SAN JOSE, Calif. The Consumer Electronics Association will investigate the possibility of setting standards for 3DTV, seen by many observers as the next big thing in home entertainment. The news comes on the heels of an announcement Monday by a group of leading Hollywood technologists who will explore content standards for 3DTV.
The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) is forming a task force that will set the stage for an effort to define a stereo 3D mastering standard for content viewed in the home. Hollywood studios are eager to find new ways to gain revenues from an increasing number of 3D titles they are developing for the cinema.
Engineers have explored ideas for 3D on television for years, and 3DTV demos have long been a staple of major exhibitions for consumer electronics giants. But the latest moves indicate big industry organizations may think the time is right to plow the road for tomorrow's mainstream products.
"We all generally see 3D as the next big thing in television, not higher resolutions or laser projection, but a really good 3d experience," said Richard Doherty, principal of consulting firm Envisioneering (Seaford, NY.).
"3D gives the most bang for the buck that people can understand," Doherty added. "Even people who don't appreciate the improvements in high def, like 3D, and the electronics industry gets a big shot in the arm with this one too across areas like processors, displays and cameras," he added.
But don't expect 3DTVs to show up at Best Buy anytime soon. As many as a dozen companies are actively working on the core technology behind the product. Many have technologies available to demo, but no clear road forward for a mainstream offering has emerged.
"There are an awful lot of players," Doherty said. "It will take a shakeout to achieve even a fraction of the potential of 3D."
At least five companies own core technology behind today's 3DTV prototype products, said Wendy Aylsworth, vice president of engineering for SMPTE. They include Philips, TDVision Systems, Sensio Technologies Inc., DDD Group Plc and Real D Cinema whose technology is now in use in many digital 3D movie theaters.
"What's' happened in digital cinema will have an impact on the home, so Real D will have an edge," said Doherty.
"If we can equip HDTVs with 3D decoders within a few years we can bring the home a good quality 3d experience," said Aylsworth who is also a chief technologist for Warner Bros. studios.
But that's easier said and done. The number of different types and vendors of TVs, set-top boxes, Blu-Ray and DVD players and TV content distributors makes delivering 3DTV a complex matrix of content, transport and display issues.
"It's going to be tough," said Aylsworth. "You will need an array of standards from SMPTE and many others to create an infrastructure."
Indeed the SMPTE effort, which could itself take 18-30 months to complete, is reaching out to an alphabet soup of other standards groups who may play a part in defining 3DTV including the CEA, DVB, BDA, ARIB, ATSC, DVD Forum, ITU-R, IEC, EuroCE and others.