PBS Using HD and SD Video Services from IDC

PBS, the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service, will deliver its non-real-time HD and SD video programming to member stations across the country using a next-generation satellite distrubution infrastructure from Ottawa's International Datacasting Corporation (IDC).

PBS and IDC have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) launching the "alpha" phase of the project which includes the installation and configuration of head-end transmission equipment and deployment of an initial group of receive sites.

The next phase, roll-out to the 177 Public TV downlinks in the field, is expected to move forward in the first quarter of 2009. Content, including file-based HDTV programming, will be distributed using IDC's SuperFlex broadband DVB/S2-IP satellite datacasting system and the Datacast XD Content Management and Distribution software. IDC will also be providing expanded Network Attached Storage (NAS) servers as part of the receive site kits.

"This network is the culmination of years of research and work. It will enable PBS to meet the rapidly growing demand for high-quality HD programming and introduce efficiencies to make the system significantly more flexible and cost-effective," John McCoskey, Chief Technology Officer of PBS, said in a release.

"We are delighted to be associated with this prestigious network. PBS' reputation for technology leadership and thoroughness makes this a particular honor and reflects well on our products and team. Video content delivery is an important market for us and this helps underscore that we have the right products as the revolution in advanced video distribution picks up momentum," said IDC President and CEO Ron Clifton.

Source: MediaCaster

Analysts Predict $25 Bil 3-D Market by 2012

The 3-D market could be valued at more than $25 billion by 2012, with the boxoffice and movie exhibitors set to benefit from its growth spurt first, according to a new report from Piper Jaffray analysts. The projected growth amounts to a compound annual growth rate of about 50%, with the analysts forecasting a $5.5 billion 3-D market this year. The technology could mean a boon for the U.S. boxoffice, which the Piper Jaffray team expects to go from flat in 2008 and 2009 to an average gain of 12% year-over-year in 2010 and 2011.

"We expect the theatrical entertainment window will be the first to benefit from this technology," Piper Jaffray media and entertainment analyst James Marsh and online content analyst Michael Olsen said in their new 3-D White Paper. "We expect the technology will become more widespread over time, moving from theaters to high-end home theater solutions and eventually to the average living room."

The duo suggest that exhibitors are best positioned to benefit from this trend thanks to higher 3-D admission prices that could come at a 30%-40% premium and likely attendance gains, projecting that cash flow growth rates for major players will be at least 10% higher in 2010 and 2011.

The Piper Jaffray team sees Regal Entertainment Group as best positioned to take advantage of the 3-D trend, along with Carmike Cinemas and Cinemark. They called Regal the purest 3-D play, forecasting an attendance improvement of 5% by 2011.

Meanwhile, Carmike is well positioned due to its industry leading digital screen buildout, which already has brought 3-D capability to 18% of its screens. And Cinemark is poised to benefit as its theaters "are located in higher-growth U.S. markets, are modern and updated, and run efficiently, resulting in industry leading metrics," the report said.

Marsh also likes the prospects for DreamWorks Animation, given that its management team was among the first to focus on the 3-D opportunity.

Entertainment companies with big libraries also will have a chance to exploit library titles in 3-D, but this process will take more time as 3-D conversion costs must come down further, he argued.

Technology companies that stand to benefit from the upgrade cycle to 3-D include Dolby and RealD.

In a conference call Tuesday, Marsh predicted that, following 3-D success in theaters, "3-D will become the new HD," bringing the technology to TV sets, video game consoles and other devices.

Real D CEO Michael Lewis said Tuesday that his company is approaching installations on 1,700 screens, with many more already on backlog. Given that a majority of planned 3-D releases are large tentpole movies, he predicted that over a 3-5 year period, 3-D could close in on a 30%-50% share of U.S. -- and, ultimately, worldwide -- boxoffice.

By Georg Szalai, The Hollywood Reporter

Moving Image Technologies and All Media Capital Partner to Assist Exhibitors in Financing of 3D Digital Cinema Systems

Moving Image Technologies has partnered with All Media Capital to assist theatre owners in participating in the 3D and digital cinema rollout, while at the same time providing the means for an exhibitor to maintain control of his own projection equipment. With the recent announcement from Paramount Pictures, who has agreed to provide direct re-imbursement to exhibitors through VPFs (virtual print fees), it is an ideal time to install digital systems for the upcoming slate of 3D releases. Other studios are expected to follow Paramount’s lead to offer the same type of re-imbursements that they have extended to the large circuits.

“3D is a real value-add to the exhibition community and the announcement by Paramount Pictures is a wonderful way to continue forward with the 3D/digital cinema roll-out. Couple Paramount’s announcement with our relationship with All Media Capital and small to medium size exhibitors now have a viable path for implementing digital cinema today, rather than waiting for some large integrator to get financing.

Everyone knows that access to money is tough in this economic climate, but All Media has continually been able to fund our clients at very competitive rates, even when more traditional financing has dried up” stated Joe Delgado, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing for Moving iMage Technologies.

Moving Image Technologies has extensive experience in integrating and installing these digital and 3D systems, seamlessly interfacing to existing audio and projection equipment. MiT manufactures a full line of integration components for digital cinema including MPL projector bases, ICM automations and interfaces, iMAGE Mover track systems and custom cable and wiring harnesses. These components insure a high-quality and efficient installation.

All Media Capital specializes in financing technology equipment for the professional audio/video market and entertainment industry. In cooperation with MiT, All Media Capital has already financed many digital cinema installations including systems for commercial cinema as well as post production. “In the current economic climate, where we have seen many banks tailor away from debt-related financing we have seen a substantial increase in credit applications from exhibitors. We have several different options to get exhibitors exceptional rates and industry specific programs which are not available to the bank or broker community” said Ryan Wilson of All Media Capital.

Source: DCinemaToday

My Next 3D Home Entertainment Experience

Super Bowl XLIII is (almost) here and it comes with a firsthand opportunity to view 3D on your non-3D home TV set. Courtesy of some major advertisers, we all have a chance to pick up some ColorCode 3D glasses for free and watch a few commercials in 3D. To be very clear, we will not see the game itself in 3D, just a few commercials at the end of the second quarter. The glasses can be picked up in a bunch of supermarkets. Then as a special treat keep the glasses for a 1 hr episode of the NBC comedy Chuck to be televised in 3D on Monday, February 2nd.

I am looking forward to compare the ColorCode 3D technology with the old anaglyph type glasses that have the type used for 3D DVD releases. Last year, when Journey to the Center Of The Earth 3D movie showed up in my local supermarket, I knew the time had come for a firsthand in-home experiment. With four pairs of 3D glasses included and enough snacks in my shopping cart I was heading home to my very own 3D home adventure.

After dinner and a good glass of red wine, we settled in the living room in front of our 50" PDP TV with high anticipation and the normal 10 minutes of anxiety before the DVD box was opened and DVD fed to the DVD player. The 3D glasses turned out to be the old paper anaglyph (red/green) type, which the older generation (which I regrettably belong to) still remembers. Uncomfortable and awkward to wear, we started the movie. As mentioned above I still remember the good old days of black & white TV and I felt magically being moved back in time. A short check of the TV (without the glasses) confirmed there was a hint of color but through the glasses it looked more or less like a black & white movie (others have noted that the movies look green).

How about the 3D effect? Yes, it was certainly there as things were trying to jump out of the screen to bite you with incredibly long sharp teeth. But it also reminded me of why 3D movies didn’t make it in the 1950s. In short, the movie didn’t make us jump, but it did induce a significant headache within the first twenty minutes. After similar complaints from my wife, it was discontinued and replaced with a nice high definition (1080i) TV show in full color.

During a family dinner a few weeks later the experiment was repeated with significantly younger folks in the 5 - 30 year old group. The result was pretty much the same with the 20-30 year old group giving up after less than two minutes and the youngest group opting for other activities after exactly 5 minutes and 22 seconds. (Warned by my own experience I had fast-forwarded the movie to the first movie scene).

As a team member of display experts and enthusiasts I felt I could not just take this defeat without further research. With much renewed enthusiasm I repeated the experiment on the rest of the TVs in my home. The 37" LCD TV produced pretty much the same result as the 50" PDP. Interestingly a 21" LCD in the guest room gave me much less headache and a much-improved 3D effect. What was the reason for this improvement? Was I finally getting used to the anaglyph glasses or was it the screen size?

To find out, I headed for the home office and surprisingly found that the PC gave me by far the best 3D experience of all viewing devices in my home. After repeating this on my work computer I concluded that on smaller display with a closer viewing distance the anaglyph rendering did the trick. Still the washed out colors and some problems with ghosting didn’t make this a real pleasure to watch but it didn’t create a headache either. There is a lot I don’t know about how the movie was mastered (or re-mastered) for DVD and how it was encoded in anaglyph to know the real reason for this effect.

Meanwhile, I have given the movie to friends and family for their viewing pleasure and have received very similar feedback. Although this was not a statistical or scientifically correct evaluation, I still believe that a lot of people will have a similar experience.

With the ColorCode 3D technology promising a better picture quality and 3D effect, I am looking forward to the next step in field-testing with around 150 million potential viewers. If you have a chance to view the commercials and/or the Chuck episode, drop me an e-mail to see what the industry insiders think of this new approach.

