwide. The system will be introduced and demonstrated at Cinema Expo International, the worldwide industry trade show, June 21 to 24, in Amsterdam.

“Our industry faces a challenge,” said Eric Rodli, Senior Vice President, Panavision. “With the unprecedented availability and popularity of 3D content, studios need more 3D screens available, while exhibitors need to use their screens more flexibly. This new 3D system offers a high-quality solution to address those issues. It enables exhibitors to show 2D or 3D content on the same screens, and to convert back and forth easily, without making major new investments in new screens or projection equipment.”

Using spectral filtration technology to ‘comb’ the spectrum, this system gives audiences the sensation of seeing the full color spectrum in each eye. Because the system uses the entire visible spectrum, polarization is not required; so images can be shown on a white screen – and the system can be used with all projectors, with the use of a special lens for film projectors or a filter mechanism for digital systems.

The lens and filters are part of the new Panavision offering, which also includes high quality reusable glasses and a cleaning and sanitizing system. System set-up, training and technical support are also provided.

“The glasses are one key to system quality,” said John Galt, Senior Vice President for Advanced Digital Imaging at Panavision. “Ours have lenses with tempered dichroic-coated glass for exceptional color stability and consistent performance – although they are made at a very reasonable cost. And because our approach is based on splitting light, we’re ‘technology neutral’ -- the same glasses can be used with film or digital systems.”

In addition, Panavision’s ability to project 3D images on white screens – with their more ‘even’ center-to-edge illumination vs. silver screens – enables more of the audience – sitting higher or lower in stadium seating, or off to the side in wide auditoriums– to more accurately see the colors and image quality the filmmakers intended.

Panavision is taking a lead role in designing and marketing this system; the filter technology has been developed by Omega Optical, worldwide supplier of custom filters for a variety of demanding applications.

The new Panavision 3D system will be available worldwide, beginning in the Fall of 2010.

Source: Panavision

Interest in 3D Gaming Extends Beyond the Avid Gamer, New CEA Study Finds

Interest in 3D gaming is strongest among early adopters and gaming enthusiasts, but a new study from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) shows that interest in 3D gaming extends to the casual video game player as well. The 3D Gaming: Entertainment’s Next Dimension study of online U.S. adults also found that more consumer demonstrations and education are needed before adoption can take off.

Interest in a 3D gaming experience is not limited to the devoted gamer. While two-thirds (64 percent) of those interested in 3D gaming say they are video game enthusiasts, more than a third (35 percent) that showed interest are casual gamers. No matter what their gaming level, consumers interested in 3D gaming expect 3D gaming devices coming to the market to serve as multi-media players. Most consumers expect to use their 3D gaming device to watch 3D movies (58 percent) and connect to the Internet (51 percent). Nearly half (45 percent) want to download games and content directly to their gaming device. Consumers also want their gaming device to have backward-compatibility with 2D content.

“The introduction of 3D into the gaming arena has the potential to reinvigorate the gaming market by adding greater realism and fostering a more social gaming experience,” said Ben Arnold, CEA’s senior research analyst. “As interest grows and consumers become more comfortable with the technology, 3D is poised to become the preferred format for many gamers.”

The study also found that, like other technologies, seeing is believing when it comes to 3D gaming. A third of consumers interested in 3D gaming (32 percent) have seen an in-store 3D gaming display and a quarter have watched a gaming demonstration. A sizable number (21 percent) of interested consumers reported playing a 3D video game in the past year as well. Avid gamers, many of whom are early tech adopters, are also more likely to purchase 3D devices in the near term. Thirty-one percent say they plan to buy a 3D-capable game console within the next year. Twenty-seven percent will buy a 3D-capable display and a quarter (24 percent) will purchase a portable 3D gaming device. Only seven percent of casual gamers say they expect to purchase a 3D game console in the next 12 months.

“Like with 3DTV, HDTV and other innovative technologies, consumers will need to experience a 3D video game to truly appreciate the experience,” said Arnold. “Manufacturers, retailers and game publishers will have to partner to offer more demonstrations and consumer education so prospective buyers can experience gameplay and other features of a 3D gaming device.”

The study found some concerns about 3D technology among casual and avid gamers. Cost of games (69 percent), devices (66 percent) and accessories (61 percent) were cited as the main obstacles to adoption for casual gamers. For avid gamers, concerns about the health of their vision (33 percent), compatibility with the 2D content they already own (35 percent) and the availability of their favorite games in 3D (39 percent) were among the concerns.

