3 Dimensions TV (3DTV) became commercially available in the United States in 2010 and service in other countries was expected to follow soon thereafter. 3DTV is a subset of a larger discipline known as 3D Video (3DV). There are now many routine vendor announcements related to 3DTV/3DV, and there are also conferences wholly dedicated to the topic.
To highlight the commercial interest in this topic, note that ESPN announced in January 2010 that it planned to launch what would be the world’s first 3D sports network with the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament in June 2010, followed by
an estimated 85 live sports events during its first year of operation. DirecTV was planning to become the first company to offer satellite-based 3D as announced at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show. Numerous manufacturers
showed 3D displays at recent consumer electronics trade shows. Several standards bodies and industry consortia are now working to support commercialization of the service. An increasing inventory of content is now also becoming available in 3D.
Recently, there has been a lot of interest on the part of technology suppliers, broadcasters, and content providers to bring 3 Dimension Video (3DV) to the consumer. The year 2010 has been called the first year of 3D Television (3DTV)
by some industry players. 3DTV is the delivery of 3DV on a TV screen, typically in the consumer’s home. The initial step in this commercialization endeavor was to make 3D content available on Blu-ray Discs (BDs), for example with the release of Titanic, Terminator, and Avatar. However, well beyond that stand-alone home arrangement there has been a concerted effort to develop end-to-end systems to bring 3DTV services to the consumer, supported by regular commercial programming that is delivered and made available on a routine scheduled basis. Broadcasters such as, but not limited to, ESPN, DIRECTV, Discovery Communications, BSkyB, and British Channel 4 were planning to start 3D programming in 2010. LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, JVC, Vizio, Sharp, and Mitsubishi, among others, were actively marketing high quality TV display products at press time, with some such as Samsung and Mitsubishi already shipping 3D-ready flatpanel TVs as far back as 2008. Front Projection 3D systems for medium-sized audiences (5–25 people), for example for the “prosumer,” have been available for longer; of course, movie theater systems have been around for years. The goal of the 3DTV industry is to replicate to the degree possible the experience achievable in a 3D movie theater, but in the home setting.
A commercial 3DTV system is comprised of the following functional elements: capture of 3D content, specifically moving scenes; encoding (representation) of content; content compression; content transport over satellite, cable, Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), or over-the-air channels1; and content display. Figure 1.1 depicts a logical, functional view of an end-to-end 3DTV
system. Figure 1.2 depicts graphically a system architecture that may see early commercial introduction—this system is known as stereoscopic Conventional Stereo Video (CSV) or Stereoscopic 3D (S3D). Figures 1.3 and 1.4 show examples of 3D camera arrangements, while Fig. 1.5 illustrates a typical 3D display (this one using active glasses, also called eyewear). Finally, Fig. 1.6 depicts what we call a pictorialization of 3D TV screens, as may be included in vendor brochures.
This text offers an overview of the content capture, encoding, and transmission subelements, specifically the technologies, standards, and infrastructure required to support commercial real-time 3DTV/3DV services. It reviews
the required standards and technologies that have emerged of late—or are just emerging—in support of such new services, with a focus on encoding and the build-out of the transport infrastructure. Stakeholders involved with the rollout of this infrastructure include consumer and system equipment manufacturers, broadcasters, satellite operators, terrestrial telecommunications carriers, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), storage companies, content-development entities, and standardization committees.
There is growing interest on the part of stakeholders to introduce 3DTV services, basically as a way to generate new revenues. There was major emphasis
on 3DTV from manufacturers at various consumer shows taking place in the recent past. One in four consumers surveyed by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) in a press time study indicated that they plan to buy a 3D TV set within the next three years . The research firm DisplaySearch has forecasted that the 3D display market will grow to $22 billion by 2018 (this represents an
annual compound growth rate of about 50%2). When it comes to entertainment, especially for a compelling type of entertainment that 3D has the opportunity of being, there may well be a reasonably high take rate, especially if the price point is right for the equipment and for the service.
Classical questions that are (and/or should be) asked by stakeholders include the following:
- Which competing 3D encoding and transmission technologies should an operator adopt?
- What technological advancements are expected in 3D, say by 2012 or 2015?
- Where do the greatest market opportunities exist in the 3D market?
These and similar questions are addressed in this text.