By Norbert Hildebrand, DisplayDaily

Sky Commits to 3D

BSkyB is to launch a 3D television service. Gerry O'Sullivan, Sky's director of strategic product development, buoyed by the enthusiasm for the pay-TV broadcaster's HDTV service, says Sky could launch 3D "any time in the next two years". A few weeks ago Sky introduced its 3D concept to the press, and Sky tends not to make such announcements without having a clear strategy in place.

The 3D (more properly described as Stereoscopic TV) scheme put forward by Mr O'Sullivan and his head of product design & innovation, Brian Lenz, needs a suitable HDTV-3D set and a plain vanilla HDTV set-top box - and a pair or two of polarising specs. Importantly, O'Sullivan's team are saying the incremental costs for capturing programming - especially live sport - in 3D are not significant.

Sky's near-miracle is in transmitting end-to-end 3D using their existing Sky+ HDTV set-top boxes, within standard set-top box Electronic Programming Guide, and middleware, and a very acceptable total 18 Mb/s of satellite capacity (9Mb/s per image) into an ‘off-the-shelf' 3D receiver (Hyundai's Xpol, a 46" stereoscopic 1920 x 1080p unit that uses polarizing filter technology) which delivers 1920 x 540 pixels per eye when in 3D mode.

Brian Lenz, BSkyB's head of product design & innovation, explains how: "We wanted to see what we could do with our own content, transmit it and capture it to the screen with the minimum impact on the complete chain. For us the biggest worry was the transmission infrastructure and our huge number of legacy set-top boxes." Lens explained that replacing either of these elements might have placed any plans for 3D well into the long grass.

"Customers can understand the need to replace their TV sets, especially if the added value is compelling enough." Lens admits that 3D set prices still have to fall to affordable levels, but is confident that - as with HDTV sets - this will happen. "We are concentrating on consumer-ready TVs, and by using a standard HD transmission channel, the sort we would use for high-end sport, and fitting two images into that channel."

Lenz admitted that the ‘when will it become a reality' question is an easy one to answer. He suggested that TV is all about programming, but Sky started transmitting HDTV services when there was a latent build up in the market of flat-panel HD Ready sets. "I don't think you are talking of turning a whole schedule into 3D. It's more likely to be special sport, movies of course and shows like our Gladiator. It may be that we will create more ‘appointments to view' when the whole family can sit and watch a special event, or a movie in 3D."

By Chris Forrester, RapidTV News

Austrian Cinemas Get Movies via Satellite

Austrian cinemas will soon have their movies sent to them via satellite. German technical service provider Media Broadcast has been commissioned with the digital movie distribution by four Hollywood Megaplex cinemas and the Metropol in Innsbruck.

The contract covers the installation and maintenance of reception devices as well as the distribution, monitoring and protection of the satellite signals. The movies, which Media Broadcast will be provided with directly by the rights owners, will be uplinked from the company’s teleport in Usingen near Frankfurt and transmitted in encrypted form via satellite to all connected cinemas at the same time.

In the cinemas, the files will be stored at a central server for playout into the theatre halls. With the automatic tapeless distribution of the films and the elimination of transport costs for movie copies or hard drives the cinemas can optimise their technical operations.

Source: RapidTV News

Thomson Looks to Sell Grass Valley

According to a Reuters report, technology group Thomson said Thursday it will explore with its main creditors and potential investors solutions as it warned it was likely to breach one of its debt covenants, requiring that the ratio of net debt worth at the end of December 2008 not exceed 1:1.

The group also said it would sell €1 billion worth of non-core assets, including its Grass Valley and Premier Retail Network divisions, to focus on providing services to content creators in the movie and media industries. Together, Grass and PRN generated $1.3 billion in sales last year--about 20 percent of Thomson’s revenues.

PRN was acquired by Thomson for $285 million in 2005. The company does digital signage for companies such as Wal-Mart. Thomson purchased Grass from Terry Gooding of San Diego, Calif., in 2002, for an undisclosed sum. Thomson sold the Grass Valley digital film transfer gear business to private equity investors last October, also for an undisclosed price.

The group’s net debt at the end of December was reported at €2.1 billion, or a gross debt of €2.9 billion and a cash position of €0.8 billon. It also reported an 8.2 percent fall in unaudited fourth-quarter sales to €1.47 billion, at constant currencies, continuing the trend seen in the third quarter.

In light of its expectation to breach its debt covenant, the group was "reaching out to its creditors and potential equity investors to start a dialog regarding its balance sheet and address any question of a potential future breach of the net debt to net worth covenant," the statement said.

At this stage, it was not possible to predict the outcome of these talks, the statement added.

Thomson in October vowed to restructure or sell unprofitable businesses to bolster profits, generate cash and cut debt as many investors had been pressing for a simplification of its structure. At the end of last year, it completed the sale of its digital equipment product line and closed its loss-making retail telephone business in North America.

Source: BroadcastEngineering

Digital Projection to Launch Full Range of 3D Products

After years of development and the benefit of great guidance from some valued lead customers, Digital Projection is set to launch a comprehensive range of iVision, TITAN and LIGHTNING 3D projectors.

The heart of our new 3-chip DLP 3D product lineup is a new, high bandwidth sideboard input, which employs twin-dual DVI connectivity. The bandwidth of this input is so extraordinary, it can accept a full 1080p signal running at up to 120 frames per second (120 Hz). This frame rate is commonly used for the highest quality 3D applications, as it allows 60 frames of distinct content to be delivered to each of the viewer’s left and right eyes. Think flicker-free 3D.

Also think zero latency. DP’s new sideboard input takes a direct path to the DMDs so all sources connected via this input are taking the most efficient route to the screen. Input electronics in most projectors add from 2 - 3+ frames of video delay, which is a consistent challenge for customers with critical live event and I-Mag applications. By comparison, sources connected via our new sideboard input experience only a few lines of delay. Given there are 1080 lines in a frame of 1080p video, a few lines of delay is imperceptible.

The scope of our 3D product line will be disclosed in full detail in early February, but we can share the following facts now:
- The lineup will cover a light output range from 2,000 – 20,000 lumens.
- Contrast will approach 6000:1 on some models (this is the true native, full on to full off contrast – no active manipulation of the signal and no pumping of light output by use of an active aperture).
- 120 Hz is the maximum input frame rate for sources with 1080p resolution, but lower resolution sources can be displayed at even higher frame rates.
- All 3D models will also include DP’s acclaimed NextGen electronics, so beyond the high bandwidth sideboard input, full connectivity with all common source formats and input types is still maintained. Furthermore, DP’s extraordinary ColorMax and Xenon Color Mode capabilities remain intact.

Source: InfoComm

SENSIO 3D Format Standardized in DVD Standard

SENSIO Technologies Inc. ("SENSIO"), inventor of the SENSIO 3D technology, announces that its SENSIO 3D format has been officially accepted as an optional DVD standard like DTS for audio. From now on, manufacturers wishing to integrate the SENSIO 3D format in their electronic equipment will have to do so in accordance with globally recognized specific standards and directives. This is the very first 3D format to be recognized by a standards organization for the distribution of 3D content in the consumer market.

"After 10 years of investment, development and commitment, we are extremely happy to be rewarded in this way, and that our format has been recognized by a standards organization. Our technology has reached the necessary level of maturity to become a standard, and its quality, reliability and robustness have been assessed and certified by a recognized global organization. We are confident that this certification will have a positive impact on manufacturers, and that it will enable us to facilitate and accelerate the integration of our technology into products for the consumer market", explained Nicholas Routhier, President and CEO of SENSIO.

In 2008, a process to add a 3D video specification to DVD was launched. In order to collect information about the various 3D methods and technologies available, a wide appeal was done. Several companies submitted their technology to be standardized for DVD. At the end of the assessment, the only format to be kept and included in the DVD standard is SENSIO 3D, as this was the only one to satisfy the criteria set out.

With this standardization, SENSIO has come closer to its aim of becoming the global 3D standard for the distribution of 3D content in the consumer market and will probably boost soon the content available in the SENSIO 3D format, adding films to its already existing library.

Source: Marketwire

The Time is Right for a 3D Content Delivery Standard

If CES and recent press are any indication, 2009 is the year that 3D content moves seriously into the home. New 3D displays and systems were among the hottest buzz at the show, both for video and gaming content. For PCs, graphics cards are being outfitted with the needed 3D support, and new 3D-capable displays were in abundance at the show. For TV displays, manufacturers are promising 3D-capable products at little increase in cost. Samsung, Panasonic, LG, Sony, Mitsubishi and others showed off 3D displays on the show floor. Eager to attract more theatergoers, film studios have a significant backlog of 3D titles they will release to cinemas, both new and re-processed, including the Star Wars saga. This increased awareness makes for a "perfect storm" of new consumer product rollout — content, hardware, and affordability.

What is missing, however, is a convenient and immediate way to deliver the content to the home. By far, the medium with the highest penetration is the DVD, but its bandwidth cannot support the data rate needed for viable 3D playback. Blu-ray is the logical candidate for a medium, and 3D content could be the shot-in-the-arm that the format needs to lift sluggish disc sales and rentals. Two powerhouses — Panasonic and Dolby — have announced at CES solutions for a 3D Blu-ray format, but here’s the rub: they’re not compatible, and the differences are like apples-and-oranges.