3D Gaming: Entertainment’s Next Dimension (June 2010) was conducted from May 24-June 1, 2010. It was designed and formulated by CEA Market Research, the most comprehensive source of sales data, forecasts, consumer research and historical trends for the consumer electronics industry. The complete study is available free to CEA member companies at members.CE.org. Non-members may purchase the study for $999 at myCEA.CE.org.

Source: Consumer Electronics Association

Imagination Demonstrates S3D Graphics and Display Technologies

Imagination Technologies, a leading multimedia and communications chip technologies company, is demonstrating implementations of its licensable 3D, Video and Display IP technologies capable of delivering immersive stereoscopic 3D (S3D) experiences.

The demonstrations make use of the powerful rendering capabilities of Imagination's POWERVR SGX graphics acceleration family and the video decode and enhancement capabilities of the POWERVR VXD video decoder and FRC frame rate conversion IP cores.

The high performance POWERVR SGX graphics acceleration cores are ideally suited to S3D graphics, either using single or multi-processor cores for resolutions up to full 1080P HD, and are capable of supporting all commonly used S3D formats such as frame sequential, side-by-side, top-bottom and interlaced.

The POWERVR SGX tile-based deferred rendering architecture is ideally suited to deal with the increased demands of S3D – which include twice the geometry processing workload and commensurate increases in fill/texturing workload. The scalable nature of the SGX architecture and its ability to efficiently support multiple contexts ensure that the best possible S3D user experience can be achieved using SGX powered devices while maintaining SGX's unique low power, high performance credentials.

Imagination is also demonstrating its POWERVR FRC frame rate conversion cores providing advanced image enhancement and a seamless S3D viewing experience with no frame judder. FRC270 is the world's smallest FRC (Frame Rate Conversion) solution, capable of full HD at 240Hz. It has been optimised to provide full stereo 1080P60 output from typical 1080P24 stereo sources (e.g. Blu-ray 3D - Profile 5.)

The multi-stream video decoding capabilities of Imagination's POWERVR VXD also make it ideally suited to both active and passive S3D, where the realistic 3D effect is created using two fields, each containing almost identical images. However, VXD is capable of going far beyond the requirements of S3D video (where the two streams are in identical source formats) by being able to decode multiple streams of differing formats for applications such as dual screen output of multiple video sources or picture in picture HD. This enables the capabilities of VXD video decoders to be far more useful across many applications compared to other S3D video decode solutions that are only designed to decode S3D content.

VXD support for further capabilities useful for S3D applications, including key new technologies such as H.264 MVC (Multiview Video Coding), which enables multiple view point television, advanced S3D video imaging and immersive teleconferencing are expected to debut later in 2010.

Source: Imagination Technologies

Microsoft Does Not Believe in Rapid Adoption of Stereo 3D by Gamers

Stereoscopic 3D technologies is a topic that is discussed pretty widely both among movie and video games industries. But while there are companies claiming that stereo-3D (S3D) is the big thing for tomorrow, it may turn out that S3D will find itself important only the day after tomorrow. Following Electronic Arts, Microsoft said that it would take years for stereo-3D games to become popular.

"It is projected that less than one 0.5% of all TVs in the U.S. this year will be 3DTV. 3DTVs will make up only 5% of the TV installed base three years from now,” a Microsoft representative said on the sidelines of the company’s press conference at E3 trade-show.

From the hardware perspective, Microsoft Xbox 360 can support stereo-3D output; for example, Avatar: The Game, Crysis 2 and some other titles either already support S3D on the Xbox 360 or will do so once they are released. However, Microsoft is unlikely to put a lot of efforts into development its own stereo-3D titles for the current-generation hardware. Even if three-dimensional televisions have around 5% of the U.S. installed base in three years, it may not make sense to roll-out an AAA title supporting 3D, but rather to concentrate on other aspects of game-play.

Moreover, it may make a lot of sense to start adoption of S3D technologies with the next-generation Xbox. In fact, the original Xbox did not support high-definition video games despite of the fact that there were a lot of HDTVs available on the market in 2003 – 2005 timeframe. As a result, when Xbox 360 was released in late 2005, it clearly had one huge advantage over the predecessor. Quite naturally, though, Microsoft does not comment on features of its next-generation hardware.

