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Glasses-free 3DTV - broadcasters show support

by David Mercer

DAVID MERCER, from Strategy Analytics, took an hour away from the Connected TV Summit last week to stop by at the Screen Media Expo at London’s Earls Court. While it’s not a consumer event he was interested to see what was claimed to be the latest in autostereo 3D from a Hungarian technology developer, iPont.

iPont has recently established its UK office in Oxford, and is going to be in the news this weekend as it is supplying the technology behind the first public broadcast of an auto-stereo 3D football match.

Sky will be transmitting the European Champions League final in 3D, and most home- and pub-based viewers will need to wear 3D glasses. Sky’s 3D productions and broadcasts are tailored specifically to the needs of glasses-based technologies, but iPont’s technology converts the standard live Sky 3D broadcast for viewing on autostereo displays, and this will be demonstrated to an invited audience at the Walkabout pub in Covent Garden, London on Saturday evening.

iPont gave several demonstrations at Screen Media Expo, including 3D Blu-ray and football matches, though none of the latter were broadcast live. They were using autostereo displays from Tridelity and Alioscopy.

As with all 3D content, the production quality of the material varied, but in general the 3D effect was impressive, at least relative to most other autostereo demonstrations I have seen. iPont claims that its current technology supports nine viewing angles, but I did not notice as strong a deterioration in viewing experience between viewing points as with some other technologies, such as Toshiba’s autostereo TVs.

iPont’s “secret sauce” is a box of software tricks which converts stereo 3D, on the fly, to multi-angle autostereo 3D. Autostereo displays rely on the availability of multiple angles in the video content which generate multiple viewing angles from the display.

The (extremely) expensive way to do this is to set up multiple camera positions during content production, but this is always likely to prove cost-prohibitive. iPont’s current technology works at the consumer or viewer end, and could be included in 3DTVs themselves (iPont is in discussion with leading TV manufacturers).

Perhaps more significantly for the longer term is the prospect of including this type of conversion software into the production and transmission chain. Rather than having the set-top box or TV doing the work, the conversion would be encoded into the broadcast stream. Major US and European broadcasters are known to be interested in this approach. As the technology moves towards commercialisation it is certain that standards bodies and regulators may start to pay close attention as well.


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Prospects for 3D in the home

There has been a lot of hype about 3D TV. But the industry getting behind a broad realm of technologies is a far cry from a monetisable mass market. Fundamentally, 3D is complex, more so than HD as technology and ecosystem. Screen Digest' TOM MORROD examines the issue.

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