The Panasonic system, called the 3D Full HD (3D FHD) Plasma Home Theater System, delivers full 1080p left- and right-sided images all the way from recording to playback and display. The company has also developed the authoring technology needed to produce the discs. However, 3D content encoded with this process cannot be played back on existing Blu-ray players, and this means that a new 3D Blu-ray Disc (BD) player and disc encoding format is required. Panasonic has asked the BD Forum to standardize their 3D approach - but this takes time and requires a consensus for final acceptance.

Dolby, however, is proposing a different approach to encoding 3D content, using the existing standard Blu-ray disc medium and standard Blu-ray players. The technique uses diagonally-subsampled versions of the left and right images, which are then re-integrated into complete frames, a method called "checkerboarding" (or more technically, quincunx spatial subsampling). The technique is compatible with current popular online and downloadable file formats, and uses a similar data footprint as a standard Blu-ray movie. In addition, it does not require changes to the Blu-ray, HDMI or MPEG specifications, and, according to Dolby, does not require an external decoder box. Since none of the current generation of 3D-ready DLP or plasma TVs contains a 3D decoder for any format, Insight Media believes any 3D-ready TV would require an external decoder, however, even with the Dolby encoding format. While the Dolby system does not offer the "full-HD-resolution" promoted by Panasonic, the presentation quality could be sufficient to support a viable 3D experience.

While the choice of a disc format may be separable from alternate delivery channels such as Internet downloading, it does affect the display. DLP-based PTVs that support the "checkerboard" format are already in the market, and new 120Hz displays could be developed that support both this and the full-HD format, again at little incremental cost. But a format war would be disastrous to the 3D concept, given the current state of the economy. Without assurance that their purchased format will have viability, few consumers would be willing to shell out for a device that could quickly become obsolete. And waiting for a standard (or worse, building a product without it), will create further uncertainty, when some manufacturers are ready to roll out product now. Perhaps the best migration path would be to start with the checkerboard format and add a full-HD format later, as a standard matures. We can’t afford a disc format war this year.

By Aldo Cugnini, DisplayDaily

Paramount Pictures Announces Direct-to-Exhibitors Digital Cinema Deal

Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc. announced it has become the first studio to offer digital cinema support directly to exhibitors across the United States and Canada. The move is expected to accelerate the roll-out of digital and 3-D projection systems in theatres. The announcement was made by Jim Tharp, President of Domestic Theatrical Distribution.

The deal works in parallel with previously announced agreements with DCIP (Digital Cinema Implementation Partners), Cinedigm, Kodak, and Sony but allows exhibitors to seek financing for d-cinema systems locally rather than wait for comprehensive integrator agreements, which require significantly more upfront capital, to be completed. In addition, the agreement allows exhibitors to own and control their equipment (which is required to be DCI/SMPTE compliant), and to switch to an integrator-supported agreement at a later date if desired. The new agreement also includes independent theatres that do not belong to any integrator groups.

In making the announcement, Tharp said, "We are excited about the potential of more theatres offering more of Paramount's films in the highest quality digital and 3-D. Today's announcement is a good step forward to providing more audiences with the very best in movie viewing."

NATO President and CEO John Fithian said, "Paramount is getting out front on this critical industry transition and we applaud them. Direct arrangements between distributors and exhibitors won't work for everyone, but for some of our members, it could make the difference in surviving and thriving in the digital era. And it certainly enables some exhibitors to get wired much faster -- and that means more 3-D screens sooner. We urge all studios to give this creative option a fair chance."

To date, Paramount has signed nine digital cinema integration deals, the most of any major studio. They include domestic agreements with Cinedigm (previously Access IT) Phase 1 and Phase 2, Kodak, Sony, and DCIP, three deals with European integrators XDC, Arts Alliance Media and Ymagis, and two deals with Asian integrators DCK and GDC. So far, more than 3,500 screens have been converted to digital under Cinedigm's Phase 1 plan.

Source: Digital Cinema Buyers Guide

3D to Add Sparkle

“Is HD good enough?” That was a question posed by keynote Peter Angell, director of production and programming at Host Broadcasting Services at TVBEurope’s recent Sports Broadcast Europe conference. “Why else is there so little broadcast of HD at the moment? Is the difference not enough over SD for typical viewers?

While calling for broadcasters to put out more high definition channels, he also led into one of the conference’s big themes: will 3D be the next major advance in sport television?

There is certainly a growing tide of interest in 3D. In the USA the NBA recently announced its intention to ‘broadcast’ live its All-Star Events next month, to 160 screens in 80 digital cinemas across 35 states. That comes just two years after the first demonstration 3D NBA event, which carried the signal just a couple of kilometres from the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas to the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Now thousands of fans will be able to watch the game, for a reported $20 a ticket.

Angell, who was director of production at the last two FIFA World Cups, sees 3D as a major driver in the future, but has some misgivings. He reported on a recent test production in the States, saying “people who saw it were less than impressed, but that is not unexpected — it is easy to get it wrong. 3D can look good, but it can also make you throw up. I have to take a break after 20 minutes,” he admitted. “We need to do a lot of work on the physiology to see if it is possible to watch a 90 minute football match.”

The conference kept returning to the topic, and a number of speakers raised the technical problems of delivering good 3D at the sort of budget a sports broadcaster can afford. “Pace and 3ality are making huge and complex rigs for movies which are inappropriate for sport,” Angell said. “Let’s use standard broadcast equipment and make it do 3D.”

Duncan Humphreys of Can Communications, which worked on the 2008 trial broadcast of a Six Nations rugby match, claimed that “some leading camera manufacturers are looking to make 3D cameras.” For now, there are practical issues in using standard cameras: mounting two side-by-side makes it difficult to get the separation correct, while using a mirror rig loses a stop of light which can cause problems with outdoor sports in winter.

Humphreys also explained that there are difficulties in setting a distance between the left and right optical paths in sport. His experience is that, to get any perceptible 3D effect from a camera high above the centre line at a rugby stadium, the spacing needs to be pushed further apart than the traditional inter-ocular distance. The result of this, though, is that the viewer has, in effect, a giant head, and the action looks miniaturised. Other challenges are more mundane. The two eyes need to be kept in perfect synchronisation, which is never easy over satellite contribution links.

Zooming and fast camera moves create a very unpleasant motion blur. You have to keep a wide, static shot and let the 3D HD tell the story. Rain is a nightmare, particularly when it is falling on the lens, and if anyone jumps up in front of the camera — as they often do at a sports event — the effect on the 3D audience is terrifying.

Consumer electronics manufacturers are keen to see 3D become a broadcasting reality, as it means they can sell a new generation of large flat screens.

Orange in France and Sky in the UK have already made trial broadcasts. It seems there is a long way to go before the technical and production challenges are solved, and even the tempting target of the 2012 Olympics may be too soon.

By Dick Hobbs, TVB Europe

TV Aims for the Third Dimension

If you found the shift to digital TV confusing, and are still unsure whether you need high-definition TV, prepare for more bemusement: 3D TV is on the way - but with every possibility of a format war. And, worryingly, it could involve buying another new television. Taking TV into the third dimension has been a dream for decades. In the 1970s there were real broadcasts, which used the familiar red and green glasses. In 2006, France Telecom demonstrated its own version, using a fibre-optic connection. And just before Christmas, Sky confirmed it is involved, having made experimental recordings of a Ricky Hatton boxing match.

But the BBC is interested too. All of which makes it hard not to think that we'll end up with a format war. But will it be like VHS and Betamax, where one took over the world? Or DVD-Audio vs Super Audio CD, where "superior" music CD formats pushed by the record industry flopped?

Polarised positions
Sky is touting one version: it uses a technology that requires a new television, with a barely affordable price tag (about £2,500). Philips has a technology called Wow, which demands televisions with a price tag at least double that.

Technically, if not in price, however, Sky's version feels like a step backwards, as it uses glasses when there are glasses-free alternatives; however, those alternatives have led some users to report motion sickness and other drawbacks. Sky's glasses will be cheap, look like ordinary sunglasses (the 3D process relies on polarisation: one lens has horizontal stripes, the other vertical) and were reasonably comfortable over my ordinary prescription glasses.

Brian Lenz, Sky's head of product design and innovation, hopes to avoid a damaging format war. "We're announcing what we're doing now so we can avoid precisely that," he says, claiming that feedback on the Sky model has been positive. "We showed a Ricky Hatton fight and the audience loved it," he says.

John Zubrzycki, of the BBC's engineering department, says that the push at the moment is to make 3D TV display-independent, so it won't matter which sort of TV the viewer buys. Broadcasting the signal itself will require extra bandwidth - Zubrzycki estimates 20% more. "We want to broadcast 3D in a form that as wide a range as possible of televisions will be able to show," he says. "The standard needs to be 2D-compatible as well, because of the spectrum availability - there isn't a lot." The ideal, he believes, would be a handover more like when TV began to move into colour in 1968 than the digital switchover of today. People in the 1970s could watch every broadcast on a monochrome television; they just wouldn't see the colours until they changed their equipment. Zubrzycki's hope is that 3D content will be beamed to sets that will either display a 3D picture if they can decode it, or a 2D picture if they can't, without the viewer feeling pressured to upgrade.

