DVB approves 3-D TV spec for Europe

The Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) consortium has officially approved a new specification for the distribution of 3-D content, which will be used by broadcasters and other content providers as a way to transmit images using frame-compatible methods that are backward-compatible with existing DTV sets. Consumers need 3-D-compatible sets to view the new content, while those with HDTV sets will see a 2-D version of the same content.

The DVB’s Steering Board met Feb. 17 to vote on the new spec, which was unanimously approved. The specification will now be submitted to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) for formal standardization. BlueBook A154 “Frame Compatible Plano-Stereoscopic 3DTV” (DVB-3DTV) is available for download from the DVB website.

The commercial requirements for the DVB-3DTV specification were agreed on in July 2010 after consultation with key industry groups. David Wood (EBU) served as chairman of the Commercial Module’s Sub-Group on 3DTV, and David Daniels (BSkyB) led development of the complementary Technical Module (TM-3DTV).

The specification specifies a delivery system that uses frame-compatible “plano-stereoscopic” signals to allow service providers to leverage their existing HDTV infrastructures to deliver content that is compatible with 3-D-capable displays already in the market. This system covers both cases of a set-top box delivering 3-D TV services to a 3-D TV-capable display device via an HDMI connection and a 3-D TV-capable display device receiving 3-D TV services directly via a built-in tuner and decoder.

Plano-stereoscopic imaging systems deliver two images (left and right) that are arranged to be seen simultaneously, or near simultaneously, by the left and right eyes. Viewers perceive increased depth in the picture, which becomes more like the natural binocular viewing experience.

The DVB-3DTV specification is also accompanied by the Subtitling Systems Specification (EN 300 743), which provides a mechanism that allows subtitles and other on-screen graphics to be best positioned so they can be viewed correctly in the stereoscopic picture. There are also amendments to the Service Information Specification (EN 300 468) and to the specification of audio and video coding over the MPEG-2 transport stream (TS 101 154).

Going forward, the DVB is looking into the technical requirements for a 2-D/3-D simulcast. The entire 3-D TV manual is expected to be published by the DVB consortium within a year.

The DVB is a consortium of more than 250 broadcasters, manufacturers, network operators, software developers and regulatory bodies that are committed to designing global standards for the delivery of DTV and data services.