CableLabs 3-D content encoding spec helps define cable TV delivery

Earlier this year, CableLabs, the nonprofit R&D consortium for cable TV operators, published a new specification for formatting, or “panelizing,” 3-D content into a frame-compatible format for use by cable TV systems in the United States. The spec, which is now being used across the industry, is designed to serve as a guide for producers, programmers and aggregators of stereoscopic 3-D programming so their programs are delivered properly and the end result is a pleasing viewing experience for the consumer. This specification, called Content Encoding Profiles 3.0 Specification (OC-SP-CEP3.0-I01-100827), can be found on the CableLabs website under “OpenCable specifications.”

“This spec release marks a great step in the commercialization of 3-D TV because it is the first public specification that fully describes the coding and signaling for these top-and-bottom and side-by-side 3-D video formats,” said Tony Werner, CTO of Comcast.

Ensuring that content from all programming sources and cable systems is prepared in a uniform way will ensure interoperability with set-top boxes and 3-D TVs in the home.

“A key part of this specification includes the definitions for signaling 3-D content over existing digital video infrastructure that uses either MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 coding,” said Jim Occhiuto, vice president of technology and engineering at Showtime Networks. “This signaling is critical for the receiver/decoder to enable automatic format detection and simplified user experiences when going between 2-D and 3-D programs.”

The CableLabs 3-D content specification was developed with support from cable operators, programmers and equipment vendors and is freely available. It replaces the previous VOD-Content Encoding Profile 2.0 specification that has been widely adopted within the industry.

The specification represents the first step in a continuing process to define 3-D formats for cable TV that works with existing equipment and infrastructure. Work continues at CableLabs on the development of standards for the delivery of future 3-D delivery systems that will expand the resolution and the quality as new equipment becomes available.