One problem will be capturing the 3D image in the first place. Zubrzycki represents the BBC on the EU-backed 3d4you, and its focus is very much on getting beyond the stereoscopic model used in the cinema. "That enables a type of 3D that can be shown on the displays that are emerging, which allows you more than two views, so you have the ability to get a bit of parallax [the movement of the background relative to the foreground] if you move your head around." Parallax, he explains, "makes it easier for people who have one lazy eye to see in 3D because they can get around it by moving their head".

Passes at glasses
Zubrzycki stresses that his remit is in capture rather than display, but he understands that customers will be bewildered by the options if they want to buy into 3D early. Some methods use spectacles with shutters, others polarising lenses, and some don't use them at all. "There may even be something that's yet to be launched that will trump the lot, you can't really tell," he says.

Sky's Lenz is the first to admit that the Sky offering isn't going to work for everybody in the longer term, mostly because of the glasses. "Glasses-free is the long-term objective," he says. Cost-sensitivity is another constraint. Sky, at least, is happy that the polarised glasses only cost a couple of pounds to replace if someone sits on them, unlike some of the more sophisticated competition. It's also important, Lenz suggests, that customers will be able to use their existing Sky HD boxes to store 3D content, needing only to upgrade their television sets. Protecting people from the need to spend more than is necessary is a vital part of the strategy, he stresses.

None of this will matter if the schedules aren't filled with interesting content in 3D. And there isn't much sign of that yet. The BBC, for example, still produces some of its "flagship" programming, such as EastEnders and Doctor Who, in standard definition only, despite the emergence of the BBC HD channel. BS11, a Japanese broadcaster, has been broadcasting 20 minutes a day of 3D since March 2008, but this isn't going to have everyone buying up new sets in the middle of a recession. The BBC confirmed to the Guardian that there was no strategy for rolling out 3D programming, as it's too early; it was also unable to say when some of the programmes mentioned above would go into HD.

Treat with care
For younger people, however, 3D isn't just about television programming. Paul Donovan, a senior analyst with the research company Gartner, says he believes there is a real opportunity in the games market. "In games you start off with a computer-generated image, so obviously multiple camera angles are not an issue."

The other possibility - suggested by almost everyone pushing 3D TV - is "treating" older films and TV to create 3D versions. Donovan is sceptical: the nearest precedent - colourisation, in the 1980s - was a flop. "I have DVDs on which there's an alternative colour version of a black-and-white film and I haven't even watched it. Why would you?" Many consumers will feel the same, he says, about 3D on older programmes and films.

The other precedent is, of course, the 3D broadcasting experiment of the 1970s, which failed completely. Having the BBC around to experiment without pressure for an immediate broadcast may help this time; Zubrzycki points out that the BBC made the first drama in HD in 1987. "Maybe we'll be making something that people won't watch for decades yet," he says.

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, major manufacturers including Sony, LG, Panasonic and Samsung showed off their latest 3D TV technologies. In the main part these systems still need viewers to wear glasses, and 3D filming requires extra cameras - meaning the technology was usually touted as an extra for special events or animated films.

What's certain, and appears to be agreed by all players, is that the consumer doesn't want to be caught in yet another format war. In an ailing economy it's by no means certain that consumers will be willing or able to buy expensive new kit even if they want to - especially if there's a risk of buying the wrong £2,500-plus set. 3D TV has everything to play for - but everything to lose too.

By Stuart O'Connor, The Guardian

Showlogix has Launched Free 3D Software Player

Showlogix announced that it has released Logix-3D - free 3D software player. The free player is an addition to the Logix-3D Server that is the same player except it has network connectivity for control and synchronization of motion and other multi-sensory effects.

Logix-3D player is a professional tool for playing two files using a dual output graphics card. Both video files work with the same clock, making the two files play in perfect sync. Each channel can be controlled with regard to size, aspect ratio, transparency and placement on the surface.

The Logix-3D Server is completely supported by Logix-4D and is seamlessly controlled over TCP\IP network. Using the Logix-4D to control the Logix - 3D Server lets the user create automated 3D play-out systems and the ability to synchronize external effects to the movie creating a full multi-sensory 4D Theater.

Features & Benefits:
- Passive 3D-Projection (Dual VGA)
- Dual Stream (2 independent files)
- Plays up to two parallel HDTV streams in perfect sync
- Supports various files and output devices
- No resolution limit
- Each of the videos settings could be adjusted to alter the 3D effect

Source: Showlogix

3M Helps Produce 3-D Images Without Special Glasses

There are a lot of efforts underway now to bring 3-D to the big screen, in both theaters and your living room. Panasonic, Samsung and other TV manufacturers are developing 3-D TV sets for the mass market. But to get the 3-D experience at the movies -- and with most of the TV sets -- you have to wear special glasses. The glasses help trick your eyes into perceiving depth.

3M's 3-D efforts, for now at least, have a different focus. They're concentrated on the small screens that fill our lives; cell phones, GPS devices, PDAs, Handheld gaming units. Steven Webster is vice president of research and technology commercialization at 3M. He said the 3-D technology the company is helping develop doesn't require special glasses.

"You don't want to have to carry around a pair of glasses just to watch your cell phone," Webster said. "It's got to be something you can see without carrying any special glasses."

3M won't make the devices, but it'll provide manufacturers with a key part of what makes the devices produce 3-D images. That component is a newly developed -- and patented -- optical film that goes on display screens. The film allows a screen to rapidly project alternating images for a viewer's right and left eyes, fooling the eyes into perceiving three dimensions.

What you see on the prototypes 3M and its partners have developed are still images and full-motion videos that provide a sense of depth that surprisingly realistic. Objects appear to pop out of the screen or recede deep into the screen. Look at a flower and you see one leaf behind another behind another.

In a video of a football game, players scamper about the field like Lilliputians locked in a mini diorama come to life. That's what really grabbed 3M's Webster.

"The first time I saw a football game in 3-D, that's the thing that actually wowed me," he said. "It had the same effect on me as when I first saw high-definition many years ago."

3M's Steven Webster holds a prototype of a device displaying a 3-D image

There is a rub to the 3-D technology 3M is working on, however. Webster notes viewers have to be positioned just right to see things in three dimensions.

"If you go way off to the side one way or the other on this technology, you will see the 3-D effect go way and it will kind of turn to a 2-D image," he said.

So, Webster said that limits the film's usefulness to screens not much bigger than 17 inches wide or so. For now. But that still leaves lots of devices to pump up with 3-D.

One of the companies 3M is working with is Toshiba. Sean Collins, an executive in Toshiba's display division, expects consumers will love 3-D.

"The human eye naturally sees 3-D. So, having it on a display I think provides a superior viewing experience," he said.

And Collins expects manufacturers will be able to charge extra for 3-D devices.

One camera maker, at least, is working on a new generation of 3-D cameras. Fujifilm has a 3-D camera and companion viewer in development. It will let consumers shoot 3-D images and display them on digital photo frames.

Erik Kleiner, who works at National Camera Exchange's Golden Valley store, has seen many 3-D cameras and viewers in his nearly 30 years in the photo business. Most were made in the late 50s and early 60s. But he said they haven't lost their appeal.

"There's some interest still in the stereo film cameras, because they're cool," Kleiner said. "Once someone looks through them, they'll go, 'Wow.' It's three dimensional and it's like you're in the scene."

Kleiner suspects 3-D digital photography could be a good niche market. "It just depends on the quality and the price. I think it's a good possibility," he said. It may help that more and more people aren't printing their photos but just looking at them on screens.

Mickey Fischer, of Minnetonka, a serious hobbyist photographer, said that trend could be decisive in the acceptance of 3-D photography--assuming it provides enough of a wow factor in the first place to grab consumers' eyes and wallets.

"It all depends on where the viewing culture would go," Fischer said. "With digital stills, a lot of people are viewing images on computers or TV screens. And they're not printing as much anymore."

3M's Steve Webster said some 3-D devices using the company's technology may or may not make it to the marketplace by Christmas. But, he doesn't think it'll be much more than a year before 3-D starts coming to the small screens in our lives in a big way.

By Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio

Future of 3-D Still Looks Fuzzy

Sony Chairman Sir Howard Stringer boldly declared at the recent International Consumer Electronics Show that 3-D technology becoming mainstream across movies and TV would happen “sooner than we think.” It was a claim bolstered by Sony and several other manufacturers at the trade event unveiling prototype televisions with 3-D capability, along with the numerous 3-D Hollywood features currently in production.

Not surprisingly, sports played a prominent role in the various CES-related 3-D showcases. Sony partnered with Fox Sports, 3ality Digital and others for a live, national distribution of the BCS championship game on Jan. 8 in specially equipped theaters that included a prominent component in Las Vegas, which hosted the show. Panasonic featured NBA 3-D footage taken by Pace as part of its CES presentation.

But much like trying to watch 3-D pictures without the special glasses, the immediate future for the next-generation technology is relatively blurry. Here is a look at several key elements regarding the prevailing theme at their year’s CES:

The business model for live sports in 3-D remains undefined
The BCS game reached more than 80 theaters coast to coast, a distribution that will be replicated next month for the NBA’s All-Star Saturday night. While specific ticket sales for the event had not yet been fully tabulated as of early last week — roughly 16,000 seats were available — at least 19 of the participating theaters sold out, according to 3ality executives.

User and press reviews for the college football event, however, were fairly mixed, with fans unaccustomed to and in some cases outright hostile toward the occasional technical glitches, relative paucity of graphics and much-lower camera angles than for traditional broadcasts. To that end, many industry leaders expect 3-D technology in sports, at least in the short run, to be at best an ancillary revenue stream.