“We closely and constantly evaluate consumer trends. If there is demand, we have demonstrated in the past that we are able to quickly dedicate resources to respond to consumer interest,” the representative is reported to have said.

But while Microsoft may not be exactly interested in enabling stereo-3D on the Xbox 360, its arch-rival Sony Computer Entertainment is more than interested in S3D technologies since besides PlayStation 3 consoles it also sells televisions as well as Blu-ray 3D content. Moreover, even Nintendo demonstrated interest in stereo-3D technologies when it unveiled plans to implement an S3D screen into its portable 3DS console, which may also potentially indicate a plan to enable stereo-3D games for its next-generation console that will succeed Wii.

By Anton Shilov, Xbit Laboratories

Singapore Gears Up for the Future of Media

Singapore is gearing up to exploit the opportunities in a rapidly-transforming media landscape with initiatives that seed the development and delivery of next-generation consumer applications, services and experiences. These include the start of 3D TV trial across multiple platforms and the award of funding to innovative industry projects that are expected to change the way media and entertainment are consumed in future.

Stereoscopic 3D is set to migrate from the cinemas to homes with the start of a one-year 3D TV trial by the Media Development Authority of Singapore. The trial kicks off today on terrestrial TV, cable TV and Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) in partnership with MediaCorp, Starhub and SingTel and involves the 3D recording of the National Day Parade. In addition to the broadcasters, other technology partners participating in the trial include Panasonic, Ross Video, Evertz, XpanD and Multimedia Maestro.

The trial enables the trial partners to test their transmission signals on different platforms, and address technical challenges in the delivery of 3D content to homes, whilst allowing service providers to explore viable business opportunities as they harness 3D technology to provide consumers with wider choices and better quality.

Apart from leading the trial with the partners, MDA will also launch a S$5 million fund to facilitate the trial and drive the development of content, talent and media services in the area of 3D. Depending on the progress of the trial, the broadcasters may choose to extend the trial to include consumers.

Dr Christopher Chia, CEO, MDA said: "The success of 3D movies and advances in digital technology has sparked strong interest in 3D developments worldwide. Our strategy has been to boost the development of stereoscopic 3D content, applications and services and build an industry of 3D production experts to meet future demand. Today, Singapore is one of the first territories in the world with one-stop, end-to-end production and post-production capabilities in theatrical stereoscopic 3D. With the 3D TV trial laying the groundwork to bring 3D experience to homes, Singapore is once again harnessing the latest digital technology to develop and deploy cutting-edge media services."

Says Chang Long Jong, Deputy CEO, Television, MediaCorp, "As the national broadcaster, MediaCorp is constantly exploring new avenues to deliver valued content to our viewers. MediaCorp is firmly committed to the 3D TV trial and will produce content in 3D, starting with the recording and post production of NDP2010. Concurrently, MediaCorp will commence technical trial this month to determine the most suitable technology standard."

Mr Titus Yong, Vice President of Satellite, SingTel said: "SingTel has over 20 years experience in the broadcast industry, and we are excited to play an important role in the national 3D trial. We are the first to enable content providers to deliver 3D content to consumers in Singapore and the region via satellite and platforms such as mio TV. We also offer essential tools to aid in the end-to-end production of 3D content. These include solutions for processing raw footage into formats for tapeless delivery, as well as editing and post-production services."

"We know how much Singaporeans like exploring new gadgets and staying abreast of the latest technologies. For the Broadcast industry, we believe 3D TV is the next wave of innovation. SingTel is proud to be part of the 3D TV revolution to offer enhanced viewing experience to our customers," add Mr Edward Ying, Chief of Content and Media, SingTel.

Mr Chan Kin Hung, Head of Products & Solutions, StarHub said: "As the leading innovative pay TV operator in Singapore, StarHub is committed not only to offering a compelling range of programmes to local viewers but also to keeping abreast of technology developments that boost our capabilities to deliver a superior viewing experience to our customers. We recognise the great potential of 3D TV which offers a new level of viewing experience to our customers, and we will work towards providing local viewers with the ultimate user experience by -'bringing the 3D cinematic experience right to their living room'."

Source: Media Development Authority

Stereo 3D Filmmaking: The Complete Interactive Course

Stereo 3D Filmmaking is the world's first interactive course on Stereo 3D, shot in live action stereo 3D combined with clear and practical animated Stereo 3D illustrations. Both a practical workshop and a university-level lecture, it will fully prepare you with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in this post 2D media world.

