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Google Fiber TV adds 3D channels | CNET News

From CNET by Lance Whitney on 3/8/13

Subscribers of Google’s Fiber TV service who own a 3D TV and glasses can now opt to watch a couple of new channels in 3D.

Announced yesterday, Google has launched 3net and ESPN3D.

Subscribers to the Google Fiber Gigabit + TV Plan will automatically receive 3net, which will offer documentaries, family entertainment, concerts, lifestyle and cooking shows, and scripted series, all in 3D.

Sports fans who want to catch their favorite teams in 3D can grab ESPN3D for an additional $5 per month with their Gigabit + TV plan. Subscribers can call Google Fiber to sign up for ESPN3D.

Launched last July, Google Fiber TV is offered at an additional cost as part of the company’s Gigabit Internet service. Users can subscribe to the high-speed Internet alone for $70 a month or opt for TV and Internet for $120. A lower-speed Internet service is also available at no monthly cost but with a one-time installation fee of $300.

Google Fiber TV offers an interactive search that lets you track down programs on your TV as well as your DVR. The DVR offers up to 500 hours of storage, all in 1,080p high-definition format. Subscribers can record up to eight shows at a time.

But few people can sign on to Google Fiber at this point. So far the service is limited to just two cities — Kansas City, Kans., and Kansas City, Mo. Three other cities in Kansas and two more in Missouri are next on the list. As such, the service is definitely still in beta mode.

Why offer 3D channels at this point? Google’s head of product management, Larry Yang, said in a blog that such new features will make TV watching a better experience:

We’re committed to making these qualities that you’ve come to expect from Google Fiber TV better and better. And, thanks to the amazing capacity of Fiber, we can also include some new experiences and tools that will make watching TV even cooler. For example, 3D channels.

But I can’t see such a move making Fiber TV that much more appealing.

3D TV adoption has been weak due to the higher cost of the televisions and the inconvenience of wearing 3D glasses. The number of 3D TV owners in Google Fiber’s limited test markets is unlikely to be very high, which begs the question of why Google is going the 3D route.

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Marvel’s David Marquez talks 3D graphic novels, X-Men and Spider-Man | LA Times

From the LA Times by Noelene Clark on 3/6/13

A page from "The Joyners in 3D," by R. J. Ryan and David Marquez. (Archaia)

A page from “The Joyners in 3D,” by R. J. Ryan and David Marquez. (Archaia)

Young artists looking to break into comics might want to take a page from David Marquez. Based in Austin, Texas, the illustrator is one of the industry’s fastest-rising stars, working alongside veteran writer Brian Michael Bendis on such titles as “Ultimate Spider-Man” and “All-New X-Men” and working in his second graphic novel, “The Joyners in 3D,” after arriving on the comics scene only three years ago.

Soon after college, Marquez got his start as an animator for Richard Linklater’s 2006 rotoscoped film “A Scanner Darkly.” His first graphic novel “Syndrome,” co-written by Daniel Quantz and R.J. Ryan, was released by indie publisher Archaia Entertainment in 2010, soon followed by “Days Missing Vol. 2: Kestus” in 2011. His work earned him a nomination for the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer award, given out each year at the prestigious Eisner Awards, and drew the attention of Marvel Comics.

Marquez made his big break into superhero comics with Jonathan Hickman’s “Secret Warriors,” soon followed by “Fantastic Four: Season One.” His work on “Ultimate Spider-Man” was widely praised, and he returns to the title this May for a highly publicized story line in which young web-slinger Miles Morales is rumored to be giving up his super identity. In the meantime, Marquez’s “All-New X-Men” run wraps up with issue No. 8. The comic, which features the first meeting of the original X-Men and the Avengers, hits stores today.

Hero Complex caught up with Marquez to talk about “Ultimate Spider-Man,” “All-New X-Men” and “The Joyners in 3D,” which reunites Marquez and his “Syndrome” collaborator R.J. Ryan.

HC: Can you tell us a little about how you got your start in the industry? Did you study art in school?

DM: I graduated about 10 years ago. I actually went to [the University of Texas at Austin] on an academic scholarship. I had planned originally to go into teaching. I was going to go to grad school to get a Ph.D. in either political science or history, because I majored in history and government. And while applying for grad school — I got into a few — I realized that it wasn’t really what I had expected it to be in terms of the life of being a grad student. So I delved back and was looking to be a history teacher and tried out on a whim for an animation position, because I’d always drawn. And I got the animation position on “A Scanner Darkly,” which was made here in town, and that kind of converted me to an art career.

HC: Had you received any formal training?

DM: I took some art classes in high school and some summer classes when I was in elementary and middle school, but with the exception of those, no. I’ve always been drawing. If you go back and look at all my college notebooks. They start off all nice and cleanly organized, but then they become just sketchbooks after the first or second week.

HC: How did you begin working with R. J. Ryan, your collaborator on “The Joyners in 3D”?

