Opportunities and Challenges for 3DTV

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The previous section highlighted that many of the components needed to support an end-to-end commercial broadcast service are available or are becoming available. Hence, proponents see a significant market opportunity at this time. CEA
estimates that more than 25% of sets sold in 2013 will be 3D-enabled. A handful of representative quotes from proponents of the 3D technology are as follows:

No one can escape the buzz and excitement around 3D. We’re witnessing the start of
dramatic change in how we view TV—the dawn of a new dimension. And through Sky’s
clear commitment to 3D broadcasting, 3D in the home is set to become a reality . . . .

. . . The next killer application for the home entertainment industry—3DTV . . . [It]
will drive new revenue opportunities for content creators and distributors by enabling
3D feature films and other programming to be played on their home television and
computer displays—regardless of delivery channels . . . .

. . . The most buzzed about topics at CES: 3-D stereoscopic content creation . . . Several
pivotal announcements [in] 2010 including 3D-TV releases from the major consumer
electronics manufacturers and the launch of several dedicated 3D broadcast channels
are driving the rapid increase in demand for 3-D content . . .

3D technology is now positioned “to become a major force in future in-home entertainment.”

. . . 3DTV is one of the ‘hottest’ subjects today in broadcasting. The combination of
the audience’s‘wow’ factor and the potential to launch completely new services, makes
it an attractive subject for both consumer and professional. There have already been
broadcasts of a conventional display-compatible system, and the first HDTV channel
compatible broadcasts are scheduled to start in Europe in the Spring of 2010 . . .

. . . In Europe, the EC is currently funding a large series of projects for 3DTV, including
multiview, mobile 3D and 3D search . . .

time, there are industry observers that take a more conservative view. These observers make note that there are uncertainties about the availability of content, the technological readiness, and acceptance in the living room, especially given the requirement to use polarized or shutter glasses. A rational approach to market penetration is certainly in order; also, the powerful tool of statistically valid market research can be used to truly measure user interest and willingness to pay. Some representative quotes for a more conservative view of the 3D technology are given below:

. . . In a wide range of demos, companies . . . claim . . . in January 2010 that stereoscopic
3D is ready for the home. In fact, engineers face plenty of work hammering out
the standards and silicon for 3DTV products, most of which will ship for the holiday
2010 season . . .

It has proven somewhat difficult to create a 3D system that does not cause ‘eye fatigue’
after a certain time. Most current-generation higher resolution systems also need special
eyeglasses which can be inconvenient. Apart from eye-fatigue, systems developed
so far can also have limitations such as constrained viewing positions. Multiple viewpoint
television systems are intended to alleviate this. Stereoscopic systems also allow
only limited ‘production grammar’ . . . One should not underestimate the difficulty, or
the imagination and creativity required, to create a near ‘ideal’ 3DTV system that the
public could enjoy in a relaxed way, and for a long period of time . . .

. . . The production process for 3D television requires a fundamental rethinking of the
underlying technology. Scenes have to be recorded with multiple imaging devices that
may be augmented with additional sensor technology to capture the three-dimensional
nature of real scenes. In addition, the data format used in 3D television is a lot more
complex. Rather than normal video streams, time-varying computational models of the
recorded scenes are required that comprise of descriptions of the scenes’ shape, motion,
and multiview appearance. The reconstruction of these models from the multiview
sensor data is one of the major challenges that we face today. Finally, the captured
scene descriptions have to be shown to the viewer in three-dimensions which requires
completely new display technology . . .

. . . The conventional stereoscopic concept entails with two views: it relies on the basic
concept of an end-to-end stereoscopic video chain, that is, on the capturing, transmission
and display of two separate video streams, one for the left and one for the
right eye. [Advocates for the autostereoscopic approach argue that] this conventional
approach is not sufficient for future 3DTV services. The objective of 3DTV is to bring
3D imaging to users at home. Thus, like conventional stereo production and 3D Cinema,
3DTV is based on the idea of providing a viewer with two individual perspective
views—one for the left eye and one for the right eye. The difference in approaches,
however, lies in the environment in which the 3D content is presented. While it seems
to be acceptable for a user to wear special glasses in the darkened theatrical auditorium
of a 3D Digital Cinema, [many, perhaps] most people would refuse to wear such
devices at home in the communicative atmosphere of their living rooms. Basically,
auto-stereoscopic 3D displays are better suited for these kinds of applications