Starting from the basic principles of stereo perception and continuing through to the nuts and bolts of the hardware you’ll use on your next 3D project, you’ll learn:

  • How your brain perceives stereo in the real world and how that differs from Stereo 3D.
  • What stereo parallax is, how to control it, and how to avoid making the mistakes that give viewers headaches from watching it.
  • How viewer distance and screen size affect not only the viewer’s sense of depth, but also dictate key parameters for the stereo shoot.
  • The importance of non-stereo depth cues, and how to use them to turn merely acceptable stereo 3D into compelling and truly immersive 3D.
  • Frame Violations, the “magic” of the floating window and how to use its power wisely.

Ziggo to Carry SBS Net 5 in 3D

Ziggo is to carry the new Net 5 3D channel starting in September, according to an announcement by the cableco and the SBS-owned broadcaster. The launch of the Dutch 3D channel had been announced earlier by Eric van Stade, who is in charge of TV activities for the SBS group in the Netherlands.

The plan is to upgrade Net 5’s regular programming to 3D, while during the night native 3D programming will be scheduled. At the moment, Net 5’s programming is female skewed with a lot of US and locally produced series. These are not available in 3D.

Ziggo said it will use portions of the Net 5 3D channels for its planned 3D Demo channel.

In a related development, Bill Wijdeveld, managing director, Astra Benelux, said the satellite operator would welcome Dutch 3D productions on the satellite operator’s recently launched 3D Demo channel on the Astra position at 23.5 degrees East.

By Robert Briel, Broadband TV News

No 3D World Cup on Dutch Cable

Dutch cabers Ziggo and UPC will not carry the Fifa 2010 World Cup games in 3D due to the high costs involved. At an earlier stage, the Dutch public broadcasters also gave up plans to bring the games in 3D to Holland, because the cost of €30,000 per game was deemed too high.

The situation regarding the 3D television rights seems to be very complicated as the deal that Sony struck with Fifa for the 3D version of the games is apparently not applicable in The Netherlands. As a result, these rights had to be re-negotiated for the territory, which turned out to be too costly.

The number of 3D sets in currently in Dutch homes is not known, but a number of manufacturers including Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and LG have 3D sets on the market. Research firm GfK expects 137,000 in Dutch homes by the end of the year.

At the moment, Dutch viewers only have access to the 3D Demo Channel on the Astra position at 23.5 degrees East. UPC swill probably follow suit.

By Robert Briel, Broadband TV News

BSkyB Calls for Better 3D Content

A day after Sony talked up its commitment to 3D TV, an exec at Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB warned that the medium would only succeed if industryites and tech sector take the medium seriously, with content providers raising the bar to provide premium fare.

Brian Lenz is director of product design and TV product development at the British paybox, which is planning to bow what it describes as Europe's first 3D TV channel in the fall.

"3D TV used to be a gimmick, and frankly a lot of people don't know how to use it other than as a gimmick," Lenz said at the Westminster eForum seminar in London on Thursday. "3D TV is going to grow rapidly, but it is down to the industry not to screw it up. High-quality content is essential."

Acknowledging the scarcity of 3D TV content, Lenz said the new channel aims to show a minimum of six hours of fare a week across all genres plus movies and sports. But the paybox, which has commissioned veteran Brit natural history presenter David Attenborough to present a 3D series about prehistoric flying lizards, said producers would have to be self-financing.

"We don't aim to fund everyone's first 3D project because that is not likely to be their best," Lenz said.

BSkyB, which has led the take-up of HD TV in the U.K., launched a 3D service showing live soccer on TVs in pubs and clubs two months ago. More than 1,000 venues have taken the service, according to Lenz, but for 3D TV to make any real impact, BSkyB needs to succeed with home subscribers.

However, with the cost of 3D TVs hovering around £1,700 ($2,489) in the U.K., plus the shortage of content, Lenz and his team face an uphill battle.

Another speaker at the seminar, Paul Gray, director of European TV research at consultancy DisplaySearch, forecast that once the cost of 3D TVs dropped to $1,170 they would get a 10% market share in Blighty.

"The rapid expansion of content is critical" Gray said. "Without it consumers will remain cautious."

