SMPTE Releases 3D Spec

During last week’s NAB Show in Las Vegas, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers announced the requirements for a stereoscopic 3D Home Master standard that the association touts as “the cornerstone” of the entire 3D content chain.

The SMPTE 3D Home Master provides high-level image formatting requirements for the source materials authored and delivered by content developers. It also spells out requirements for the delivery of those materials to all distribution channels--from physical media to terrestrial, satellite, cable and other streaming service providers.

“This was a very important step for SMPTE to take,” said Nandhu Nandhakmar, senior vice president, Advanced Technology, LG Electronics. “With studio and equipment vendors saying here’s what the master formats will look like, then the rest of the distribution chain can become more focused.”

The SMPTE task force recommends a mastering standard based on 1920x1080 pixel resolution at 60 frames per second and per eye. The standard will be required to support backward-compatibility to 2D images and content, hybrid products such as Blu-ray disks that can support 2D and 3D displays, as well as be extensible to future 3D technologies and approaches. SMPTE began work on a 3D standard with the formation of a cross-industry SMPTE task force in August 2008.

“Everyone was watching SMPTE for this first, critical move of defining the requirements,” said Bill Zou, chairman of the task force, and senior manager, Standards and Business Development, DTS, Inc. “We had six months to finish this task, and we not only finished on time, but completed every task assigned to the committee. SMPTE should be credited for this leadership and this important first step in the advancement and broader distribution of 3D.”

More than 200 people from 13 countries, representing Hollywood, broadcasters, cable and DTH service providers as well as consumer electronics manufacturers and semiconductor companies collaborated on the SMPTE 3D Home Entertainment Task Force. The group concluded their work in March, covering the SMPTE 3D Home Master definition and parameters, as well as a 3D end-to-end system description, use cases, technical requirement and recommendations for developing 3D standards.

The next step will be the formal definition of the SMPTE 3D Home Master; a group within the standards committee will start work on defining specifications in June, with core standards work expected to conclude within a year, according to Wendy Aylsworth, SMPTE vice president of engineering and senior vice president of technology.

SMPTE expects an interoperable 3D standard for consumer systems to handle 3DTV delivery will become available within the next two years.