CableLabs Issues Request For Information On 3-D TV

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CableLabs issued a request for information to about a dozen 3-D video technology companies in late March, as the industry consortium is looking to get in front of the issues involved in delivering three-dimensional TV programming.

David Broberg, CableLabs vice president of consumer video technology, said the organization will evaluate different 3-D TV systems and produce a report for its member MSOs.

"This isn't any sort of qualification -- it's background investigation," he said.

He added that as part of the RFI process CableLabs will assess operator requirements "to understand better what the operators want out of a 3-D TV system."

Broberg last month was appointed to chair the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers' ad-hoc working group on 3-D TV, which is tasked with identifying any needed changes to existing SCTE standards, including transport protocols, to facilitate the provision of 3-D content by cable operators.

Standardization work in for delivering 3-D television is in the early stages. For example, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers last summer established a task force to define the parameters of mastering standard for 3-D home video.

Broberg noted that there are more than 30 different methods for multiplexing left and right images into a video stream.

Some approaches send the left and right images in alternating frames; others send the images side-by-side in the same frame - both of which would reduce overall picture quality. Another technique is color multiplexing, which uses color filters to separate the left and right sides.

"Then you get into the question of, Do you do left first or right first?" Broberg said. "It's going to be a slow process" to reach standardization.

Because the standards haven't been established, it isn't clear whether the conversion to 3-D will be made in the set-top or in the display. According to Broberg, the Moving Picture Experts Group - which administers the MPEG video standards -- is currently developing a signaling technique to identifying which type of 3-D multiplexing is being used.

Before there's industry standardization, however, TV distributors will be experimenting with the technology.

In the U.K., satellite TV operator BskyB kicked off a closed trial of a 3-D TV system, using a display from Hyundai, in December. Last week, the News Corp. unit broadcast a live concert in 3-D by British pop group Keane to a 3-D TV set.

U.S. cable operators will likely to do the same thing initially, Broberg said.

Such 3-D TV trials will let MSOs "gain experience in the space, and understand what the consumer response is going to be -- and whether there's a business for it," he said.

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