The Truth about 3D TV, Part 1

Stereoscopic television has been thrust to the forefront because of the success of the stereoscopic cinema.  It’s interesting to consider the technology and business factors that might add up to success for stereoscopic television.  But what exactly do I mean by “success”?  I mean broad acceptance by the public, so that many people are watching 3-D TV at home – let’s say a 50% penetration of people who watch television. 

The word “television” no longer means what it used to mean.  “Television” once meant watching a small CRT tube – first black-and-white, then color – with just a handful of terrestrial channels as the program source.  Cable and VCRs broadened the kinds of content delivery.  The move toward digital and high definition and flat panel displays came on strong in the last decade, wiping out the ubiquitous CRT at least in stores if not in people’s homes.  The drive for a digital signal was mandated in America and Europe, and this approach was accepted by the Japanese, who had been broadcasting in high definition, but using an analog signal. The concept of convergence that was pushed by people in the computer world led to an open standard for televisions in which signals of different resolution and different format are now accepted by a television receiver.  

For example, today an HD signal can be 720 progressive or 1080 interlaced.  Those two standards satisfy the requirement for high-definition.  Coming out of a Blu-ray you can get 1080 progressive, which today would be the ultimate signal available for home television sets and that is similar to what is used by the digital cinema.  The major difference is in terms of compression; the Blu-ray signal is much more compressed, but I would venture to say that a decently manufactured Blu-ray disc played through a theatrical digital projector would be tough for a layman to tell from what’s being dished up by, for example, a Doremi server on a Christie projector.

 A television set can be proclaimed to be a hi-def set but it must handle a variety of signals.  The set could be a 720p set, or it could be a 1080i set, or it could even be something different. In addition to the hi-def signals, the digital NTSC equivalent signals can also be played by a modern television set.   The key technology that makes all this convergence/compatibility possible is the scaling engine.  The signal arriving at your television set may come from a disc, IPTV like Netflix, video on demand, cable, terrestrial, or maybe something else, of various resolutions and either progressive or interlaced.  The scaling engine massages the incoming signal and adjusts it to the requirements of the display in your television set.  Keep that concept in mind, because the reason I went over this is that it’s important for understanding what will be happening with stereoscopic television. 

I’ll have more to say the next time.

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