Broadcasters Prefer Service Compatible 3D Format

Over half of broadcasters would prefer the adoption of a Service Compatible format for 3DTV, marking a split with the side-by-side transmissions favoured by pay-TV operators, according to a survey conducted by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and seen by Broadband TV News. The survey asked EBU members, largely drawn from broadcasters with public service obligations, which of the systems currently under development best met their potential needs if and when the decision was taken to broadcast in 3DTV.

The Service Compatible system that needs both a new display and a new set-top box but can be viewed in 2D on a normal receiver, and gives the highest 3D quality possible today received interest from 51.9% of respondents. It works by adding additional information to the signal that is only decoded by a 3DTV, allowing regular viewers to watch their programme of choice, without the need for 3D audiences to retune or broadcasters use substantially more bandwidth.

The Frame Compatible system – needing a new display but not a new set-top box, and provides somewhat higher quality – effectively that being deployed in Europe and around the world by the pay-TV sector– achieved 11.1%. This was the same score as Colour Anaglyph, the 1950s throwback that has been used more recently by Channel 4 and Virgin Media in their 3D seasons.

25.9% of respondents said none of the systems met their needs.

Service Compatible is most likely to be used in the DTT horizontal market for occasional broadcasts, offering a higher image quality than used by pay-TV through the half resolution per eye/view frame compatible method of side-by-side. The transmission company Arqiva recently confirmed plans to run live 3D trials on the UK terrestrial system.

The EBU is one of a number of organizations working on the development of 3D standards. The DVB is developing the broadcast signal formats for 3DTV, SMPTE is developing a ‘file format’ for 3DTV production, while IEC/ISO are concentrating on compression systems for 3DTV delivery. Other work includes the 3D@Home consortium that is looking into ways that one pair of glasses purchased for one manufacturer’s product could work with another. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) itself is looking at broadcast requirements. All these will ultimately fall under the ITU-R that will make recommendations for the use of the format.

By Julian Clover, Broadband TV News