Video services

3DTV Standards Come Into View

12:15 PM -- About a year ago, an ad hoc group operating under Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) 's Digital Video Subcommittee (DVS) was assigned the task of investigating the implications of transporting 3-D content over the existing cable network. (See SCTE Looks at 3DTV .)

Participants included the customary cable stakeholders (major MSOs and digital transport equipment manufacturers) and a group of 3-D technology vendors. The output of the study group was a report to DVS that prescribed a number of actions, specifically revisions of some existing SCTE standards, and the development of new documents to describe the signaling, formatting, encoding and transport parameters for carriage of 3-D content.

This project entails a planned two-phase approach. The first phase covers the set of requirements, as described above, for "frame-compatible" stereoscopic 3-D. Frame-compatible means the transport is compatible with existing conventional video transport methods and equipment, and involves packing of the separate left- and right-eye views from the source into a single HD video frame that has the same pixel count as the individual left or right frames. Doing this requires reducing the data in each full L/R frame using a filtering algorithm. The resulting combined stereoscopic frame is divided either vertically ("side by side" frame-compatible) or horizontally ("over and under" frame-compatible) for transport, and then separated at the receiving end for delivery to 3DTVs and displays.

Three new standards are now in development under Phase 1 with the following working titles:
  • DVS 1036-1 -- "Stereoscopic 3D Formatting and Coding for Cable" will describe the specifications for video-related formatting and encoding parameters for content including, but not limited to, linear and on-demand programming.
  • DVS 1036-2 -- "Stereoscopic 3D Transport and Signaling" defines the related cable system transport and signaling requirements.
  • DVS 1036-3 -- "Informative Guidance for Stereoscopic Video" will advise content providers with recommendations and practices to consider in the translation of captured 3-D images.

All of these are currently in early draft form, so the content and direction of each is still subject to change. In addition, it is important to note that these proposed documents define only the parameters specific to encoding, transport, and signaling practices relevant to 3-D that are beyond what is already in practice for 2-D content parameters.

Once the first set of standards is completed, work will continue in Phase 2 that will define the requirements for full-resolution high-definition stereoscopic 3-D video systems. This may mean revising the standards developed in the first phase or may even result in the creation of parallel documents, with the specific plan remaining to be determined since, for example, Phase 2 partly depends on the future state of consumer standards like the High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI).

Information on how to join the SCTE Standards program and become a part of the 3-D standards process can be found here.

— Thomas C. Russell, Director, Standards, SCTE

This is the latest installment of "Technically Speaking with SCTE," a new monthly blog of interviews and columns to provide Light Reading Cable readers with timely updates on the SCTE's initiatives and activities.

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