DM: We became friends during “Syndrome,” during the production of that book. I had been trying to break into comics since right after college when I was working on “A Scanner Darkly”. That was 2005-ish. I had been going to conventions and not really making much headway, and I was practicing at home during my time off from work. And towards the end of 2008, beginning of 2009, I had been posting my art online on these various discussion forums where a lot of these burgeoning talents congregate, and R.J. — who goes by Josh with friends — came across own of my drawings, brought it to the guys at Archaia and Fantasy Prone and sold them to me basically as the artist, having never spoken to me or anything, but just based on this one Batman sketch that I had done that he thought spoke well to whatever potential talent I had. … The guys who were going to be paying for the book, they approached me, and then he and I started working together on “Syndrome” with another writer, Daniel Quantz. The three of us became friends.

HC: So how did “The Joyners in 3D” come about?

DM: This has been a long-developing passion project. … Josh and I as we became really close friends started talking about doing more work together. And we bantered around a half dozen potential projects, and we settled on “Joyners.” Even when we knew that this was the story we wanted to tell, it developed and change quite a bit from that original seed of an idea about a scientist and his family, essentially. It started becoming much more of a deep, dark family drama, and moving to the idea of drawing in a very different style than in my traditional, mainstream work. … [It’s] the story of a family of the future falling apart. It’s very much riffing on the concept of “The Jetsons,” even in terms of the names of the characters. The patriarch of the family is George Joyner. And then he has his wife and his kids, and he is basically the chief technology officer of a large, Apple-computer style company in 2060s Monterey, Calif. We’re playing pretty strongly with a lot of visual motifs as well as the Jetsons-style ’60s idealized future. We have flying cars and cities and buildings in the sky and all that kind of stuff. But we’re also somewhat satirizing the idea of utopia, in a sense that yeah, you have a future where everything is bright and clean and shiny, we found the solution to pollution and poverty and hunger and all these things, but ultimately, humans are still flawed. So in addition to just kind of playing with the idea of a family in the future, there’s also an Icarus style hubris story, where ultimately George and his whole family’s flaws come back, and they have to pay for what they’ve done.

HC: Why 3D?

DM:  The 3D came pretty early one, but the impact of doing it in 3D changed the nature of the project pretty dramatically. … I think Josh was the one who first brought it up. It was kind of during the first wave, the first year or two of 3D coming back and becoming a bit of a fad in film. “Avatar” had come out, and all of that. Josh had been having conversations with a producer friend who’d worked on the 3D “Jackass” movie, of all things. There’s definitely a difference between 3D done well and 3D done poorly in film, and I think it’s pretty obvious to see when you’re comparing the two, and it got him thinking about the lack of ambitious 3D in comics. I’m not going to say there’s none, but in general, 3D has been a gimmick 99-point-whatever-percent of the time with comics, at least recently, with little thought into how to use it in an innovative fashion, or how to integrate more into the overall storytelling and narrative, and not just be an excuse to have a dude punching through the page at you.

HC: So you do all of your own 3D rendering?

DM: I do, and that was a decision that was made fairly early on, but at first we weren’t sure how we were going to tackle the technical aspect of doing the 3D. There are number of people who will do the conversions … but in doing the research on 3D, and being a bit of a control freak, I decided I wanted to tackle that myself, if nothing else than for just the technical challenge of learning how to do it. And also being a bit of a control freak, I liked the idea of — if the purpose of doing the book in 3D is really to marry the narrative with the 3D, just having the 3D help tell the narrative, help sell the narrative, the more control I had over how the 3D looked, the happier I think I would be in the overall execution and the overall telling of the story.

HC: Did it make your work as an artist a more involved process?

DM: For my mainstream work, I work primarily digitally. Not exclusively, but primarily. And the fact that I have this digital work flow allows me a lot more freedom in working on any given page. It also allows me then to cater the art as I’m producing it to the 3D conversion process which happens at the end. As a very simple example, when I’m drawing, I typically work in layers. So I always have the foreground, the middle ground and the background separated out from each other. On a normal page, that means if I need to change someone’s clothes, or I drew the hand wrong, or something, I can edit that one aspect of the page without messing up the background or anything else in that panel. So working in 3D, it’s very simple then to take those layers and then start using those to sell the 3D effect and to move into that step of the process since they’re already separated out.

HC: Meanwhile, with Marvel, the response to your work on the Ultimate comics has been so positive.

DM: It’s been really, really rewarding. While I’ve been working in comics for three or four years, I’ve really only been in front of a decently sized audience for about a year now. And at that point, no one knew who I was, and there was a lot of skepticism about me coming on following a very successful and well-received artist in Sara Pichelli. And it’s been very rewarding that people’s skepticism has been overcome, and they seem to be pretty receptive now to my art.

HC: When you came on after Sara, you were basically an unknown name, and there was a lot of skeptical chatter on comics blogs. Did you feel a lot of pressure taking on such a big title?

