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Cable's Two 3DTV World Firsts

11/30/2009 5:47 PM

In case you missed it (I did), the home team achieved two world’s firsts last month, when it comes to getting 3D content into consumer homes.

Both occurred during the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, in a tucked-away CableLabs corner tagged the “3D Pavilion.”

World’s first #1: Sending and displaying two 3DTV channels and 3D-VOD, delivered simultaneously over Comcast’s plant. The 3D signal was live for three days (the duration of the Expo) and was decoded by existing set-tops.

Up until then, 3D vendors brought their own demos, tricked out to make their gear look as good as possible.

The material was 3D-encoded at the Comcast Media Center, using the “over-under” method. That means squeezing the right eye and left eye frames on top of one another, within the same digital channel. An assortment of compression rates and resolutions were sampled – some 720p / 60 frames, some 1080p / 24 frames.

World’s first #2:  Connecting multiple brands of 3DTVs to the same signal, at the same time. Or, put another way, the coexistence of passive and shutter glasses, on the same 3D signal.

Here’s why that matters: Different brands of 3DTVs use different types of eyewear – both “active” (shuttered) glasses, and “passive” (polarized) glasses. Up until now, confusion reigned about whether the same incoming signal could feed TVs that use different types of glasses.

Answer: Apparently so. The demonstration made clear that 3D signals don’t require special formatting for one type of eyewear vs. another. The 3D-TVs can resolve those differences internally.

Closing observation: The amount of progress in 3DTV for home use, even since the SMPTE 3D and Digital Cinema deep-dive in April, is astonishing. What looked to be a “five years out” thing suddenly seems much, much more imminent.  The technical kinks are clearly being resolved.

What’s needed now (in a huge oversimplification): 3D content.