Sony's ESPN 3D channel kicks off today with the opening game in the World Cup soccer tournament, Mexico vs. South Africa, live from Johannesburg. It's unnamed Discovery-Sony-Imax channel will bow in 2011.

By Steve Clarke, Variety

ESPN 3D Gains Carriage with AT&T U-Verse

Cable sports giant ESPN has reached a distribution deal for its new 3D network, ESPN 3D, with the telco AT&T. AT&T U-verse's carriage of ESPN 3D will launch with this Friday's coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup match between South Africa and Mexico.

The deal with AT&T, combined with previous agreements with DirecTV and Comcast, means ESPN 3D will reach over 40 million homes at launch, says Sean Hanrahan, SVP of marketing solutions for ESPN and ABC Sports.

"Because of our advanced IP technology, AT&T U-verse customers can be confident that they'll have access to the latest TV innovations - whether it's your favorite content across your devices, interactive apps, or 3DTV," said Dan York, president of content, AT&T, in a statement. "With ESPN 3D, U-verse TV customers can experience the highly anticipated 2010 FIFA World Cup for the first time ever in exciting 3D, and we're looking forward to delivering more ESPN 3D coverage throughout the year."

By Glen Dickson, Broadcasting & Cable

Czech Republic Starts 3D Broadcasts

UPC and SAT Plus have begun regular broadcasts in 3D in the Czech Republic. As of June 8, viewers of the HD+ channel, which is operated by SAT Plus and available exclusively on UPC’s cable network, have been able to watch programming in the format starting at 11.30, 18.30 and 00.30. Some programmes can only be watched by those with 3D TVs and special glasses, whereas others use the ‘old fashioned’ anaglyph glasses with red and green filters.

This is the first regular broadcast in 3D in the Czech Republic and is accessible to almost 400,000 of the 1.1 million homes that UPC Czech reaches. The cableco has already demonstrated its ability to run 3D broadcasts over the HD version of its Mediabox receiver. In April the company ran a live test using coverage of the US Masters golf tournament in Augusta that was delivered to its Amsterdam headquarters and the offices of its Swiss affiliate Cablecom.

SAT Plus has experience in producing 3D cinema and is an important supplier of SD, HD and now also 3D technology for low-budget TV studios and TV. HD+ offers a wide range of programming including travel documentaries, news, and concerts and is now producing its own 3D content.

By Chris Dziadul, Broadband TV News

Snell Alchemist Ph.C – HD Supports SIS LIVE Delivery of 3D Sports

Snell announced that SIS LIVE, operator of the largest satellite uplink fleet in Europe and the largest outside broadcast provider in the U.K., is using the Alchemist Ph.C – HD to enable 3D conversions during live event broadcasts. SIS LIVE began using the Alchemist Ph.C – HD to support live 3D delivery in February, when the company participated in the O2-sponsored screening of the RBS 6 Nations Rugby tournament at 40 cinemas across the U.K. The Alchemist Ph.C – HD ensured smooth conversion of left- and right-eye video from the 1080i50 production standard to the 720p60 standard required to reduce flicker and ensure high viewing quality on theater screens.

SIS LIVE integrated the Alchemist Ph.C – HD into the 3D delivery workflow and provided both the satellite uplink and OB facilities for the RBS 6 Nations Rugby tournament. Arqiva provided the downlink at Odeon and Cineworld cinemas. During the event, produced by 3D specialist Inition, seven 3D cameras (both mirror and side-by-side rigs), along with a number of 2D cameras, captured the action. The 1080i50 output from the switcher was converted to 720p50 and then the separate left and right streams were compressed by a SENSIO encoder into one 720p50 side-by-side stream at 1.5 Gbps. The resulting signal was converted to 720p60 by the Alchemist Ph.C – HD and distributed to cinemas. Dolby D audio was successfully passed through the Alchemist Ph.C – HD in data mode and delivered along with video.

Source: Live Production

Sonic and RealD Align to Drive Home 3D

Sonic Solutions and RealD announced a strategic alliance to develop and release new consumer solutions for the home creation, publishing and playback of personal 3D video content, as well as the enjoyment of premium 3D entertainment. As part of the collaboration, Sonic is integrating the propriety stereoscopic RealD Format into its RoxioNow premium entertainment platform.