DM: Absolutely. I’m still fresh enough that I will Google to see what people have been saying about the work. And considering some of the vitriol people get, I’ve been very fortunate that people in general seem to like it. But it’s a ton of pressure, absolutely. My first project was working with Brian Bendis, who is one of the biggest names in comics, so I knew that he and the rest of the folks in the Ultimates office were taking a chance on me as a fairly untried, youngish artist. There’s pressure to perform, not only because I didn’t want to get bad feedback from them, but also to make sure that I was paying back the investment that they had made in me by offering me such a high-profile project [“Ultimate Spider-Man”]. Originally, I was only going to be on for three issues, but after the first issue, they chose to keep me on considerably longer. I think I was on for nine issues, on my first run of issues. I’m going back and drawing more of it now.  And then I’m coming back on for another arc starting with issue 23.

HC: There’s a lot of excitement for that May issue. What can we expect from Miles?

DM: I can say what Brian has said publicly, which is that this takes place after the Venom storyline. Sara Pichelli’s been drawing those four issues., up to issue 22. Something really big happens, leading to the big tease that we’re doing, which is that Miles doesn’t want to be Spider-Man anymore. So I did the cover for 23, which is an homage to John Romita‘s famous scene of Spider-Man dropping the costume in the trash can. What Brian has said, and I can say it as well, is there’s a time jump. Issue 22 happens, really big impact on Miles’ life, and then a considerable amount of time will pass before 23 starts. So we’re picking up after x amount of time, seeing all these changes that have taken place with him and with his life, his whole world completely shaken by what happened, and him still trying to pick up the pieces.

"Ultimate Spider-Man" artist David Marquez pays homage to John Romita's iconic splash page in Stan Lee's 1967 "Amazing Spider-Man" No. 50. (Marvel Comics)

“Ultimate Spider-Man” artist David Marquez pays homage to John Romita’s iconic splash page in Stan Lee’s 1967 “Amazing Spider-Man” No. 50. (Marvel Comics)

HC: Peter Parker is such an iconic character that fans can recognize the same Spidey movements and poses from artist to artist. Did you try to break away from those poses for Miles?

DM: It was a challenge, certainly. One of the earliest conversations I had with Brian Bendis as I was coming onto the project was he definitely had in mind Miles moving very differently. And that’s something you saw in Sara’s work, and I definitely tried to push pretty strongly in my own. And it comes down to exactly what you’re saying: Peter Parker is Peter Parker, and we all kind of know what Spider-Man looks like. But Miles is a completely different character. He’s younger, I think he’s 13 when he first starts out being Spider-Man, whereas Peter was like 15. And so his body is sized differently, and he doesn’t have the training Peter has, either, or just the experience. We always wanted him to seem a little bit out of control. He’s patterning himself after watching all these videos of Peter, and trying to learn how to be Spider-Man based on that research. But he’s figuring it out in these early adventures. And hopefully he always looked a little bit like you weren’t quite sure if he’d land properly or not.

HC: With that time jump, are you going to have to age him up for the next one?

DM: He will be older. I can’t say how much older, but enough time will have passed that people will notice, definitely.

HC: You’re getting to do the same kind of thing in “All-New X-Men” — drawing both adult versions and younger versions of these characters.

DM: Yeah, I mean I never would have expected myself as I kind of started developing as an artist as somebody who would enjoy drawing teenagers so much. It’s kind of become one of the things that I do. People seem to be responding pretty well to the “X-Men” work that the teenagers look like teenagers, which is something that I put a lot of effort, wanting to make sure that when you look at the younger Angel and the older Angel standing side by side, it isn’t just the design of the wings that differentiates them. The younger ones have a little more baby fat in their face, or just softer features or just look younger. Individual characteristics lead to that. And drawing Miles as well — I’ve started drawing issue 23 now — it’s so much fun drawing him and the cast, because teenagers are so emotive, and they wear everything on their sleeve, even when they think they’re trying to hide what’s going on, whereas adults can be moody and withdrawn. If a kid is moody and withdrawn, they’re acting out. It’s a whole lot of fun.

A page from "All-New X-Men" No. 8, by Brian Michael Bendis with art by David Marquez. (Marvel Comics)

A page from “All-New X-Men” No. 8, by Brian Michael Bendis with art by David Marquez. (Marvel Comics)

HC: Was there anything you learned doing “Ultimate Spider-Man” that you took with you to “All-New X-Men”?

DM: Absolutely. I think I grew a whole lot as an artist moving from “Fantastic Four” Season 1, which was my project before “Ultimate Spider-Man,” to the end to my first run of issues. I’m not sure that I can articulate in details what those changes wore, but I think I had a much stronger grasp of  composition and layout in general. … In general when doing art or any kind of craft, you learn the rules so you can perform it well. At a certain point, though, you start having fun by breaking the rules in certain ways, and seeing what the results are, having the foundation laid down. And I think by the time I started on “All New X-Men,” I was willing to experiment in new ways with my art, whether that’s the way I compose a page, the angles that I choose when drawing a panel, even just little stylistic flairs in terms of the way I draw the characters. And working with a completely new cast with the X-Men as opposed to the Spider-Man cast, it gave me an opportunity to explore drawing in different ways and rendering in different ways and composing in different ways.