“This stuff is very cool, but would you definitely want to watch this for sports events? I don’t know if your brain can really handle it,” said Marty Moe, AOL senior vice president.

There is a very big difference between live 3-D and post-produced 3-D
Similar to Moe’s comments, the primary complaints for the BCS presentation and other live games that have been shown in 3-D relate to the sometimes jarring switching of cameras. That has led to difficulties in following the action and absorbing all the additional visual data.

But in post-produced 3-D releases, such as the award-winning U2 3D debuted by 3ality at last year’s CES and a series of recent animated and youth-oriented features, all the rough edges have been smoothed. Technical glitches are nowhere to be found, and the experience has been fully optimized to take advantage of what 3-D has to offer. Such a paradigm suggests a potential market opportunity in which major sports events such as the Super Bowl and Final Four are re-aired in the markets of the winning teams.

Glasses are definitely part of the near-term future of 3-D
Thankfully gone are the cardboard lenses of decades past in favor of more sturdy and stylish specs, some of which have the 3-D rendering technology included within them. A person still needs to wear the glasses to consume any 3-D content, though, and when the viewer does put them on, it’s difficult to do much of anything else but watch, eliminating a lot of the social element that is so crucial to sports. Several set manufacturers, including Samsung and Sharp, are experimenting with 3-D displays that don’t require glasses, but the first stop on the development trail there will be commercial applications that are less user-intensive than an in-home or cinema setting.

How the technology transfer happens will be important to watch
There is not yet an industry standard to oversee the migration of 3-D content from the studio to the home, and every relevant party in the industry is eager to avoid another format war along the lines of Betamax/VHS or, much more recently, Blu-ray/HD DVD.

Gaming will be an important trailblazer in the advancement of 3-D technology
Also a post-produced environment, gaming enjoys the distinct advantage of appealing to younger consumers who pride themselves on being first in line to consume new products and services. The CES show floor was rife with glasses and monitors built for 3-D gaming, including a new set of 3-D glasses from graphics outfit Nvidia that operate wirelessly in tandem with a computer.

Big industry names are very interested in 3-D, and for a variety of applications
The Las Vegas screening of the BCS game attracted several names of the bold-faced variety, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts, and Glenn Britt, Time Warner Cable president and chief executive. They are far more than mere social gadflies. Cuban helped formed HD Net, recently invested in Carmike Cinemas and has been a major proponent of 3-D, while Roberts and Britt see a potential treasure trove in home applications, particularly in the video-on-demand offerings that are their bread-and-butter. They’re far from alone. Many of the major sports leagues and broadcast TV networks are also exploring 3-D.

“This whole thing is sort of the LSD trip of sports,” Cuban said. “But it’s going to get a lot better. It’s still really the first inning of this whole thing. It’s another perspective and another way to consume a game.”

By Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal

3D Standardization Necessary for Growth

Hollywood studios will need to come to a consensus with component makers on picking a limited number of 3D technology standards within the next couple years in order to take advantage of the growth of 3D-capable TVs and provide a shot in the arm to a DVD industry that has had falling sales over the last couple of years, according to Futuresource.

With more moviegoers willing to pay higher ticket prices to experience 3D through films such as last year's Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour, the DVD industry has about a 10-year window to benefit from the novelty of 3D by charging higher prices for 3D discs, which require between 35% more and double the data of a typical Blu-ray title.

The U.K.-based research firm, which estimates that no-3D-glasses technology will overtake 3D glasses as the primary viewing method within about a decade, will release a study on the growth of 3D technology and consumption in March.

As many as 3 million U.S. consumers own 3D-capable TVs, though most people don't know how to use the feature, which allows for separate image projection for the left and right eyes to simulate a three-dimensional picture, said Bill Foster, Futuresource's senior technology consultant. U.S. sales of 3D-capable TVs will jump to 7.7 million units this year and will approach the 30 million mark by 2012, as companies including Samsung and Panasonic include the feature in most of their new sets, said Chris Chinnock, president of consultant Insight Media, late last year.

"Certain studios had their reasons for wanting Blu-ray, because they were already thinking about 3D," said Foster, adding that the data capabilities make Blu-ray the most viable home-entertainment growth area for the technology because of bandwidth constraints faced by broadcasters. "But there has to be some technology standard. You just can't have anarchy."

Studios and component makers alike who have been counting on high-definition Blu-ray discs to reverse DVD spending declines are hoping for 3D to do the same.

Likely spurring interest in 3D home entertainment is the growth of such movies in theaters, which usually charge about $5 more per ticket for 3D titles than for standard films. About 70 3D movies are in production worldwide, with Hollywood studios accounting for about half of those films, according to Sarah Carroll, Futuresource's head of continuous services.

Walt Disney's Hannah grossed about $70 million in theaters after its February release.

"Clearly, Hollywood is driving the way with 3D cinema," said Carroll, whose firm estimates that about 1,000 of the 38,000 U.S. movie screens are 3D-capable. "The fact they’ve been able to get higher prices has proved very encouraging."

By Danny King, VideoBusiness

Japanese Firms to Introduce Digital Screens at Cinemas

Toho Cinemas Ltd and Kadokawa Cineplex Inc announced that they will introduce new systems to deliver and show movies in digital format (digital cinema systems) in earnest from 2009. Both companies aim to replace all screens at their cinemas with the new systems by spring 2012.

Toho Cinemas will install the digital cinema systems at 47 cinemas run by the company by fall 2009 and at all of its cinemas, excluding some jointly run with its partners, by spring 2012. All of the digital cinema systems to be employed will support three-dimensional (3D) video. As for the content delivery technologies, they will support the next-generation optical fiber network (NGN), satellite communications and recording media such as HDDs.

On the other hand, Kadokawa Cineplex will introduce digital cinema systems to 19 screens at seven of its cinemas by summer 2009. And it aims to replace all screens at its cinemas with digital screens by spring 2012. All of the digital screens will support 3D video.

For content delivery, NTT Smartconnect Corp's digital cinema delivery service Pure Cinema will be used. The service delivers movies via a highly secure NGN by connecting NTT Smartconnect's data center and the cinemas equipped with digital cinema systems. It also supports content delivery methods using HDDs and other recording media.

Toho Cinemas and Kadokawa Cineplex decided to adopt digital cinema systems in light of the rapid digitalization in the US movie industry, the emergence of digital content including 3D video and the shift to terrestrial digital TV broadcasts, they said.

The two companies said that, with the introduction of the new systems, they can offer high quality video that does not deteriorate, provide new content such as theatrical plays, concerts and 3D videos, enhance prevention measures against the illegal filming of movies by introducing a digital watermark system and boost the management efficiency of cinemas.

By Yukiko Kanoh, Nikkei Electronics

Run & Gun 3D Shooting on 'Final Destination 4'

No genre screams for 3D more than horror: shocking the audience with action that leaps right out at them is a natural fit. On the flipside, horror films generally have moderate budgets and are shot on location so shooting 3D outside the comforts of the controlled studio environment while still needing to work at a brisk pace is no easy feat. On Final Destination 4, cinematographer Glen MacPherson used the PACE/Cameron Fusion System (designed by Vince Pace), which consists of two cameras, in this case two Sony F23s, mounted on computerized chassis with a half silvered mirror, to lens the film on location at a pace on par with regular 2D shoots. We spoke with MacPherson about how his approach to shooting differed with 3D and how they maintained an efficient shooting schedule.

How does your approach change as a cinematographer when shooting 3D versus 2D? Do you frame differently? Block things different? Different camera moves? Light differently? Avoid zooming?
The approach to shooting 3D changes fairly dramatically compared to a 2D shoot. We definitely block a little differently to try to take advantage of the 3rd dimension. We’ll fill the space with the actors, placing them in backgrounds and foregrounds more than you might in 2D. I light to a higher stop to help keep all the actors and other elements in focus.

Framing for 3D is different in that you must always be aware of foreground objects that will intrude into the audience space as well as foreground objects that are just on the edge of frame. Sometimes an object will be seen by only one camera or “eye” and not the other which can really hurt your eyes when viewing in 3D. All in all, we frame, light and move the camera always with 3D in mind.

As a cinematographer, do you try to plan the scene so it can play out with fewer cuts?
I guess we try to avoid frenzied cutting. The viewer needs a little more time for their eyes to adjust to convergence and I/O changes from shot to shot, but we don’t stress over it.

Others shooting 3D have spoke of a balance having action jump out from the screen while limiting it enough so it doesn’t become a gimmick. Did you limit these or just embrace them since this is a horror film which is all about the shocking the audience out of their seats?
I find that a balance is needed. If every scene has objects jumping off the screen or is using huge 3D space, then there’s nowhere to go from there. It would be the same as shooting an entire movie in close ups. We kept the 3D space to a minimum for a lot of scenes so that when we needed to shock the audience, we could.

How difficult was shooting on location with the 3D rig? Did it limit the number of setups you can do? The types of camera moves?
My camera crew really stepped up to the plate and designed a pretty good system for keeping us moving quickly. We had one camera mounted to a 30-foot technocrane for almost the entire shoot. This kept us from having to power down the system to change setups. We could just swing it around and extend or contract for a new setup.