Once titles become available for online distribution, the RealD Format will be used to efficiently deliver Cinematic-quality, stereoscopic 3D entertainment directly to a broad range of connected consumer electronics devices. In addition, the RealD Format will be featured in Roxio consumer software applications for the creation and consumption of true-3D quality home movies. The new 3D-enabled products and services are expected to be available this summer.

The RealD Format is an enhanced version of a side-by-side 3D format that uses a unique set of filters and other technology that multiplexes a left eye and right eye 3D image stream into a single channel for delivery of high-definition 3D content using today's HD infrastructure to any 3D-enabled display type.

Sonic's collaboration with RealD is part of the company's Total 3D initiative, which is aimed at furthering the 3D home market through a range of 3D-enabled products and services for PC OEMs, consumer electronics manufacturers, and retailers. Earlier this year, Sonic unveiled professional tools for 3D encoding, authoring and formatting in the Blu-ray 3D format and released Roxio CinePlayer BD, a comprehensive, 3D-capable media player for Windows that recently received Blu-ray Profile 5 (3D) certification from the Blu-ray Disc Association. CinePlayer BD will ship on new 3D-enabled systems from ASUS and MSI later this year.

Source: Sonic Solutions

Asian Computer Firms Betting on a 3D Future

Computer companies are betting that the future is not only bright but in three dimensions, as a string of manufacturers are set to bring 3D laptops and desktops on to the market. Fujitsu announced on Wednesday a desktop computer that can play 3D content, convert two-dimensional DVDs to 3D and even has a 3D camera. And Toshiba's 3D Dynabook TX/98MB laptop, which it says is the first laptop to play 3D Blu-ray discs, goes on sale in Japan in July.

Taiwan-based ASUSTek was the first off the drawing board and into the shops with the launch of its G51 3D late last year, which was branded as "the world's first true 3D ready notebook".

"We believe 3D is now an important part of the market," ASUSTek spokeswoman Jenny Lee told AFP on Wednesday. "More and more games and more and more movies are being made in 3D. We think there is a huge demand for 3D computers."

A Fujitsu spokesman said that its machine, which will retail at roughly 200,000 yen (2,200 dollars), comes with a pair of lightweight glasses and has a special filter for the screen that enables 3D viewing.

"We came up with a 3D computer because it targets people living on their own who can use it as a television for personal viewing," the spokesman said.

Graphics card and chipmaker NVIDIA make the computer guts that will help create the 3D magic on screen for many of the new machines. The company's CEO Jen-Hsun Huang made a keynote speech at Computex, Asia's biggest IT trade fair, in Taipei last week setting out the company's 3D stall.

"This is the beginning of the 3D PC revolution," he was quoted as saying by tech news website TG Daily. "It's been 10 years since there's been a revolutionary change in gaming graphics."

"This is by far one of the most captivating technologies ever introduced on the PC," said Hidehito Murato, Chief Marketing Executive at Toshiba in an NVIDIA press release. "The era of 3D is upon us."

Source: AFP

Two White Papers by Snell

Standards Conversion in a 3D Workflow
Stereoscopic 3D Technologies

ESPN Primes Its World Cup Pipe

With its multi-platform coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup starting June 11, and the coincident launch of its new 3D network, sports giant ESPN says its robust global fiber network is ready to handle the reams of traffic from South Africa.

ESPN's private network will link temporary studios in South Africa with its regular facilities in Bristol, Conn.; Los Angeles; New York; London; Argentina and Brazil, via an OC-12 (622 megabit-per-second) pipe. The fiber links, fed by Net Insight terminal equipment, will support coverage on its linear networks, its Web and mobile offerings, and ESPN 3D, which also launches June 11 on DirecTV and Comcast with a live broadcast of the match between South Africa and Mexico.

ESPN had initially planned to use Ericsson (formerly Tandberg) MPEG-2 encoders to backhaul signals from South Africa. But after testing Ericsson's new CExH42 MPEG-4 encoder a couple of months ago, it decided to make the move to MPEG-4.

"We want to add more services and improve the production between the U.S. and South Africa," says Emory Strilkauskas, ESPN lead engineer for transport and special projects. "We decided to make the investment after trialing with Ericsson."

While MPEG-4 is often touted by encoder manufacturers as yielding a 50% effective reduction in bandwidth over MPEG-2, "that's not what we typically see," adds Bill Lamb, VP of transmission and transport for ESPN. "A 25% bitrate reduction is a nice, conservative number," Lamb says. "We're able to do quality feeds at 30 megabits per second, and we'll increase it to 40 once we get out there and fine-tune the pipe. When we get back to the States, we'll definitely use higher rates."

