The Frame Compatible 3D World Cup

While the French football team left the South Africa FIFA World Cup under a cloud, France Telecom subsidiary GlobeCast has its head held high after a successful tournament in which it provided contribution for 28 live matches in 3D. The games were transmitted around the world by satellite, displayed to cinema audiences and also received by major broadcasters including ESPN in the USA, which launched its 3D channel ESPN 3D in time for the tournament.

Contribution from the stadia to the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) was performed as separate left eye and right eye streams using JPEG2000 compression. At the IBC, Sensio equipment converted two HD SDI signals into one HD SDI side-by-side (Frame Compatible) output and this was encoded with an Ericsson E5780 HD encoder in MPEG-2 at 40Mbps in 27MHz of bandwidth using DVB-S2 modulation, uplinked via Intelsat to London, with fibre back-up into London and Frankfurt. From London the signals were redistributed worldwide.

Because some cinema projectors could only work with 720p HD (Frame Compatible 3DTV) GlobeCast also decoded the MPEG-2 stream in London to convert the content into this HD format, taking care of some specific audio configurations as well. For the rest of the market the signal was delivered as 1080i50 HD. Broadcast/Pay TV customers for the GlobeCast 3D contribution feeds included ESPN in the US, Sky PerfecTV in Japan, CCTV in China, SBS in Australia, TF1 in France and Sogecable in Spain.

MPEG-2 was used for the contribution out of South Africa to cater for the needs of cinema networks who only had MPEG-2 receiver/decoders. And while the feed from the World Cup was in Frame Compatible 3DTV, Simon Farnsworth, Global Head of Contribution at GlobeCast, expects the broadcast contribution market to evolve so that it uses simultaneous left eye and right eye contribution signals, synchronized for live content, with both compressed in MPEG-4 AVC and transported as a two channel multiplex.

This will mean doubling the bandwidth needed for contribution compared to HDTV, although the use of MPEG-4 AVC will provide bandwidth efficiencies compared to MPEG-2 contribution.

GlobeCast has already demonstrated 3DTV contribution using two full HDTV streams. This approach was used in May for the live final of the French ‘Idols’ style reality TV show Nouvelle Star. Two hundred and fifty VIPs invited by broadcaster M6 to a cinema in Paris, as well as the subscribers to Orange’s experimental 3D channel with access to a 3D television, viewed the final output. The contribution used MPEG-4 AVC 4:2:2 10-bit compression in a solution developed in partnership with ATEME.

GlobeCast provides content management and worldwide transmission services for professional broadcast delivery. At IBC during September the company will be discussing its success in South Africa and other 3D projects. Over the past year, the company has also delivered the world’s first live 3D fashion show from Burberry’s catwalk at London Fashion Week to parties in Paris, New York, Dubai and Tokyo, as well as the final of the French Tennis Open.

3DTV will almost certainly be a feature of Ericsson’s IBC this year, as well. At NAB in April the company was discussing its solution for direct-to-home and contribution and distribution of 3D content. And the company is already providing ESPN 3D with a complete standards based video processing solution, featuring encoders and receivers tuned for ESPN 3D broadcasts, as well as for HD.

At NAB the company highlighted the Ericsson CExH42 MPEG-4 AVC HD Contribution Encoder, described as a natural platform for 3D contribution links, “ensuring full control of encoding parameters, exact synchronization and time-stamping of the compressed frames and the generation of a fully packaged 3D simulcast”.

By John Moulding, Videonet