SMPTE Outlines Requirements for New 3-D Standard

Apr 27, 2009
The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers has released a report on the requirements for standards for the creation of 3-D stereoscopic content viewable on television sets and other home-entertainment displays.

The report, the product of a SMPTE task force set up last August, is a major step forward in the development of 3-D technologies, even though the actual standard is not expected to be announced until 2010 and widespread availability of 3-D content in the home may take several more years.

The task-force report deals with the requirements needed for the so-called 3-D Home Master. This is the 3-D content that producers would deliver to various distribution platforms -- Blu-ray, game consoles, cable systems, broadcasters, broadband, mobile and other technologies that might deliver 3-D content to the home.

The SMPTE is currently in the process of deciding which of its committees will handle the creation of the actual standard for this 3-D home master, said director of engineering and standards Peter Symes. The actual work on the standard is expected to begin in June and should be completed within a year.

The move towards 3-D home master standards is only one part of a larger group of standards that are likely to be created around the delivery of 3D content into the home via Blu-ray players, game consoles, cable, broadcast and other platforms.

"Each of these industries has their own bodies or bodies that deal with the formats for delivery," Symes notes. "A number of proposals have been put forward [for example] of how to do this for Blu-ray. But the important point is that the different distribution platforms will have one deliverable [the 3-D home master] as their starting point. It will allow for the efficient production of stereoscopic content because everyone will have a common target without worrying about the delivery or the display mechanism."

Another major step forward, Symes argued, is the fact that such a wide variety of companies, countries and industries came together to agree on these requirements. Over 200 people from 13 nations were involved in the task force, representing movie studios, broadcasters, cable operators, satellite-TV providers.

"There was a universal acceptance of the need to create one deliverable," Symes said. "It is a clear inflection point, if you like, for the development of 3-D in the home, because all the players were able to reach a consensus on where to go."

The report calls for the 3-D Home Mastering standard to use the 1080p format at 60 frames per second, the highest level of image formatting currently available. It also specifies that the 3-D home master be compatible with a variety of other products, including Blu-ray discs, and requires that these home masters work with earlier formats and displays so that 3-D content can be displayed on existing two-dimensional TVs and other displays.

Display technology is expected to develop rapidly in upcoming years, but Symes and others said they think a new standard should help speed the development of existing and future 3-D-capable displays.

Symes said he expects the first consumer-electronics devices are compatible with the standard to make their way into homes in 2010. Manufacturers should be able to use the standard to guide their efforts to develop next-generation displays, he said.

"This will make it easier for them because they don't have to put it down as an unknown," he said. "Display technologies are going to be evolving probably in many directions, but I don't think we will need to go back and revise the standard because of the direction of the display technology.

"They are now going to be able to assume that there is a certain kind of deliverable that they will have to display and they'll go out to find the best and most cost-effective way of achieving it."