Format-conversion technology will be crucial for handling the feeds. The World Cup matches are being produced by host broadcaster HBS in the European 1080-line-interlace/50 hertz format, which needs to be converted to ESPN's 720-line progressive/60 frames-per-second format to be shown in the U.S. on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.

ESPN is using about 20 Snell Alchemist Ph.C-HD systems for both 2D and 3D standards conversion for its Cup coverage, with some on-site in South Africa and others in Bristol. The network has also purchased seven FOR-A FRC-8000 frame-rate converters for its transmission facilities in Bristol and Brazil.

What is unique about the 3D feeds is that ESPN won't be converting them from interlace to progressive for U.S. distribution. ESPN, like ABC and other Disney networks, has long been a believer in the quality and bandwidth efficiency of progressive over interlace, which is why it produces and transmits its programming in 720p/60. But it will deliver the 3D World Cup coverage to DirecTV and Comcast in the 1080i/60 HD format, which will then be transmitted to consumers in the side-by-side "frame-compatible" 3D format supported by both new 3D TVs and existing set-top boxes.

Converting the 3D signals from 50Hz to 60 Hz was complicated enough, Lamb explains, and the network didn't want to risk a loss of picture quality. "Technically, we can change it quite fluidly from the 1080i/50 original," Lamb adds. "But we didn't want to harm the signal any more than we have to, and we want to preserve very high quality."

While ESPN plans to produce its 3D events going forward in 720p/60, it may continue to deliver ESPN 3D in 1080i/60 to certain operators, depending on their requirements. ESPN is delivering ESPN 3D directly over fiber to DirecTV and Comcast, so there isn't a standard satellite feed of the network being broadcast today.

"To call this a work in progress is to underestimate the amount of movement here," Lamb says. "We're trying to stay flexible."

HBS will produce the 3D coverage and deliver separate left and right eye signals to ESPN at the International Broadcast Center in Johannesburg using JPEG compression at a rate of 300 Mbps. According to Lamb and Strilkauskas, it's one of the first events to do so, as most 3D productions to date have created a frame-compatible 3D signal right in the production truck.

ESPN will decode the left-and-right signals to baseband (uncompressed HD at 1.5 Gbps), then re-encode them in MPEG-4, at an average bit-rate of 20 Mbps each. The network will also be creating a "side-by-side", frame-compatible 3D feed in Johannesburg, as it has done with its previous 3D productions. It will multiplex that side-by-side feed, which will be encoded at 40 Mbps, with the left-and-right eye signals, then send the three streams back to the U.S. at a total payload of 80 Mbps.

"Throughout the event, we're going to test them, and we'll go full left and right once we're comfortable with it," says Strilkauskas.

In the long run ESPN believes it can deliver better quality by keeping the left- and right-eye signals separate for as long as possible in the contribution and distribution chain.

"For the most part, everyone's been doing frame-compatible mode right from remote," says Strilkauskas. "When we decided to launch the network, we felt we needed to come back full left and right [eye]. We knew there would be different needs from affiliates, and if you bring back one format it might not suit the other."

"We're going to let affiliates decide what they need," says Strilkauskas. "Either way, that's an interim solution for us. We really want to progress to be full left/right to consumers. But right now, that's not practical."

Double-Duty for Standards Converters
Snell has demonstrated two modes of standards-conversion operation for stereoscopic 3D; one with two Alchemists, where one is handling the left-eye signal and the other is handling the right-eye; and a single Alchemist processing a frame-compatible signal where the left-right images have been squeezed into a side-by-side or top/bottom format. Both worked well, says Gerard Phillips, GM of conversion for Snell.

"Our view would be that the ultimate quality would be two channels with two independent Alchemists, as there's no possibility of any crossover between the left and right images," says Phillips. "But the experiments we've done with left/right squeezed into a single frame [and one Alchemist processing both] are pretty much indistinguishable."

Performing standards conversion for sports, particularly in fast-moving panning shots, is already challenging in the 2D world, notes Phillips. That's because measuring motion with a high degree of accuracy from frame to frame is essential for a high-quality conversion.

