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Stage gets ready for 3D TV

Posted: 21 Jan 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:3D TV  flat-panel TV  consumer electronics  display market 

Interfaces and conversion
Standards groups are playing catch up with the industry on 3D. The CEA has started an effort to define a standard for the infrared signalling to active shutter glasses. However it is not expected to be finished until after first products ship. Greer of RealD said his company is not participating in the effort.

For its part the Digital Video Broadcasting Project in Europe is just starting to explore standards for stereo 3D TV. The first meeting of a DVB group to set market requirements for the technology will be held Jan. 26.

David Daniels, a senior technologist at BskyB, said a parallel group looking into technical requirements is also just getting set up. It is expected to explore several areas including formats for source video, signalling over HDMI and codecs such as MVC.

"We're still in the early days of understanding how H.264 works," he said, noting the BBC recently reported it has achieved a new low bit-rate capability with the MPEG-4.

The DVB will also take up the hot issue of how to show graphics and subtitles in stereo 3D space.

"If you want to check out how a 3D TV vendor handles 2D graphics, just hit the menu button on one of their demos," said Hays of Sony. "Some people treat it very elegantly, and others make your head explode," he said.

Some companies see the lack of good 2D and 3D interfaces as an opportunity. A representative of Motorola's set-top group said it has developed proprietary technology for the subtitle problem that it will supply to its customers. Stereo 3D camera company 3ality Digital Systems said it is working with a start-up on 3D navigation software.

Another hot technology is real-time 2D to 3D conversion. Both Toshiba and Samsung promised to offer it as a differentiating feature on their TVs in the initial years when there will be limited 3D content available. Both companies claim they have unique algorithms running on proprietary muscular processors they are putting inside their systems.

Toshiba, which is using its version of the eight-core Cell CPU co-developed with IBM, cautioned that the conversion will offer a limited version of stereo 3D. He described it as providing some depth behind the screen where possible, but no effects of depth in front of the screen.

Studio stereographers and competing TV makers panned the techniques.

"We considered 2D to 3D conversion, but once you watch real 3D content it's easy to see where the converted video breaks up, so we decided to stick with content produced in 3D," said Nandhakumar of LG.

"It's a very, very difficult thing to do, and I've never seen a good version of it," said Phil McNally at Dreamworks, also known as Captain 3D. "It's a question of whether there is any information available for a computer to understand what's in front or behind in a scene," he added.

Steve Schklair, CEO of 3ality which is carving out a business in stereo 3D capture, said the technique was tried in a football game in Dallas where the converted video was put up on a stadium monitor. "It was booed off the screen in three minutes, and when they turned it off the audience applauded," he said.

"It does require the hands of an artist to do this," said Hays of Sony. "I know everyone is trying to jump on the 3D bandwagon, but some people will fall off," he said.

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