IBC Plans Two HD Firsts

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The IBC show in Amsterdam this September will produce two firsts in the annals of the high-definition signals with the first live transatlantic broadcast of a 3D HD program and the first live broadcast in NHK’s new Super Hi-Vision format that offers an image resolution of 7680 pixels on 4320 lines.

Philip White, director of technology and events for IBC noted in an interview that on Sunday, Sept. 14, attendees will be able to watch a live transatlantic 3D HD interview with DreamWorks Animation SKG CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. Katzenberg will be receiving the IBC International Honor for Excellence award. There will also be a live Q&A session where members of the audience can ask questions.

The interview will be shot by two cameras from 3Ality Digital in Los Angeles and the 3D HD images will be converted using 3Ality’s equipment to a regular HD image, said White.

Transmission service provider Arqiva will carry the signals across the Atlantic via satellite to the RAI Auditorium in Amsterdam. A 3Ality decoder will convert the images back to 3D and Christie projectors will project the image onto the auditorium’s large screen. The audience will wear 3D glasses from RealD.

Doing the first live transatlantic broadcast posed a number challenges, said 3Ality CEO Steven Schklair.

One problem is that all zoom lenses vary slightly in the way they move in on images, creating a mismatch in the two stereoscopic images by as much as 40 pixels, a problem that can render a 3D broadcast virtually unwatchable.

“3D has always required a lot of post production to make it watchable,” Schklair said. “We know that out future is deeply rooted in live broadcast events. So we’ve spent years working on technologies so we can originate images that do not need post production to fix.”

As a result of that work, 3Ality can now correct images in real time to make certain they match pixel to pixel and at the same time correct for color and other imperfections.

Schklair contends that the demonstration will show that the technological issues with 3D HD have largely been solved and that the issue is now how fast the technology will spread.

Initial uses will probably focus in transmitting live sporting or other events to 3D equipped venues and movie theaters. Some studies indicate that about 1,300 3D equipped theaters in the U.S. today and that the number could grow to 5,000 by the end of 2009, Schklair said.

The next stage of 3D broadcasters to the home will take longer to develop. 3D enabled sets form only a tiny portion of all TVs in the home.

But White said, “We know that some broadcasters in Europe that are already doing tests. These are very serious companies -- the BBC, Philips and the like are exploring it. In the past it was kind of gimmicky thing and it is still a few years away but its getting serious.”

For the Super Hi-Vision test, images will be sent from London and Torino, Italy, to Amsterdam.

In London, the BBC will work with Siemens and SIS Outside Broadcasts to produce images from a Super Hi-Vision camera over the River Thames. The pictures will be compressed using MPEG-2 to 600 Mbps and then sent by Cable & Wireless over an ultra-broadband fiber to the IBC convention in Amsterdam.

In Torino, Italian pubcaster RAI will operate a Super Hi-Vision server producing content that will be delivered via two satellite transponders by Eutelsat to Amsterdam. The Torino signals will be compressed from Super Hi-Vision’s native 24-Gbps transmission rate with MPEG-4/H.264 to a more manageable 140 Mbps.

“This is a big deal,” White said. It’s like the first broadcast of HDTV, its that big of a deal. There will be a little brass plate on the wall saying this is the place for the first ever broadcast of Super Hi-Vision.”

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