Of course we had to re-design a remote head to accommodate the cameras. We had three cameras with us so we would do a lot of leapfrogging with the gear. We kept a pretty brisk pace most days.

We put the Pace rigs through their paces, dropping one from a building with a descender rig, shooting inside a car the fills up with water, shooting at the bottom of a swimming pool and mounting them to a remote arm on a high speed camera car. With the right planning and prep I think you can do just about anything with the 3D rigs without having to slow down to a crawl.

How worried are you on set with perfecting the interocular? Or do you just get it close and rely on post for the fine-tuning.
The interocular is one thing that you need to get right on the set. This is the distance between the two “eyes” and is what we use to adjust the 3D effect. It has been described as a volume control for the 3D space. However, everything else we could adjust in post. We had an on set mobile lab with us where we could watch dailies in 3D and even do some quick tests before shooting a complicated set up. In this lab we could adjust the convergence, zoom offsets, vertical (mirror) offsets and camera roll. So we got these elements as close as we could without slowing down the shoot and adjusted them later in the day as needed.

What are the keys to making 3D production a seamless experience for the director, DP and other creatives?
Digital image capture has been the biggest improvement in the production experience. Being able to see your shot immediately in 3D helps everyone become more comfortable with the process. I’d say having the mobile lab makes a big difference as well. Vince Pace’s system makes it easier to focus on making a good movie rather that having the 3D process suck up all the attention.

What's the biggest misconception about 3D today?
I don’t know if it’s a misconception, but hopefully as more 3D movies are made filmmakers will begin to use 3D as another tool to tell a story and make interesting images instead of feeling they have to fill the movie with every 3D trick in the book. That will get old quickly.

Just as in the 70’s music producers would use stereo techniques to make guitar solos swoosh from speaker to speaker. You don’t hear that much anymore. Instead stereo is used to separate the instruments, create space and make a great listening experience. Hopefully 3D movies will mature to that stage.

What made you settle on the F23 as the camera of choice for the 3D shoot?
The F23 has a greater dynamic range than a lot of the other cameras and, to me, it handles the highlights in a more filmic way. I knew we were going to be in practical locations where I would not always be able to control the sun and I wanted a camera that could handle the contrast. The F23 gave me that.

By Matt Armstrong, StudioDaily

GDC's Digital Cinema Servers to Incorporate RealD's 3D EQ

GDC Technology has announced further cooperation between the two companies. In this latest agreement, RealD will license to GDC the right to install and deploy its 3D EQ (aka ‘ghostbuster’) technology in GDC’s line of digital cinema servers.

RealD’s 3D EQ technology enhances the separation of the left and right eye images. In the past, this process was incorporated into the master by the studios; RealD’s new approach incorporates the technology into the digital cinema server and therefore simplifies the distribution process without sacrificing the optimal 3D visual experience.

Source: BroadcastBuyer

Interview with Blitz Games co-founder and CTO Andrew Oliver

How were you first introduced to Stereo 3D technology?
I’ve been aware of people building expensive PCs with the nVidia graphics cards and specialist monitors for some time, but personally it struck home when I saw The Polar Express 3D at an IMAX theatre and thought: “My god, 3D’s really cool now.” It really did add something to the film and I think it was a turning point for a lot of people. It led me to think about games and how cool it would be if they were ‘pop out’ 3D and it just so happened that one of our programmers at Blitz had a set-up at home.

He brought some stuff in to show us about a year or so ago. It didn’t go too much further because we make mass-market games and there isn’t really a mass market for 3D games, or certainly not at that time. We don’t really do PC – well, we did do Reservoir Dogs – but generally speaking, we don’t, and there’s not enough of a market with 3D monitors. But then, we looked closer and saw that Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks have all been announcing 3D films and realized that the mass market is likely to turn to 3D. We also noticed that Samsung, Mitsubishi and Texas Instruments are starting to make 3D televisions. So we got hold of some of these screens to see if we could get them to work on the PS3 and Xbox 360. And it turns out we could, but it was flippin’ hard. There’s no way I would say it was easy!

We felt that the mass market would accept 3D once they’d seen some of these new 3D films and with TV manufacturers starting to build in 3D. well, you can kind of work out where it’s all going and that it could work in theory. So we decided it was worth pursuing. After all, we quite often make games of films, and if the film is 3D, then it follows that the publisher should want the game in 3D, right? As we’re quite a technology-led company, we thought we should be able to offer this as a possibility. So we decided to go for it, and we’ve been working for, I don’t know, six to eight months to work out all the pitfalls and get things up and running, which we’ve done now.

You’ve done it? What were some of the pitfalls?
Some of the PC monitors out there that say they’re 3D, physically don’t plug into a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. Either they need a double connector, or they’re not HDMI or DVI. And then some actually have strange modes, like the polarized monitors that have to run at a fixed resolution. If that resolution isn’t one supported by the PlayStation 3, it will never work. So we got quite a few monitors in, because if you go mass market, you’ve got to try to be compatible with everything – but I have to say, it’s the TVs that start to become very interesting.

We got them working and that’s actually what people would have in their living room, with their PS3 and Xbox 360 sitting below. They’re the ones that say 3D-Ready on them, and use active shutter glasses. I must admit, I knew about the shutter glasses a few years ago with the nVidia stuff and thought they were a bit flickery, but believe me: they are very much improved. You don’t notice any flicker at all – they’re really, really good.

That’s often the problem with anything new – if it’s not quite perfect, people tend to dismiss it. But if you see it now, it really is perfect. Yes, you have to wear glasses, and I have to say the glasses at the moment look a little geeky, but I’ve seen the new prototype glasses for the home market here and they look really great - just like normal sunglasses. People aren’t going to have an issue wearing them.

So you got this working on TVs – and it only works, at this point, with the 3DTVs? Or will there be monitor support as well?
We’ve got it working with quite a few. We spent a long time working with the Philips autostereoscopic screens, which don’t need glasses at all. We got it working, but I think it’s going to be a little while before autostereoscopic screens take off. Sharp has a nice one as well. At first we thought, that people wouldn’t want to wear the glasses so we concentrated on these. But it was a bit of a dead end for us. It’s really interesting but just not quite there yet. The 3D TVs were easier and that’s the realistic option.

You’ve put on your website that there have been an estimated two million units sold — I’ve been told it was definitely more than a million last summer. Anyhow, it’s significant, and the interesting thing is people are buying these TVs at the moment without thinking of 3D. They’re just buying them as TVs. Isn’t it cool that the TVs with this ability are sneaking into households so that all people have to do is buy some glasses, plug in a PS3 or an Xbox and buy games that are compatible.

So the biggest difficulty of making games in 3D - and this is the big, big problem - is the games must run in 1080p at 60 frames per second, because that’s what this 3D TV standard has dictated.

Interesting. Why 1080p, I’m curious?
Because it’s Full HD, and while companies a few year ago were talking about how hard it is to get a pixel resolution of 1080, so they used lower resolutions and scaled the picture, they’ve changed their tune. Now they’re saying that as people will be running Blu-ray, they’ll want it at 1080p, full-frame rate. They built that standard to say it’s full resolution. Actually, there is a substandard that says it can be 720, but you can’t build a game – the way that it scales, if you had a 720 game and tried to scale it to 1080, it actually messes up the 3D. So you have to make your game for 1080p.

So it has to be a native 1080p game, running at a 1080p resolution the entire time?
Yes. It’s tough – if you go and count the number of games out there that are in that resolution, there’s very few, probably five to seven on each platform. If you look at the Sony platform – they do Wipeout and a few others – Sony themselves have been showing off that they’ve managed to get the full resolution. But if you look at our last game, Karaoke Revolution American Idol Encore 2, we’re running at 60 fps, at 720, so the extra bit for us to design a game that is in 1080 is just a bit more rendering time. We’re confident we can do it and have shown a demo demonstrating this.

So you do believe that the consoles have that kind of power, it’s just that the games aren’t using it yet?
Yes. If you look at the early games on the PlayStation 2, and then compare them with the last few games like Black and Burnout, they look like different consoles. Give developers a few years and they’ll get really, really slick engines. We already have a really slick engine and we’re confident we can do it now.

I was just going to ask you about that – you have an engine now: the Blitztech Engine, and have just enabled native stereoscopic 3D.
We have a very fast game engine that we license and that our games are written on. We have a Volatile game that hasn’t been announced yet, but when you see that, I’d like to think you’ll be blown away. But people can see American Idol, on the PS3 and Xbox, and will notice huge crowd scenes, impressive lighting, real-time shadows, everything – and it’s all running at 60 frames a second. When people see that, they’ll realize that our technology is really very fast.

You can’t tell me what your game is at Volatile?
No, I think it’s going to be announced fairly shortly. I would say, before you hype people up, that it’s not going to be 3D – because we’re nearly finished.

That was the next thing I was going to ask. You’ve got the engine, which you’re enabling 3D on, and you also build games for others, as you’ve demonstrated – but do you have any stereo 3D games in development?

You’d mentioned that you reach out to those producing 3D movies, and I wanted to ask – have you spoken to James Cameron about Avatar?
I believe it’s already been licensed to Ubisoft. James Cameron was at the show [3D Entertainment Summit], and I was going to talk to him, but he was just completely mobbed and looked pretty annoyed by it, so I didn’t. But there are plenty of other movies, and the point was that I was up there to make a statement that if you are making a 3D movie, you should consider a 3D game. Clearly we have the technology running now. I suspect that other game companies will follow, but I’d like to think we’ve got a year head start on them.