HC: Do you see your three issues on “All New X-Men” expanding into more, the same way it did with “Ultimate Spider-Man”?

DM: I mean down the line, perhaps, and I’d definitely love to work on that book some more, but for the time being, I’m back on “Spider-Man” for another substantial run. I’m not sure what the total number will be, but for the short term, the majority of this year, I’ll be drawing “Spider-Man.”

The future of Sky 3D | TechRadar

From TechRadar by Patrick Goss on 3/5/13

The future of Sky 3D

Sky 3D – heading towards 500,000 UK homes

Sky 3D has been the UK’s only dedicated 3D television channel since its launch in 2010 and TechRadar caught up with Sky 3D head John Cassy as Formula 1 was given the 3D treatment in a one-off experiment.

Cassy – a former journalist who previously headed up Sky Arts – talked extensively about the progress of 3D, the coming of UHD television and the growing role of on-demand.

TechRadar: Can you update us on how Sky 3D has progressed since its launch a few years ago?

Cassy: We’re in very good shape really. We went on air in October 2010 and since then we have grown very well, if you look at where the launch of HD was at this stage in its life, we’re not far away. If you were to speculate at the number of homes that have 3D, the figure that often surfaces [400k] is about right.

And how many of those homes are actually watching 3D?

Cassy: It’s driven by events as much as anything. We’ve evolved our strategy to focus on the key events so, as an example, Sunday [had] F1 testing, then over to the North London derby and then Got to Dance – the Sky One’s reality show – that’s three different big shows, all live and all in 3D.

And all different audiences as well, we’d imagine.

Cassy: They are distinctive enough. Movies are one of the other key areas and we’ve had a series of landmark documentaries voiced by Sir David Attenborough like the Penguin King, Meerkats 3D and Galapagos 3D. The latter did very well for us in 3D and it’s one of the special treats.

Meerkats 3D

Meerkats good in 3D but not at noticing cameras

It’s value add for your audience as much as anything, isn’t it?

Cassy: The thing is, at Sky we are very aware that people choose if they want to be one of our customers, and we’ve got to basically make sure we are always giving them value and 3D is one of a number of ways we can give them value. When we talk to them they love the 3D experience and they would like the chance to see something in a completely different way; Formula 1 is another illustration of this.

TechRadar has been following Sky 3D since that very first journalist briefing, what does the addition of Formula 1 bring for the sport and for the technology?

Cassy: The Formula is very much a one-off, it’s a chance to do something we are all very excited to try. Formula 1 management have been great in enabling this to happen. I’m interested to see it myself. What we’ve done in 3D is we have tried to pick out the big interesting events, like the Ryder Cup where we partnered with Cameron Pace, James Cameron’s company. We did a few days of coverage there and, not only is golf amazing in 3D, but the Europeans staged one of the greatest comebacks ever. We hope that [Formula 1 in 3D] will offer an interesting new way of watching.

John Cassey with Anthony Davidson at the 3D F1 event

John Cassey with Anthony Davidson at the 3D F1 event

One of the big trends in the last few years is 4K and Ultra HD. Sky was a pioneer of HD and 3D in the UK, can we expect to see that kind of step up to UHD?

Cassy: From our point of view, Sky always has been, and we hope always will be, at the front of TV innovation in the UK. If you look at what drives TV development, it’s better picture and better sound, so we went from silent and black-and-white, to sound and black-and-white, to colour, to digital, to HD and now 3D and so there will be future technologies. We have a watching brief on Ultra HD and 4K. Actually what we have been doing, the Attenborough shows have all been filmed in 4K – and in some cases 5K – so they have been captured and future-proofed in a sense, as far as we can. But we’re playing around with it.

And UHD obviously has some real benefits for 3D as well…

Cassy: There are very clear benefits that 4K gives 3D. The resolution is better and also it could help in glasses-free 3D because it enables that whole resolution and picture quality.

Sky 3D

Glasses-free 3d – a matter of if and not when

And have you actually seen a glasses free 3D television that impresses you?

Cassy: I have, but it’s under NDA so I can’t talk about it! For my mind, high quality glasses-free TV at a price that the average house can afford is a matter of when and not if. It’s going to happen, it’s just a question of when and the technology we see – we have as much of this as we can – is definitely coming along. It’s a bit of a way off but it’s coming along.

It’s nice from a tech perspective to hear Sky saying it wants to continue being an innovator – how important to you think that’s been to the company?

Cassy: I think it’s really important. From the start when Sky launched there were four channels in the UK and one of the things did was broaden that choice out massively. So it meant you get more sport, if you wanted music channels you could and so on. Consumers wanted more choice and that was one of the first innovations we brought.

