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CEA to set 3D glasses standards

Posted: 06 May 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:3DTV? 3D glasses spec? digital home?

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) plans to set the standards for stereo 3D glasses. The move is one of many efforts aimed at paving the road to interoperable 3DTV products for the digital home, a concept some see as the next big thing in TV.

"Almost every stereo 3D device comes with its own set of glasses and almost none of them are compatible," said Chris Chinnock, president of Insight Media, a market research company focused on display technology.

The 3D@Home industry group will draft a list of existing 3D glasses and their attributes to help the CEA identify compatibility issues. It will also draft a document on user requirements for 3D glasses, said Chinnock who sits on the board of the year-old group which now has 40 members.

The CEA aims to set separate standards for active and passive glasses. It has scheduled a May 12 meeting to take up the issue.

"Whether work is approved to start [on 3D glasses] remains to be seen," said Brian Markwalter, VP of standards and technology at CEA.

Last fall, the CEA started exploring standards for 3DTV and kicked off an effort to update for stereo 3D the CEA 861 standard that defines an uncompressed video interconnect at the heart of HDMI.

"They are trying to move things along as quickly as possible," said Chinnock.

Standards for glasses are just one small piece of the puzzle needed to deliver interoperable 3DTVs. The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers said earlier this year it will kick off in June an effort to set standards for a master file for stereo 3D content.

For its part, the 3D@Home group is working on document that will map out the many different technical approaches to rendering stereo 3D content on consumer systems. It will also draft a list describing the various encoding techniques used to compress stereo 3D content.

"We're asking standards bodies and industry groups what they need," said Chinnock. "There are a lot of moving parts here."

3D hype and challenges
Interest in stereo 3D continues to rise, led by Hollywood studios who are finding success selling premium tickets for 3D movies at theaters. For example, the Dreamworks animated 3D feature "Monsters vs. Aliens" earned more than $318 million in its first 32 days, according to one Website.

Consumer electronics companies are keen to find a next-big-thing beyond today's big screen digital LCD TVs and think stereo 3D could be it. A Panasonic chief technology officer called for a 3DTV standard this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

The drumbeat on 3DTV is continuing at industry events. As many as 53 sessions addressed aspects of 3D at the recent National Association of Broadcasters annual conference. A high profile 3DTV panel is planned at next week's Digital Hollywood event in Santa Monica, California.

"The big take away for me was the level of activity in 3D at NAB," said Chinnock. "Almost everyone has a product or program, and everyone in the whole NAB infrastructure chain is engaged in itthat's a sea change from last year," he said.

Plenty of roadblocks are still ahead. They range from efforts to set standards for rendering content in the home to how the content is created at the studio.

"The average engineer going to the NAB show realized there were twice as many issues that they thought going in," said Richard Doherty, principal of consulting firm Envisioneering. "You do 3D wrong and you don't just give people headaches, you make them sick," he said.

Delivering good 3D content in the cinema requires careful attention to a variety of issues in human perception. Translating that content to a 47-inch home TV has its own set of complex issues, Doherty said.

"A lot of [OEMs] were saying, 'cripes this is more complex that we thought,'" he said. "That was the great awakening that came out of this show."

"It's easy to create 3D, but it's hard to create good 3D," said Chinnock, a fact he said movie producers made clear in NAB sessions. "So called pros were putting up stuff that hurt my eyes," he said.

"There will be a lot of subpar material that comes out, and it could give the sector another black eye," Chinnock said referring to the fast rise and fall of anaglyph 3D movies in the 1950's.

"There is a handful of stereographers that know what they are doing," he added.

The 3D@Home group will put together a primer on creating good stereo 3D based on interviews with some of the top filmmakers, he added.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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