I was wondering, because Ubisoft has been saying that Avatar will be a console game, and I wasn’t sure if your engine was a part of that, or whether they had been building their own.
We have licensed our engine to other developers, but not Ubisoft.

And I’m curious what interest you’ve gotten so far about 3D console games. Have you had any software developers call you up and say “We’re interested in Blitztech,” specifically because of this stereo 3D?
When you tell people that you’ve got 3D, and ask if they’re interested, the general response is along the lines of: “Mmmm, yeah, but it’s a bit of a novelty and there’s not much of a market for it. I guess it would add something, but I’m not sure if it’s worth the extra hassle of trying to make it run at 1080p with 60 frames per second.” because obviously that takes work, and a bit of money and such.

But actually, even people with a 2D monitor will get a very slick-looking game. So people have been kind of non-committal when they’ve heard about it, and we’ve talked to various publishers. But the few people that we have shown since December 2008, when we actually showed them our game running on a 3D TV, have said “Oh god, that’s really nice. It’s starting to look like a hologram – you can reach out and feel into the screen. You kind of forget you’re wearing glasses.”

And I have to say, our 3D looks better than the 3D you’ve been seeing on PCs, because on a PC you tend to have a fluctuating frame rate, which messes up 3D a bit. This is why it has to be 60 frames, because if you go and look at the 3D-Ready standard, it doesn’t actually specify 60 frames, it can run at 30 – but it doesn’t look that great. If you run it at 60, it suddenly comes alive and looks like a hologram. It’s amazing and you can really believe in it.

And on the PC, people are generally taking games like Need for Speed and putting it through special drivers to get it working on a 3D monitor, but it’s not like it was ever really designed to do 3D so there’s lots of stuff that doesn’t quite work correctly. It’s like if you take a 2D movie and try to make it 3D, or take a black and white movie, and try to color it up afterwards. It is color, but it doesn’t look right, whereas when you design the console game like we have, it works really well. You’ll have to take my word for it!

Oh, I do believe that, and one of the things I’m actually worried about is that people will be turned off by stereo 3D once again, because they think it’s a conversion process – like you said, something that adds extraneous color to the existing game instead of building a 3D experience from the ground up.
Yes, and just to make it even more difficult, not only do you have to run it at that resolution and frame rate, but any ‘billboarding’ – because we all cheat, and draw flat trees and such in the distance as backdrops – stands out like a sore thumb. We’ve found that we’ve had to go in and model a lot more than we’d usually have to, so there are actually more complex scenes as well – and you have to spend more time on the camera, so you don’t suddenly put the camera against the wall and then look out into the distance.

They’ve actually had to be careful about this in 3D movies. In a regular movie there are often fast cuts, like in conversation shots over the shoulder, then the camera looks at both characters, and then over the shoulder again and repeat this a lot. If this is done in a 3D movie, it’ll most likely make the audience a bit queasy because their eyes are trying to focus and refocus over and over again.

In games, we don’t cut cameras very often, so that’s one advantage for gamers. But we do have follow cameras, such as in a first-person shooter, where you might be looking right at a wall, turn, and look right down a corridor, then turn back at the wall, and if you see a near object, and then a far object, near, far, near, far, your eyes don’t like it and start to feel tired. This is because your eyes are refocusing on the depth and when watching traditional 2D screens, your eyes remained focused on one distance.

A big question for our readers, if they are becoming interested in stereo 3D, is what they should be investing in – because like you said, there are the polarized monitors, the 3D-Ready TVs, and the autostereoscopic displays coming down the road. You’re planning to support all of these, or as many as possible...
We’re planning to support the ones that we that will work. It’s been a lot of work, because you have to write drivers for each of the formats and TVs, which is what we’ve been spending a lot of time doing. Because clearly, if someone has a 3D monitor, and they bought a 3D game and it doesn’t work, they’re going to feel fairly cheated. The problem is, there are some out there which we can’t physically support for one reason or another. But theoretically, if it can work, we’ve made it work.

And I think other developers should go that far. There’s a market out there, they’re really interested in 3D, and hence that’s why they bought a 3D monitor. How cheated would they feel if they bought a 3D game for their PlayStation 3 and realize their 3D monitor doesn’t work. Where possible, we have done it, but one of the monitors physically needs a left and a right plug – it takes a left camera and a right camera, from the video card which has two ports. Well, we’ve only got one HDMI cable out of a PlayStation 3 – we can’t plug it in. It’s never going to work.

But the original question was, which of these different formats is the best bet – which do you feel is the most future-proof for those investing in the technology now?
Personally I think it’s 3D-Ready for the mass market, because it’s something that Samsung and Mitsubishi are building into their TVs, and people are buying that without even realizing that it’s 3D. They’re buying a regular TV, and it’s kind of in there. I think that’s pretty cool.

Can I ask you about the ViewSonic monitors that nVidia has been pushing? They’re 120 hertz, and that’s also supposed to be a technology that’s liable to be built into monitors from now on, such that you might just be buying an LCD panel, and it just so happens to have the speed you need to run shutterglasses at that 60 frames per second. Have you worked with those?
The technology that makes the glasses completely flicker-free needs that 120 hertz, so that’s the 3D-Ready standard out there in the Samsung and the Mitsubishi – and the ViewSonic – they run at 120 hertz. This is actually the expensive part – once you are at 120 hertz, adding the 3D is actually quite cheap.

To be perfectly honest with you, we haven’t got the ViewSonic, It’s on our list to get, but I imagine, being fairly familiar with the technologies, it should work very well. Until I see it, I can’t say, but we’ll definitely make sure it’ll be on our list, and we’ll definitely try to be compatible with any monitor out there that says 3D. If it physically possible, we’ll try to make sure it is supported in our engine.

The community’s going to be very happy to hear that. You mentioned autostereoscopic earlier – do you believe there’s a future for that, and if so, how far out might that future be?
We got the Sharp one working fairly nicely, which is kind of a semi-prototype, and we got the Phillips one working to an extent. They’re interesting but they’ve got a few problems. I think they will overcome these and we’re seeing a glimpse of the future, but I think it will be the between five-to-ten years future before they are in the homes as regular TVs.

They need more than just a left and a right view to create their 3D, and it’s been hard enough to give a left and a right view to the current screens with the Xbox & PlayStation 3. I think you’re looking at the next generation for autostereoscopic. Also, the technology is not quite there yet and they’re certainly not there in cost. They’re very expensive and not mass market yet.

Do you believe that the 3D market for games will depend on the current 3D initiative for movies, or do you think that it could survive on its own? Say if Dreamworks and so on fail to interest enough people in their 3D movies...
I think the two do go hand in hand, that it’s going to be these 3D movies that will make people realize that actually, 3D is really, really cool. Because at the moment, they think 3D is gimmicky. People who haven’t seen these new movies think it’s all gimmicky and it won’t work. But if they start to see lots of movies and walk out going “that was just so cool in 3D” and then they start to hear “Did you know that TV over there, if you buy that one, it’s $50 more but it can do 3D,” they’ll go “Oooh, I know what 3D is and it’s very cool, because I saw a film recently, it was a Pixar movie and it was 3D and it was brilliant,” then I think that will convince the consumer to buy the equipment. They need to buy the TV.

But you know, the studios are committed to it. There’s no doubt – all the CG animated movies are going to be made in 3D from now on. I’ve got no real doubts about that. The question at the 3D Entertainment Summit was, if you were making other movies, would you make them in 3D? And the tendency was, if it was a really big, CG-enhanced movie like a Pirates of the Caribbean, then you should seriously consider it.

By Sean Hollister, GameCyte

MAXedit Now Shipping and MAXcut Tool Introduced

Maximum Throughput's MAXedit Server Edition, the first multi-user editing application, is now shipping. With MAXedit, broadcasters, postproduction facilities and studios can rapidly and cost-effectively set up a multi-seat editing environment that's suited for news production, specialty programming, digital dailies, corporate and institutional productions and offline editing. Multiple concurrent users can access MAXedit by launching it from a Web browser.

Maximum Throughput's MAXedit Server Edition

They can review, edit and render compressed and uncompressed SD/HD content, without using specialized workstations or needing to upgrade existing network infrastructure. Users connected over LAN or over the Internet, simply log on to the MAXedit application server and begin editing—all editing operations are processed and executed on the MAXedit server. The scalable editing solution fits into any workflow with its broad native support of tapeless, movie and sequence-of-images formats such as Panasonic P2, Sony XDCAM, AVC HD, DVCPRO HD, MPEG-2/4 and DPX.

Maximum Throughput has also unveiled its new MAXcut, a companion tool to MAXedit. MAXcut further enhances MAXedit’s convenience and functionality by giving media professionals and their clients a streamlined tool to quickly assemble rough cuts and storyboards that can be readily refined by a craft editor in MAXedit. MAXcut is designed for novice and professional editors alike, to easily share creative editing decisions with team members and contribute from anywhere or at anytime to the review and approval cycle associated with any project.

