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IBC 2010: Here Comes 3DTV

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3D television has seen a varying degree of experimentation in the United States, from Turner Broadcasting creating 3D television broadcasts of NASCAR races and key PGA Tour events to 3ality providing rigs for NEP Broadcasting's production of the first televised NFL game in stereoscopic 3D (S3D), which was broadcast on September 2 in the Tri-State area on Verizon FiOS TV.

On the other side of the pond, 3D sports have entered the mainstream, with Sky Sports launching an entire channel for 3D sports.

The issues facing 3D delivery, however, are far greater than the question of the financial and technical issues faced for delivering 3D content, although the encoding and delivery of 3D content holds interest to StreamingMedia.com readers as S3D content is often now encoded on the same encoders that are used for streaming delivery, opening the possibility for streaming 3D content.

At its most basic, 3D redefines the way that animations are created, how CGI integrates with a previously shot 3D sequence and how cameras are placed for maximum 3D spatial depth-without jarring the audience of out of the action or scene.

Oh, and all this needs to be accomplished without "busting the budget" or blowing out the timeframe required to create the content.

At IBC 2010, a number of companies will present their own product offerings for various small pieces of the value chain.

At the point of highest impact, the production shoot, Barcelona-based S3D Technologies will demonstrate two tools to help camera crews and directors of photography make real-time decisions.

S3D has a software tool that may seem obvious, but is crucial for rapid decision making: a 3D calculator.

"During a 3D shoot there are some stereoscopic parameters to bear in mind," a company spokesman said, "such as the focal length of the lens, the size of the photosensitive device, the zero parallax points of both images and the max positive parallax of the scene."

"In addition, the cinematographer also need to bear in mind the distance of the objects desired to come out of the screen (negative parallax), the size of the screen and the distance between the screen and the viewer," the spokesperson said.

With all these factors to worry about, including the makeup of the photosensitive device-be it film, CCD or CMOS-the company provides its S3D Calculator to calculate interaxial and convergence settings.

The calculator works hand-in-hand with the electronics of a stereoscopic 3D rig, such as the company's S3D BS Rig and accompanying Beam Splitter. These hardware devices allow a 35mm HD camera and even Super35 cameras to be mounted behind a mirror box that optically splits the signal for capture on two parallel photosensitive devices.

The calculator provides metadata during the shoot that's key to integrating live-action 3D shots into CGI software packages such as Maya or 3DStudioMax.

To better visualize the scene for 3D integration of CGI sequences, companies like PhaseSpace will showcase virtual 3D cameras.

PhaseSpace, which showcased its technology at the HP Global Workstations event I attended back in February and again at the recent SIGGRAPH 2010 event, uses active LEDs and infrared lights attached to actors, allowing real-time motion capture to a pair of HP Z800 workstations.

The 12-core Westmere Z800 HP units have enough overhead that, besides capturing motion data, the Z800s can also output a rudimentary 3D environment, overlaying it in real-time over the actors' motion capture information, for a visualization only seen on very high budget productions such as Avatar, which pioneered the virtual camera concept.

"The cost of production drops to about $10 per second for motion capture, from several thousand dollars per commercial second, using two Z800 workstations," CEO Tracy McSheery said at the HP event, as part of a joint presentation with Raleigh Studios' Best Practices Lab.

In the end, all the calculators, beam-splitters and virtual cameras are only as beneficial as the delivery medium. Many companies will be showcasing non-real-time encoding, and a very small handful will be showcasing run-time encoding of stereoscopic 3D. More on those announcements as they are publicly announced.

In a further attempt to understand the challenges facing production and business models for cost-effective 3D delivery, an invitation-only session will be hosted by Interxion, iStreamPlanet, Microsoft, and a few other key partners.

The session, which I'll be moderating, will look at the benefits and challenges that 3D delivery faces, not only for traditional broadcast, but also for streaming delivery.

As with large-scale events such as the Olympics, where a variety of foreign broadcasts and several NBC business units shared the cost of a consolidated IP HD transport stream, there appears to be opportunities for cost savings in the delivery of a single S3D feed for both traditional and online broadcasting.

The choice of Interxion as the host partner for this event is also a strategic move, as the Amsterdam-based data center provider is expected to place an IPO offering on the NASDAQ by the end of 2010. Interxion operates 26 carrier-neutral data centers in 13 cities and 11 European countries.

IBC's exhibit halls will be open from September 10-14, 2010, at the RAI Amsterdam Congress Centre.

[Editor's Note: Adrian Pennington also previewed IBC for StreamingMediaGlobal.com; click here for his take.]

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