UK Channel 4 transmits 3-D during special week of telecasts

UK television viewers this week are experiencing in their homes 3-D television thanks to the efforts of Channel 4, a nationwide give-away of 3-D glasses and technology from Sirius 3-D’s ColorCode 3-D division.

With a Nov. 16 kickoff, Channel 4’s 3D Week of programming is featuring a mix of prerecorded and live 3-D programming, including never-before-seen footage of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, Disney’s “Hannah Montana The Movie,” “Derren Brown’s 3D Magic Spectacular,” classic 3-D movies and some live 3-D produced by Channel 4.

In total about nine hours of stereoscopic footage has been converted into ColorCode 3-D. Additionally a few hours of live transmission using real-time ColorCode 3-D encoding is scheduled for the weekend. The live transmission system consists of a genlocked two camera set-up, feeding into the ColorCode 3-D real-time server. The server, a Delta Media Server outfitted with the ColorCode 3-D option, was developed by 7thSense.

No additional bandwidth overhead is required for the 3-D transmission, says Steen Iversen, CEO of Sirius -3D. ColorCode 3-D, which is based on color separation, encodes picture information for the left and right eye. In the process, the information is composited into the same fields in the chroma signal.

The ColorCode 3-D approach relies on colored filters that are precisely optimized to match the 3-D algorithms in use, he says. The encoding process involves several steps including pre-optimization, basic blue/yellow compositing, clarity enhancement and brightness balancing, color correction to match the color experience as seen through the glasses to the original colors, and ghost suppression, says Iversen.

At home, viewers with a digital MPEG-4-based receiver, such as a DVB-T, DVB-C or DVB-S set top box, connected via an HDMI cable to their display enjoy the best 3D experience, he says. A close second are those with MPEG-2 boxes connected via HDMI. Those viewers are only likely to see a difference between their pictures and the MPEG-4 approach at times when there is a heavy load on the statistical multiplex, says Iversen. Even analog viewers can enjoy the 3-D effect, although it will not be as pronounced as those enjoying a digital experience.

An interesting twist on the ColorCode 3-D process is that viewers watching 3-D encoded shows in 2-D without glasses will not notice degradation to the picture. According to Iversen, the ColorCode 3-D process “also survives analog transmission” much better than other color separation approaches.

In February, ColorCode 3-D technology was responsible for the 3-D promotion of “Monsters vs. Aliens” broadcast as part of the presentation of the Super Bowl. According to Iversen, the company was misinformed that the DTV transition in the United States would be complete by the time of the telecast. Thus, the promo was only optimized for a digital TV audient. Thus, viewers watching older sets did not enjoy the 3-D experience to the highest level possible with analog. For the Channel 4 3D Week, the ColorCode 3-D encoded material is being optimized for both digital and analog audiences, he says.