We also know that if you operate in a county where the free offering is very strong like the UK you have to make sure that if you ask people to pay, you offer something really amazing. You have to ask ‘what are people looking for now, or might want tomorrow?’ and introduce them in a way that people can continually afford until it’s worth paying for.

A lot of major TV companies, including Sky, are banging the drum about linear television still being dominant for some time to come. Do you feel like the on-demand stuff like Sky Go Extra will start to change our viewing habits?

Cassy: This is getting out of my territory but Sky Go and Sky Go Extra have been very big for us, increasing numbers. The ability to pay for subscription and take it away from your main TV set is really really important.

Dropping back into something more familiar: 3D has been mainly a linear offering so far. Can you see more 3D content appearing on-demand?

Cassy: Yes. We have done a bit of on-demand and we are always looking to give the customers more ways to watch. So we’re looking for opportunities.

What Is 3D Printing? And Will It Change the World? | The Atlantic

From The Atlantic by Megan Garber on 3/1/13

3D printing, futuristic name notwithstanding, is a pretty simple phenomenon: the conversion of a digital file into a physical product. With detailed instructions and the right materials, in theory and — more and more often — in practice, you can manufacture objects from a little machine on your desk. So we can now 3D print parts for machines and home appliances. We can 3D print cement. We can (sort of) 3D print meat.

In the latest episode of PBS’s “OffBook” series, entrepreneurs and journalists discuss the future of the technology, considering not just how 3D printing can change the way humans create, but also how it can change our assumptions — about manufacturing and retailing and economic efficiencies, about food production and even human production. “It’s going to force us to change the way we think about not only buying products, but how they’re made,” says Carine Carmy of Shapeways, a 3D printing community and marketplace.

3D printing is still young, catering to the curious and the restless and the early-adopting. But in a few years, its enthusiasts suggest, the technology could be as ubiquitous and as easy-to-use as a camera phone. 3D printing could, sort of, change everything — one dimension at a time.

F1 in 3D: full speed ahead? | Telegraph

From The Telegraph by Matt Warman on 3/2/13

What the new F1 television deal means for everyone from the BBC and Sky to the fans they will service

When Sky launched 3DTV launched in 2010, it was football that the broadcaster hoped would drive a whole new kind of television: three years later, it’s rugby, golf, tennis and darts that have stood out as the best ambassadors for the service. But one sport that obviously lends itself to 3D has been a long time coming. Formula One, on Sky now for a year, didn’t start in 3D as many had hoped, and only now is the broadcaster showing 3D footage from the sport’s testing sessions at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.

“It’s the speed and the power that 3D captures so much better than 2D,” says Martin Turner, Sky Sports’ executive producer for F1. “If you’ve been to a race you know what the sport is like, but if you haven’t then it really lets you see the hills and the skill it takes to drive a car in a straight line at 200mph, never mind go round a chicane.” In short, the sport that fans know is electrifying but sceptics think looks boring on TV finally comes to life in 3D. As one viewer wrote on Twitter, it’s much more like being in the stands.

Although many had hoped that 3D would provide a much-needed fillip to the entire TV industry, in fact it has proved to be a slow burner, adding to some events but not catching on as a widespread feature. Retailers report that customers are upgrading to 3D and internet-connected smart TVs because these features are now built-in to most new sets, rather than asking for them specifically.

The down side to Sky’s latest production, however, is that it’s only for F1’s four-day testing phase, a month before the season begins. The broadcaster stresses that it’s just a one-off, made possible through the cooperation of F1. It’s the first time fans have been able to see live testing, and the first time they’ve been able to see any 3D at all. And with F1 normally coming from a single feed distributed to broadcasters, it’s also the first time additional cameras – in this case Sky’s nine 3D units – have been placed around the circuit.

John Cassy, Sky’s overall director of 3D, emphasises that without the chance to run cars around the track before the event, the whole process has been an experiment as well as an opportunity to cover a fourteenth sport in 3D. “It’s been a great learning opportunity for us, and we can see that for instance the action from the pit lane looks great, the low down shots of the cars coming up previously imperceptible hills look good, and we know that high up shots, as in football, don’t give the same 3D sense, even if they’re essential to understand the sport.”

Key to the likelihood of fans seeing more F1 in 3D will be rights negotiations. Sky would not comment on anything to do with that notoriously difficult F1 issue. Mr Cassy would say only that he was excited to bring the tests, which finish on Sunday, to screens for the first time. But it’s a fair bet that fans will be a good deal more excited should they get to see a whole race next season.

3DTV isn’t dead, it’s just facing reality beyond the hype | HDTV Magazine

From HDTV Magazine by Rodolfo La Maestra on 2/26/13

Contrary to what many at the press have been preaching since 3DTV was introduced in 2010, 3D is still alive and active in the industry, and many consumers still want to experience 3D at home.

