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Hollywood preps for 3D TV

Posted: 23 Jul 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:3D films  3D mastering standard  3D content  digital cinema 

It may not be easy, but Hollywood wants to bring its growing library of 3D films showing at the local cineplex to your living room. The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) is forming a task force that will set the stage for an effort to define a stereo 3D mastering standard for content viewed in the home.

SMPTE's 3D Home Display Formats Task Force will produce a report on the issues, challenges and suggested minimum standards for a 3D content format that would serve tethered TV and PC screens in the home. The report will lay the foundation for a subsequent standards effort.

The task force is chartered to assess format standards for all varieties of content whether delivered via broadcast, cable, satellite, Internet or packaged media. It will not directly address hardware issues or mobile systems such as media players and cell phones. The Consumer Electronics Association and a wide swath of other groups are investigating hardware standards for 3D displays.

The SMPTE group will invite a variety of 3-D display makers to demonstrate their offerings at the group's first meeting August 19 at the Entertainment Technology Centre at the University of Southern California outside Los Angeles. The meeting is open to any technology professional involved in content, consumer electronics systems or related fields with registration at the SMPTE Website. However, participants must be members of SMPTE or pay a small fee to attend.

The task force is expected to submit its report within six months. The job of setting a 3D standard for playing 3D content on TVs and PCs across all distribution means could take 18-30 months, said Wendy Aylsworth, VP of engineering for SMPTE.

It's unclear how long the job of defining common 3D codecs for TVs and PCs could take, she added. "We are just at the very beginning of a long path," said Aylsworth who also is a senior VP of technology for Warner Brothers.

"It took a quarter of a century to bring high definition to the home, but I hope 3D doesn't take that long," she said. "We are not changing the entire distribution circuitry, but just adding something on top of it this time."

Aylsworth helped drive initiatives in digital cinema and 3D movies at SMPTE. "We have gone from eight versions of 3D content standards for the cinema down to two today, which is still probably more than we should have," she said.

The timing is right to start work on 3D for the home, in part because consumers are shifting to digital flat-panel displays and away from analogue cathode ray tubes. "That's making this easier," Aylsworth said.

Nevertheless, the job will be a tough one in part due to the wide variety of networks and devices that will carry and play the content.

"The motion picture market is small by comparison" to the home, she said. "You are only dealing with probably less than 100,000 theaters worldwide and a dozen or so companies who make projectors and media servers so the problems were fairly small and quantifiable."

- Rick Merritt
EE Times





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