SMPTE Panelist Says Be Ready to Deploy 3DTV, Just in Case...

HOLLYWOOD: Be prepared for the universal certainties of launching a 3DTV channel, recommends Chris Lennon of Harris:

Timelines will be unrealistic.

You’ll have no budget.

And you’ll have to get it right.

“We find that there’s no exception among our customers launching 3D channels,” Lennon said at the annual conference of the Society of Motion Picture and TV Engineers this week. “To prepare properly for launching a 3D channel, you need to understand what the requirements are.”

Lennon said the good news is that upgrading from high definition to 3D is not as drastic as getting to HD in the first place.

“When it comes to 3D... first point of our philosophy, is try to maintain the highest quality images you can, as long as you can through the chain,” he said, referring to the dual images of current 3DTV formats. “The second point, even if you don’t have solid plans to launch a 3D channel soon, it’s a good idea to minimize risk,” i.e., buy capable equipment.

Lennon provided a basic overview of what to consider when migrating to 3D, breaking the workflow ecosystem into seven areas: Production, switching and multiviewers, automation and digital asset management, servers, test and measurement, conversion, and transmission. Each step along the chain involves processing dual images.

Graphics are a big consideration in 3D production, including how they’re positioned and integrated, and made available in both 1080i and 720p. Editing 3D video requires tracking the two left- and right-eye images for each frame, and backhaul requires them to be synchronized.

The primary consideration for switchers is 3 Gbps capability. New multiviewers should be able to support 3D, and the ability to view left/right images separately. Master control switchers should be able to slave L/R controls for single switches.

Running a 3D service requires an automation system that can drive two channels in lock step, frame accurately, Lennon said. Asset management should be capable of differentiating 3D from HD content.

Servers should be able to bring in stereoscopic content together and play it out together, with support for independent left-right clips.

Dual-image conversion means inputs for L/R views, and output for side-by-side or over-under 3D distribution formats. Built-in frame sync and processing amplification is recommended.

Test and measurement for 3DTV is a work in progress. Lennon said that quality control hasn’t been given due attention. Similarly to the preceding steps in the workflow, dual images must be considered. Waveform and vector monitors have to handle L/R views.

And finally, transmission and transport of 3DTV signals is currently taking on just a few forms. The most common is the frame-compatible format, which works on high-definition TV architectures. The dual images of 3DTV can be delivered either side-by-side--the most popular methods; or over-under. Horizontal resolution is sacrificed in the first; vertical resolution in the second.

Such are some basic considerations when upgrading a TV facility, even if the business side has no immediate plans to launch 3DTV, Lennon said.

“Can you say, with 100 percent certainty, when you’re going to have to worry about 3D, or if you’re going to have to worry about it?” he said. “Our attitude is educate yourself now. Buying new gear, consider 3D now even if you don’t have concrete launch plans.” -- Deborah D. McAdams