What it should be dead is the approach of inflated advertising and improper reporting of 3DTV as a whole new television set or system that replaces what you have, although it appears that the market and the industry have finally adapted to the idea of considering 3D as what it should have been considered since day one: just a “feature”, one more feature of a good HDTV, to seldom enjoy a 3D movie or sport, then, when the 3D program is over, continue with everyday’s HD viewing. For this reason it is a must to have 3D transmissions backward compatible with HDTV transmissions.

As expected, CES 2013 showed many demonstrations of Ultra HDTV LED and OLED (even in Ultra HDTV resolution, such as Sony’s and Panasonic’s 56” OLED Ultra HDTV prototypes), and there were also 3D demos of the same Ultra HDTV and OLED panels, not to mention the huge 3D wall at the entrance of LG’s booth. Additionally, Stream TV Networks, Hisense, Toshiba and others demo their 1080p and Ultra HDTV auto-stereoscopic (no-glasses) 3D panels as well.

From the point of view of display availability and pre-recorded/theatrical content there has been 3D progress during 2012, and there has been also progress in the work toward new ATSC standard for US’s terrestrial broadcasting of 3D, such as the A/104 Service Compatible Hybrid Coding 3DTV (SCHC) standard approved in December 26, 2012 by the ATSC:

 

3D-TV broadcasting service composed of two or more compressed video images, where at least one of them is the legacy 2D-TV image having the same resolution as the production resolution. Elements of Service Compatible Hybrid Coded 3D-TV (SCHC) include Stereoscopic 3D video, audio signals, and ancillary data. Stereoscopic 3D video basically consists of a left view and a right view. In SCHC, left and right views are independently transmitted as separate video elementary streams, one of which is a base view video and the other of which is an additional video. Ancillary data can be caption information, program/channel signaling data, etc. Caption information is transmitted along with the video signal of a bit stream, while signaling data is transmitted via multiplexing….The compression format of the base view video shall conform to MPEG-2 video Main Profile @ High Level [7] while the compression format of the additional view video shall conform to AVC/H.264 Main Profile @ Level 4.0 or High Profile @ Level 4.0 [8].”

Is there any other format that would perform the double function of 2D and 3D without impacting image quality on either and still fit within the allotted channel space?

Europe has been in those shoes recently, and the answer is yes.  In the US we do not often see what other continents are doing regarding 3D broadcasting, but Europe and Asia showed an accelerated implementation and public acceptance of 3D compared to the US.

A service compatible format announced in December 2010 was launched in the Italian Piedmont region and was backward compatible with 2D HDTV sets using a technique known as 3D Tile Format, which integrates two 720p frames within a single 1080p frame, one 720p image can be tuned by legacy HDTVs for 2D display, the other 720p image is split in 3 tiles when delivered and is reconstructed by a compatible decoder for 3D to be displayed in a 3DTV.

Frame Compatible Tile Format

Frame Compatible Tile Format

Over the past few years a company named Sisvel Technology (www.sisveltechnology.com) has been actively working and promoting their “3D Tile” broadcasting system that claims to offer a one-for-all solution for broadcasting 3D in HD while delivering the image in a way that is also backward compatible with existing HDTVs.

More recently the company made the 3D Tile format also compatible with near future glasses-free auto-stereoscopic 3DTVs, sharing the same transmission bandwidth of an HD channel, the format was named “3DZ Tile Format”, developed in partnership with Triaxes Vision, a Glasses Free 3D Specialist (www.triaxes.com).

In past articles I mentioned the European 3D broadcasting efforts. I met Sisvel in the past, and again now at CES 2013. We discussed the new 3DZ feature of enabling their transmission for auto-stereoscopic 3DTVs without degrading the current quality of the Tile format by using the remaining space of the 1920×1080 video frame (about 10% or 200,000+ pixels, more below). Currently the Tile format is being used in some areas of Europe.

As with over-the-air broadcasting, distributing 3D over cable, satellite, and IPTV entails higher bandwidth requirements to been able to send two images (left and right eye) using the current HDTV channel space.  At the same time the signal is made backward compatible with current 2D HDTVs to avoid having to distribute yet another channel with the HD version of the 3D content. Cable and satellite services in the US are using the top-down or side-by-side half-resolution frame-compatible formats.

Side-by-Side 3D Format

Side-by-Side 3D Format

New compression algorithms such MPEG-4 allow for the larger 3D data stream to fit into the 6MHz allotted bandwidth space of a current HDTV over-the-air terrestrial transmission that uses MPEG-2, the current compression used for DTV over-the-air broadcasting in the US. The more efficient MPEG-4 can cut in a half the required space and promises an even better image quality.

Sisvel Technology uses MPEG-4 compression to deliver 3D with 1280x720p resolution per eye to new 3DTV sets, it is also backward compatible with legacy HDTVs, and is now also ready for future auto-stereoscopic 3DTVs by also transmitting the extra 3D depth-map.