Source: BroadcastBuyer

Interview with Ethan Schur, Director of Marketing for TDVision

Click to watch the video

iZ3D at CES

iZ3D had four different monitor configurations on display at CES. First, they had the highly coveted 26" engineering sample. The specs of the monitor are very similar to the current 22", except it displays a full 1920 X 1200 pixels and features HDMI inputs. There is no anticipated release or production date, but the iZ3D team is actively putting ideas together for their next product line.

iZ3D 26" Engineering Sample 3D Monitor

Next up was their retail kit. Custom painted by Smooth Creations, this is what their retail display looks like in Microcenters and Frys. The monitor display also featured an instructional guide and a looping video of popular games in true 3D. Most of the attendees were impressed with what they saw.

iZ3D 22" Retail Kit

The flight simulator model was very popular too. Three standard 22" monitors were connected via a TripleHead2Go solution, and were running Microsoft Flight Simulator 10 complete with pilot control stick and thrust pedals. There were times when people were nudging each other to get a chance to sit at the simulator, and the potential of solutions like this grew very clear.

Aaron Rapp, iZ3D Marketing Manager and Airline Pilot

Talk of a stereoscopic 3D console market has been heating up rapidly, and as a proof of concept, iZ3D outfitted a 22" monitor with a special conversion board to make their solution compatible with XBOX 360, PS3, and Nintendo Wii. The XBOX360 was playing a third person flight simulator, but what grabbed a lot of attention was the Wii running a simple customized Frisbee game in stereoscopic 3D. Why is this important? Until recently, it was thought that S-3D on Wii was impossible because it doesn’t have HDMI output - but iZ3D corrected this myth.

We must make it clear that everything displayed was customized. Console titles are not like PC games that can be played off the shelf with an S-3D driver. iZ3D had special programming done to make these demonstrations possible, as did Blitz Games Studios with their demonstration at the 3D Entertainment Summit late last year.

Click to watch the video

Source: Meant to be Seen

Hyundai at CES

We had the privilege of meeting Mike Kim, Hyundai’s Sales Director, and Kevin Lee, President of Hyundai IT America Corporation. They are both very excited about the prospects that stereoscopic 3D has to offer in the home.

All the stereoscopic 3D solutions on display were polarized interlaced solutions. In their private CES suite, they demonstrated a wide range of 3D monitors and HDTVs based on this technology. While MTBS does not review hardware, we will say that we were very impressed with the picture clarity on the HDTV and 24" and higher monitor units.

Hyundai has a strong business relationship with DDD, and they are very excited about their 2D/3D conversion algorithm that is implemented inside their 3D HDTV televisions. They demonstrated console footage for us with the conversion, and we are pleased to know that there are native and driver support options as well.

Hyundai 24" W240S and 22" W220S Monitors

Most memorable for us was their 24" W240S 3D monitor. We found ourselves drawn to it because of its crystal clear image, its powerful built-in sound system, and its sharp color range. There is something positive to be said about a well implemented interlaced solution, and we are looking forward to Hyundai’s continued presence in the 3D market.

Source: Meant to be Seen

SpectSoft Introduces New 3D Tools to its Product Line

SpectSoft, a leading provider of uncompressed video solutions on the Linux platform, announced a new standalone 3D (stereo) solution that will be offered up in both software and turnkey form.

SpectSofts newest system, which debut at a recent demo in Northern California offers the ability to take two individual SDI streams in, mix them down and feed them out via DVI/HDMI or Display Port in real-time. The 2 SDI streams can be from any source and they represent the individual right and left eye files that can stream from servers, decks or cameras. This adds value to the workflow by allowing facilities the ability to only have to work with two uncompressed DPX files, right and left eye frames and not separate files to view the images in 3D.

SpectSofts current Rave systems allow stereo DPX frames to immediately be playable for viewing on high-end solutions that accept SDI (Real-D would be one solution that falls into this category). 3d Live, SpectSofts newest solution allows you take the outputs from Rave, or any device and turn them into a mixed down pattern that can be feed into any consumer 3D ready DLP, in real-time. 3d Live also supports many other features that are specific to working in 3D such as keystone correction and image shifting.

Source: SpectSoft

3D Live Action Movies

Director: James Cameron
DP: Mauro Fiore, ASC + Sam Wothington
Camera/recording system: Pace 3D, Fusion Camera/Sony CineAlta/SR Tape
Release: 2009

The Dark Country
Director: Thomas Jane
DP: Geoff Boyle, FBKS
Stereographer: Ray Zone
Camera/recording system: Paradise FX 3D/SI 2K and RED

Director: Henry Selick
DP: Pete Kozachik, ASC
Camera/recording system: REDLAKE Digital 3-D
Stop Motion, mechanical motion-controlled camera heads allowing the 3-D interocular effect to be created by using only one camera shooting single frames of the left eye/right eye.
Release: 2009

Final Destination; Death Trip 3D
Director: David R. Ellis
DP: Glen MacPherson, ASC
Camera/recording system: Pace 3D, Fusion Camera/Sony CineAlta/SR Tape

Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus - Best of Both Worlds
Director: Kenny Ortega
DP: Mitch Amundsen
Stereographer: Vince Pace
DIT: Britt Cyrus
Camera/recording system: Pace 3D using new 10 camera 3D mobile unit/Sony HD Cameras/SRW tape
Release: 2008

The Hole
Director: Joe Dante
DP: Theo van de Sande, ASC
Stereographer: Max Penner
DIT: Robert Howie
Camera/recording system: RED One, ParadiseFX 3-D

Jonas Brothers, The 3D Concert Experience
Director: Bruce Hendricks
DP: Mitch Amundsen, ASC + Reed Smoot, ASC
Camera/recording system: Pace 3D, Fusion Camera/Sony CineAlta/SR Tape
Release: 2009

Little Hercules in 3-D
Director: Mohamed Khashoggi
DP: Mateo Londono
Camera/recording system: Sony F900/HD3Cam 3-D

My Bloody Valentine 3-D
Director: Patrick Lussier
DP: Brian Pearson
Stereographer: Max Penner
Camera/recording system: RED One/Silicon Imaging SI-2K, ParadiseFX 3-D

Under The Sea 3D
Director/DP: Howard Hall
Camera/recording system: Imax 3-D 70mm film in the 15/70 format

Source: Digital Cinema Society

DisplayPort 1.2 to Carry 3D

Display standards group VESA has revealed early details of DisplayPort 1.2, the next generation of its interface for computer screens. The technology doubles the amount of available bandwidth and lets the format produce images better than either the current 1.1 standard or dual-link DVI. At a minimum, the technology would allow a near-4K resolution of 3840x2160 at 60 frames per second and more advanced 30-bit color; the current specification is limited to 2560x1600 at the same quality.

Apple's DisplayPort mini-connector: soon to be standard

The advancement will also allow the extra bandwidth to be used for either a faster image or multiple images. It could be used for 120 frames per second images at 1080p and reduce the loss of detail in fast movement, similar to modern 120Hz HDTVs; that same speed could also be used to maintain two separate images in a stereoscopic 3D effect for displays like the ViewSonic FuHzion and NVIDIA's matching GeForce 3D Vision glasses. In 2D, the bandwidth could be split into daisy-chained displays and include as many as four 1920x1200 screens or two 2560x1600 examples.

Version 1.2 should also make DisplayPort more practical for notebooks and is expected to use Apple's Mini DisplayPort as the official standard, shrinking the connector to provide more space. The output format is already being made available by Apple under a free license but would now be officially encouraged for use by the VESA group.

Confirmation of Apple's participation and the full standard's specifications should be published in mid-2009; devices using 1.2 should be available shortly afterwards.

Source: Electronista

Kordor Electronics Gives Boost to Digital Cinema

Kodor Electronics gives a boost to the digital cinema initiative today with the release of the KodeKey Professional Zip platform for Windows and Mac OS X computer systems.

Digital films are packaged and distributed using an industry standard specification called the Digital Cinema Package (DCP). Part of the DCP specification is the digital film MXF container that can range in single file sizes of 60GB to 500GB. Today, digital films are delivered by hard drive or satellite data transmission using fulfillment services from companies like Technicolor, Kodak, and Deluxe. Legacy celluloid reel manufacturing and distribution costs movie studios up to $1500 a print per theater. Digital distribution provides a dramatic drop in initial distribution investment for movie studios but has proven to be a bit costly due to hard drive delivery and expensive satellite rental time. The cost savings reserved from digital versus celluloid distribution is planned for investments into digital projector upgrades for theater vendors by the movie studios.

Delivering a system with an average per film distribution cost of $70, the KodeKey Zip technology is an online powered zip format that replaces the internal data storage of a traditional zip file with the cloud storage infrastructure of the Amazon Web Services S3 platform. By using an upload and download manager, the format can manage hundreds of gigabytes of data in a zip file less than 1 kilobyte in size per movie. Optionally, the format can create 1,344,000-bit password certificates to add additional access protection as an accessory to KDM encryption keys sent to theater vendors to unlock playback rights for MXF containers.

Broadband delivery of digital films has been a challenge in the past due to poor TCP connections and poor designs of online storage servers required to handle single file sizes above 5GB. KodeKey Zip has been tested and approved for up to 1TB of single file archiving validated by rigorous 12-mode hash string calculation certification.

“KodeKey Zip has been designed to easily deliver 300GB digital films as an e-mail attachment to thousands of theaters simultaneously”, says inventor and Chairman William G. Blanchard, “We are honored to work with the digital film initiative and look forward to provide support to the digital movie industry worldwide.”

Source: Retail Zip