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Italian TV broadcaster launches HD backwards-compatible 3-D OTA transmission

On Dec. 1, a consortium of public and private interests in the northwest region of Italy announced the launch of 3-D HDTV free-to-air broadcasting that is backwards compatible with 2-D HDTV reception.

The collaboration, which is ongoing in the Piedmont region of Italy, involves R&D and technical consultancy firm Sisvel, Piedmont regional broadcaster Quartarete TV and regional research body CSP Innovazione nelle ICT.

Broadcasting via the Quartarete TV service bouquet, the new 3-D HD service uses the 3-D tile format, which integrates two 720p frames within a single 1080p frame. For viewers with 3-D receivers, the pair of 720p frames constitutes left and right images necessary to create the three-dimensional visual effect. For viewers with 2-D HDTVs, the same transmission delivers 720p high-def imagery that is viewable on their conventional HDTV sets. Employing the 3-D tile format allows Quartarete TV to deliver both 2-D and 3-D programming within the same amount of bandwidth needed to support a single 1080p channel, thus improving bandwidth efficiency.

At a press conference in Turin Nov. 30 announcing the effort, the consortium said its transmission of 2-D HD backwards-compatible 3-D programming was a worldwide first for over-the-air television transmission.

During the gathering, Sisvel founder Roberto Dini emphasized the importance of the 3-D tile format in making possible the transmission of 2-D HD content in a 3-D 1080p stream. "With our partners, we have done some great research and development work and made it tangible,” he said. “3-D tile format technology introduces considerable benefits for the entire market, from operators to TV producers to consumers, and we hope that many other national and international players adopt it soon.” Standardization bodies are assessing the system, he added.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.