Auto-stereoscopic 3DTVs use the left eye image and the depth map to create several 3D viewing cones perceived as 3D by several simultaneous viewers (or by a single viewer moving in front of the screen).  Auto-stereoscopic systems by 3DFusion, Dimenco, and Stream TV Networks were demo at trade shows, the last one a technology that will be implemented soon by Hisense in their auto-stereoscopic (glasses free) 2K and 4K 3DTV LCD/LED panels, also demo at CES 2013.

Top-and -Bottom 3D Format

Top-and -Bottom 3D Format

Sisvel Technology’s 3D Tile Format

Sisvel Technology's 3D Tile Format

Sisvel Technology indicated that although their Tile format is currently based on a 1920×1080 video frame at 50/60fps, it can be adapted to US’s 60i interlaced transmissions as well.

3D content captured as 1080px2 images in 3D the Tile format would be distributed as 720px2 in 3D using a 1080p video frame.

A 3DTV would use both 720p left/right images to display 3D, a legacy HDTV would use the left eye’s 720p image of that 3D transmission to display it as HD (upscaled to 1080p on a 1080p HDTV).  An auto-stereoscopic 3DTV would use the left 720p image and the depth map included in the same video frame to display a glasses-free 3D image, all using the existing single HD channel of the broadcaster, cable, or satellite company.

However, a firmware upgrade to current MPEG-4 set-top-boxes (or a new set-top-box) would be required to decode and extract the signal needed by the particular TV.

Sisvel Technology’s 3DZ Tile Format Utilization

Sisvel Technology's 3DZ Tile Format Utilization

By delivering the 3D depth-map data into the video frame, rather than having the receiver set-top-box create the depth map on-the-fly from the transmitted left and right images, Sisvel Technology’s method shifts this complex function to the broadcaster’s higher processing power, making the approach relatively less costly than putting the burden in millions of receiving set-top-boxes.

Below is another graph of the Tile format with the depth-map data. Note the 720p left image, and the right image split in 3 pieces, both fitted into the 1080p video frame, and the depth-map data for auto-stereoscopic 3DTVs occupying the bottom right corner of the 1080p video frame.

Sisvel Technology’s 3D Tile Format transforming into 3DZ Tile Format

Sisvel Technology's 3D Tile Format transforming into 3DZ Tile Format

Of the total 2,073,600 (1920×1080) active pixels of the 1080p video frame, the left/right images of the 3DZ Tile format occupies 1280x720p each (totaling 1,843,200 pixels both together), leaving 230,400 pixels available to store the depth-map (black and white image).Although the system can still claim HD image quality on the 2D/3D images by using the 720p format, if the original 2D/3D signal was captured as 1920×1080 its higher resolution would have to be downscaled to 1280×720 for transmission, which penalizes the spatial resolution by over 55% (2,073K pixels reduced to 921K pixels) regardless of the frame rate.

Sample of images arranged within a 1080p frame with the 3DZ Tile Format

Sample of images arranged within a 1080p frame with the 3DZ Tile Format

I personally may not mind that loss of resolution when viewing an occasional 3D program, and considering that the number of 3D programs are expected to continue to be less numerous than HD programs, I may also accept viewing a 1080p 3D program in downscaled 720p 2D in a 1080p HDTV if the 2D version is not available, but I would not accept all 1080p HD content to be downscaled to 720p if the Tile format would have been always applied to all content at all times.

The 3D Tile system is sufficiently intelligent and versatile to switch to a non-Tiled 1080p HD transmission of film sources that originated from 1080p transfers, properly flagged for the decoder/display to perform the automatic switch of formats on the fly; the transmitted resolution of the image is returned to the full HD definition (1080p HD) because in this case there is no need to share the pixels of a 1080p HD frame with a second view (as it would be needed when the program transmission are in 3D).

Although720p is still considered HD quality and is ideal for fast content due to its fast 60p frame rate, such as ESPN sports, I still prefer the higher spatial resolution of 1080i/p for non-sports content because of its 1920 horizontal pixels (vs. just 1280 of the 720p format) to enjoy the increased pixel detail, especially noticeable in larger screens, which have been increasingly adopted among consumers and will continue to be in the near future, however, 1080i sources are known to be prone to interlaced artifacts on fast moving content.

4K or 3D? The future remains unclear | Broadcast Engineering

From Broadcast Engineering on 2/25/13

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show was highly focused on the next level of television set technology, called Ultra HD. In the professional world, we call it 4K. While the technologies are similar, they are, in fact, not precisely the same. But that’s a topic for another discussion. In the professional world, 4K is a topic of high interest. Even so, that doesn’t mean broadcasters share the same interest level as do TV set makers. Manufacturers and others with vested interest are proclaiming the future is now for Ultra HD and that it (4K) will be the new 3D. (See 3D is dead–long live 4K) .