. . . The two greatest industry-wide concerns [are]: (1.) That poor quality stereoscopic
TV will‘poison the water’ for everyone. Stereoscopic content that is poorly realized in
grammar or technology will create a reputation of eyestrain which cannot be shaken
off. This has happened before in the 30s, the 50s, and the 80s in the cinema. (2.) That
fragmentation of technical standards will split and confuse the market, and prevent
stereoscopic television from ever being successful . . .

. . . people may quickly tire of the novelty. I think it will be a gimmick. I suspect there
will be a lot of people who say it’s sort of neat, but it’s not really comfortable . . .

The challenge for the stakeholder is to determine where the “true” situation is, whether it is at one extreme, at the other extreme, or somewhere in the middle. An abbreviated list of issues to be resolved in order to facilitate broad deployment
of 3DTV services, beyond pure technology and encoding issues, include the following :

  • Production grammar (3D production for television still in infancy)
  • Compatibility of systems (also possibly different issues for pay TV and free-to-air operators)
  • Assessment of quality/suitability
    • Methodologies for the quality assessment of 3D TV systems;
    • Parameters that need to be measured that are specific to 3D TV;’
    • Sensation of reality;
    • Ease of viewing.
  • Understanding what the user requirements are.

In general, a technology introduction process spans three phases:

  • Phase 1: The technology becomes available in basic form to support a given service;
  • Phase 2: A full panoply of standards emerges to support widespread deployment of the technology;
  • Phase 3: The technology becomes inexpensive enough to foster large-scale adoption by a large set of end-users.

With reference to 3DTV, we find ourselves at some early point in Phase 1. However, there are several retarding factors that could hold back short-term deployment of the technology on a broad scale, including deployment and service cost (overall status of the economy), standards, content, and quality.

The previous assertion can be further elaborated as follows: ITU-R WP 6C classifies 3D TV systems into two groups. The “first generation” systems are essentially those based on “Plano-stereoscopic” display of single or multiple discrete lateral left and right eye pictures. Recommendations for such systems should be possible in the near future. The “second generation” systems are those which are based on object-wave recording (holography) or approximations of object-wave recording. Recommendations for such systems may be possible in the years ahead. We refine these observations by defining the following generations of 3DTV technology:

  • Generation 0: Anaglyth TV transmission;
  • Generation 1: 3DTV that supports plano-stereoscopic displays, which are stereoscopic (that is, require active or passive glasses);
  • Generation 2: 3DTV that supports plano-stereoscopic displays, which are autostereoscopic (do not require glasses);

Three epochs of 3DTV commercial deployment.

  • Generation 2.5: 3DTV that supports plano-stereoscopic displays, which are autostereoscopic (do not require glasses) and support multiple (N = 9) views;
  • Generation 3: 3DTV that supports integral imaging, transmission, and displays;
  • Generation 4: 3DTV that supports volumetric displays, transmission, and displays;
  • Generation 5: 3DTV that supports object-wave transmission.

See Figs. 1.9 and 1.10 (partially based on Ref. 2). Whether and when we get beyond Generation 2.5 in this decade remains to be seen. This text, and the current commercial industry efforts concentrate on Generation 1 services. At press time, we find ourselves in Phase 1 of Generation 1. The existing commercial video infrastructure can handle 3D video in a basic, developmental form; however, providing HD 3D with motion graphics is not achievable without making enhancements to such infrastructure. Existing infrastructures, including satellite and/or terrestrial distribution networks for example, can handle what some have termed “half-HD resolution” per eye, or frame formats of 1080i, 1080p24, and 1080i60. Existing encoders and set-top boxes can be used as long as signaling issues are addressed and 3D content is of a consistent form. The drawback of half-HD resolution is that images can be blurry, especially for sporting events and high-action movies [20]. New set-top chip sets are required for higher resolution 3DTV.