IBC 2010 – DVB-3D – Paul Dempsey
The DVB Project will publish its first digital 3DTV standards before the end of the year, and demonstrated 3D transmissions over all of its second generation terrestrial (DVB-T2), satellite (DVB-S2) and cable (DVB-C2) formats at IBC.
However, the consortium acknowledges that its DVD-3D standard is only the beginning and that there is little current broadcaster enthusiasm to leap into 3D transmissions.
The first iteration will be based around a ‘frame compatible’ technique, where the left and right eye views are transmitted so that an existing set-top box receives them as though they are a single 2D frame. A 3D-capable TV will then bring together the side-by-side or top-and-bottom elements.
David Wood, chairman of DVB-3DTV’s commercial module, said that the signals need to be receivable by today’s installed base of digital STBs to kick start the market. Viewers will already be expected to buy new TVs to watch any transmissions.
The standard will therefore initially have several ‘flavors’ to ensure box compatibility, with equipment running at 50 or 60Hz, for transmissions in 720p or 1080i resolutions and according to various other parameters.
“What we want to avoid is the crazy situation you had after CES [January’s Consumer Electronics Show] where one company started 3D broadcasts that could only be seen on one manufacturer’s products,” Wood added.
He also noted that the first 3D standards will have ‘placeholders’ to leave scope for emerging 3D technologies, particularly any that eliminate the need for glasses, and remarked that some launches have been accompanied by health warnings because of concerns over the amount of time anyone should spending watching artificially constructed 3D images.
Despite the current hype, most TV companies are prepared to wait on more mature technologies and only three (the UK’s BSkyB, Japan’s NHK and the US sports network ESPN) are seen as likely to announce pathfinder 3D launches to-the-home in the short-to-medium term.
Andy Quested, head of technology for BBC HD, said that 3D was not yet a justifiable investment for the British broadcaster given its public service remit and that most large broadcasters remain focused on transitioning as much as viable in existing schedules to high definition.
Caution on 3D extends to the co-production market, where several companies report difficulties in assembling the kind of partnerships that helped to seed HD production in its early days. Public service broadcasters, in particular, are struggling under various forms of government-imposed cuts as the global recession has led to austerity budgeting.
Elsewhere at IBC, 3D players such as Bill Collis, CEO of post-production software developer The Foundry, said that the market is still being driven by the demands of Hollywood features, with gaming as potentially the next major growth sector.
Collis said he thought that TV was not likely to be a major market for 3D technology for “a little while yet”. He added that by playing wait and see, broadcasters and even gaming companies will ultimately benefit from Hollywood’s R&D, although product prices are already coming down to a ‘manageable’ level, particularly in terms of software licenses.