As Phillips explains, compression systems can use motion-compensation techniques such as block matching to predict motion from one frame to another without having to be 100% accurate -- as long as the parts of the picture they identify between two frames are similar, the end result will still look good. But converting from one frame rate to another in standards conversion requires more accuracy.

That is why Snell's Alchemist Ph.C-HD product uses a technique called phase correlation (Ph.C) that is designed to actually measure the speed and direction of moving objects in a scene, what Phillips calls "true motion," and match pixels in each frame precisely with their counterparts in adjacent frames. That gives a portrayal of smooth motion essential for sports coverage.

"With Alchemist, we're looking for true motion, rather than imagining motion," says Phillips. "So we're looking for stuff that is the same stuff; it's not predictive like compression. If you're panning across a white picket fence, if you're compressing it, it's doesn't matter what part of the fence you're looking at. But in standards conversion, if the motion estimation is not done well, bits of the picket fence jump backward."

3D ups the ante, says Phillips, because it requires a standards-converter like Alchemist to apply identical processing to separate, synchronized left-and-right eye images that have small but very precise differences that create the effect of depth when they are displayed together on a 3D set with accompanying glasses. The precise alignment of the left-and-right eye images [technically, the "horizontal disparity"] must be maintained through any downstream processing, including standards conversion, or the depth perspective will be change. Theoretically, the processor could handle them differently enough to damage the 3D effect.

"You do have separate viewpoints," notes Phillips. "You have two similar and correlating pictures, but two different pictures. So each standards converter, each processor, has a different input, and it has the opportunity of making different decisions. Conceptually, the decisions could be different enough to break the 3D spell, and push you out of the suspension of reality. The suspension of reality can also be broken by bad production techniques, such as having things too close to the viewpoint."

But in testing the Alchemist over the past few months with different sports, including rugby, soccer and golf, Snell hasn't experienced any major image problems.

"The decisions made independently between the two units are actually very coherent," says Phillips. "Where I thought it might cause trouble was where there a big difference from the left-hand side of one image to the left-hand side of the other. Those would be places where I would suspect a good standards converter to make different decisions, but we haven't experienced artifacts."

Lamb concurs, and says that performing standards conversion in 3D turned out to be less challenging than ESPN originally thought.

"We thought that was going to be the dealbreaker, to be honest with you," he says. But significant testing by ESPN and Snell showed the Alchemist could handle it.

"It turns out the algorithms they use are very predictable, and do the same job [with both feeds]," says Lamb.

No Rest for the Weary
Lamb and Strilkauskas are confident in their preparation in both South Africa and domestically and expect ESPN 3D to launch without major problems. As Lamb jokes, "I have a high level of confidence in ESPN's ability to do the impossible."

They will have little time for major changes in ESPN 3D's transmission scheme. The day after the World Cup ends, on July 12, ESPN 3D will be airing the first ESPN-produced telecast for the new channel with the State Farm Home Run Derby from Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., site of the 2010 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. ESPN 3D's schedule going forward will include the X Games, college basketball, college football (including the 2011 BCS National Championship game in Glendale, Ariz. next January) and NBA games.

There will be a combination of MPEG-4 and JPEG-2000 encoders on the NEP/PACE 3D truck that ESPN will use to produce domestic events for ESPN 3D. As ESPN 3D moves into the fall for college football coverage, it will likely send left and right eye discreet signals over satellite back to Bristol, using MPEG-4 compression, and format them there. When it has significant bandwidth over a fiber link, it will also try JPEG-2000 compression, which it already uses extensively on its private network between its U.S. locations.

JPEG-2000 is billed by vendors as providing "lossless" encoding for high-quality HD transmission, even after multiple encodes and decodes, and has lower latency than MPEG-4. Maintaining synch between 3D's left-and-right-eye signals with JPEG-2000 compression is a little easier, says Strilkauskas, because it uses I-frames only. With MPEG-4 it's more challenging, as GOP [group of pictures] alignment is an issue.

JPEG-2000 hardware itself is also about 25% cheaper than MPEG-4 gear, adds Lamb. But JPEG-2000 requires a bit-rate of 100 megabits per second or more, which is cost-prohibitive when backhauling signals internationally over fiber such as for the World Cup.

In the U.S., where links are cheaper and ESPN already had extensive full-time fiber capacity, it's a different story. "In the U.S. running 100 Mbps for an event doesn't cost you much more," says Strilkauskas.

By Glen Dickson, Broadcasting & Cable