Europe Gets a 3DTV Spec

GENEVA: The U.K. TV standards body has approved of a specification for 3DTV. Digital Video Broadcasting, a consortium of around 250 groups involved with broadcasting has gone with a frame-compatible format for its 3DTV standard.

The DVB board voted Feb. 17 at its 67th annual meeting to approve the DVB-3DTV spec. It was to be submitted immediately to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute for formal standardization. BlueBook A154 “Frame Compatible Plano-Stereoscopic 3DTV,” has been published and is available for downloading from the DVB website.

The standard specifies the distribution of frame-compatible 3DTV over existing HD infrastructures, the DVB said. The system is said to cover delivery to HDMI-connected set-tops as well as directly to 3DTVs. The frame-compatible format provides simultaneous, distinct left- and right-eye images that typically are viewed through shutter glasses that rapidly block one and then the other to produce the illusion of stereoscopy.

The selection of the frame-compatible format versus a service-compatible model was expected, even as broadcasters there favored the latter. The service-compatible format creates the 3D illusion via data added to the 2D stream and is therefore more bandwidth efficient than the frame-compatible format.

More than half of European broadcasters polled by the EBU last summer said they’d prefer a service-compatible format standard. (See “EU Broadcasters Prefer Service-Compatible 3DTV.”) However, the current crop of 3DTV sets cannot decode service-compatible 3DTV. U.S. broadcasters are disinclined toward using the frame-compatible format for 3DTV because of its bandwidth requirements.

The Commercial Requirements for DVB-3DTV were approved last July. The full spec is accompanied by one for subtitling--EN 300 743--which covers optimal positioning for subtitles and other on-screen graphics for viewing in 3D. There are also amendments to the Service Information spec and to the one covering audio and video coding of the MPEG-2 transport stream.

-- Deborah D. McAdams