In order to get a more accurate look at this industry perceives 3D and 4K, SCRI Broadcast Pro Video Research, in conjunction with Broadcast Engineering magazine, conducted a February survey among the magazine’s subscribers. While the survey covered a range of topics and key technologies, survey respondents were specifically asked about their plans to implement 3D and 4K technologies.

4K: here or tomorrow?

The results indicate that engineers and managers remain unconvinced about the need to immediately begin 4K production. In fact, the largest proportion of respondents didn’t even know when 4K production might need to start: 40.9% of TV stations, 57.9% of cable stations and 42.4% of production/post facilities.

Of those that reported either already producing content in 4K or planning to do so within two years, production/post facilities’ were the most optimistic about the technology: 37.5%, compared to 10.5% of cable stations and 10% of TV stations.

More TV stations, 24.4%, believe that they will be producing 4K in 2015 or beyond, compared to 18.4% of cable stations and 15.3% of production/post facilities.  Only 4.9% of production/post facilities believe that they will “never” produce content in 4k, compared to 16% of TV stations and 13.2% of cable stations.

Overall, production/post facilities are the most bullish regarding producing 4K content compared to both TV and cable facilities. Perhaps that to be expected because production/post houses may be more focused on content life, rather than transmission. Television and cable facilities may be more focused on getting content to viewers and right now those pipes will not accommodate 4K bandwidths.

3D

Regarding 3D content production, there were fewer “don’t knows” than for 4K – 40.9% of TV stations, 27.5% of cable and 42.7% of production/post.   With respect to 3D, there were significantly more facilities that believe that they will “never” produce 3D content, 31.5% for TV stations (vs. 16% for 4K); 30% for cable stations (vs. 13.2% for 4K); and 23.1% for production/post (vs. 15.3% for 4K).

Of those that reported either already producing content in 3D or planning to do so within two years, production/post facilities were again the most optimistic – 28%. In the 3D arena, cable stations were also somewhat optimistic with 22.5% either already producing 3D content or planning to do so in 2013/14. TV stations lag behind in 3D content production – only 10.2% already do so or plan to this or next year.

TV and cable facilities are more likely to be putting 3D content production off until 2015 or beyond – 17.3% for TV and 20% for cable stations versus only 6.3% for production/post facilities.

Bottom line, production and post facilities are more supportive of 3D content production than either TV or cable stations.

4K vs. 3D

When combining the responses from survey respondents, it is apparent that:

– There is still more uncertainty about 4K than 3D – 43.9% “don’t know” vs. 37.5% for 3D

– Slightly more facilities are already producing content for 3D –13.6% vs. 8.5% for 4K

– This reverses for those planning to produce content in 3D/4K in 2013/14 – 6.4% for 3D vs. 12.6% for 4K

– Similarly, slightly more stations and cable facilities expect to produce 4K content in 2015 or beyond (19%) versus 3D (11%).

– About twice as many stations and cable plants expect to “never” produce content for 3D (31.5%) as opposed to 4K (15.9%)

By When            3D 4K
Already doing 13.6% 8.50%
2013 3.00% 5.10%
2014 3.40% 7.50%
2015 or beyond  11 11% 19%
Never 31.50% 15.90%
Don’t Know    37.5% 43.90%

*Measured over all survey responses:

4K technology comments:

In late January, SCRI ran a poll and asked for comments regarding the future of 4K. Many of the responses show skepticism in rapid adoption of 4K. Here are some of the responses. The entire comments section is available here.

Paul Scott: Over and above the technical viability of deploying 4K, which I think can be sorted. This is very similar to the 3D question. It comes down to, “When will the consumer market demand higher resolution?” There has to be some value add hook. I see value in the “Multiview” application perhaps. That possibly would enable a single network to stream multiple HD feeds to a given user on multiple displays. But again with the consumer market moving to smaller more mobile devices does this make sense? We have all been working to create the “Bigger Better” viewing experience but I see the market moving towards a more mobile viewing experience. So in my opinion, we’ll have to create the hooks to make the market want to move to 4K. Bottom line!

Patrick Sullivan: It’s just a little too early to scrap the 720P & 1080I systems. It’s barely paid for, yet, and there are some stations are not even HD yet…This is a set for a market that does not rely on current infrastructure. Theaters, etc.. Considering how long it took plain ole HD to launch, I think with 4K, and it’s big brother, 8K, it’s going to be years in just changing the infrastructure, much less Joe Average spending $10K + for a 55″ OLED 4K Flat screen!

Ned Soseman: It’s a great production format but I don’t see it coming to living rooms anytime soon.

Joel Appelbaum: I think the biggest impediment (in addition to major infrastructure costs) will be getting 4K content over existing cable and satellite distribution. It’s a lot more bandwidth and these providers are already maxed out.

Bottom line

– 4K appears to have the upper hand over 3D when it comes to the next level of content production

– Even so, 4K does not appear to be quite ready for prime time until at least 2015 or beyond

– This notwithstanding, the numbers show that 4K build outs could happen earlier as facilities seek to protect their investment in content life and delivery capability.