IBC 2010 Bits and Bites: 3D

Applications for 3D production were everywhere at IBC. From acquisition to transmission, every company was working to find a new way to enhance production of 3D content. Here are a few highlights from the show floor.

AJA Responds to Demand With 3D Solutions
AJA Video Systems, which specializes in building problem-solvers for its customers, released two 3D products specifically designed to make workflows more efficient.

“We tend to sit back and look for issues in our customers’ workflow and then build problem-solvers,” says AJA President Nick Rashby. “We don’t usually try to change the way people are working; we try to fix problems in the ways that they’re working now. 3D is a viable business for us because our customers are asking for it.”

AJA developed the Hi5-3D mini-converter as a response to those customer issues, particularly with monitoring. The Hi5-3D combines SDI input into stereo output, allowing users to view 3D on any monitor or projector, not just the expensive 3D-enabled ones.

“Hi5-3D takes in two SDI camera feeds, corrects them with horizontal and vertical flips, and outputs the image to inexpensive consumer displays,” Rashby says. “That’s been getting great reception because it’s $495. It’s an amazingly inexpensive way to have high-quality monitoring on-set.”

Available in October, Hi5-3D combines dual 3D SDI inputs into various multiplexed 3D formats for output on 3D HDMI 1.4a and SDI.

At IBC, AJA also released the Kona 3G capture card, a multiformat SD/HD/dual-link/3G/2K video I/O hardware for Mac- and PC-based systems.

“Kona 3G builds upon the feature set of the Kona 3,” Rashby explains. “It adds LTC timecode, 3G connectivity, 3D HDMI capability and builds upon the existing 3D workflow for another option for display. It’s also $1,000 less than the Kona 3.”

Kona 3G features 10-bit uncompressed video 3G/HD/SD SDI I/O, HDMI 1.4a output for stereographic monitoring to consumer 3D displays, and real-time hardware-based up/down/crossconversion to support a range of SD and HD, dual-link HD, and even 2K formats. The card will be available in October priced at $1,995.

For Quantel, There Is Money in 3D
Quantel introduced stereoscopic 3D at IBC 2007 and has sold more than 100 high-end 3D Pablo color-correction and postproduction systems for stereoscopic use.

“This year for the first time, more than half of our post business came from 3D-related sales,” says Director of Marketing Steve Irwin. “To anyone who is skeptical, oh yes, there is money in stereo! Stereo is now bigger than our 2D offering.”

At IBC, Quantel exhibited a wide range of new tools in both Pablo and iQ, an online finishing and Digital Intermediate tool. Many of the tools were developed as a result of customer feedback.

“We’re able to understand the issues and make our systems better based on real-world experience,” Irwin says. “We’re not interested in low-cost poor-quality stereo; we’re interested in high-value stereo. That’s what’s driving the market.”

With JPEG2000, T-VIPS Transmits Full-Bandwidth 3D
T-VIPS showcased two types of JPEG2000 lossless compression — visually lossless and mathematically lossless — both of which are promising for future 3D productions.

“We’re showing full-bandwidth dual-stream 3D, and that’s what we’re able to transmit,” says T-VIPS VP/GM Joe LoGrasso. “We can now get to JPEG2000 with either visually or mathematically lossless compression, so, for remote applications and collaboration, this is the way broadcasters would want to go in the production phases.”

Visually lossless compresses and decompresses the video with a loss of pixels that is mathematically measurable but not visibly detectable; mathematically lossless compression loses zero pixels. Both methods use one-third of the bandwidth of uncompressed transmission. Mathematically lossless runs about 60% of the bitrate used for uncompressed transmission, and visually lossless runs about 10% of that rate, making for substantial savings.

“With a 1-gig connection, they can’t do mathematically lossless, but they can do visually lossless and still have extremely high-quality synchronized left- and right-eye 3D video,” LoGrasso explains. “We have a frame synchronizer built into our decoder system, and the MXF wrapper that we have around it also contributes to left/right-eye synchronization, which avoids giving that nausea feeling. You can start out with great content acquisition, but, if you transmit it poorly, you end up with poor quality at the other end.”

Level3 Dual-Purposes 3D for a Win-Win
Level3 saw a great deal of interest in its 3D platform, which was built in partnership with Microsoft Silverlight and NVIDIA.

“We use a hardware decoding platform to take stereoscopic 3D content not designed for Internet distribution and use the Silverlight platform over the Level3 backbone to NVIDIA-enabled PCs,” says Michael Fay, senior director of product management for Level3. “A lot of broadcasters are interested in that because, if they do not have to invest more money in an additional solution for the same content, that is good for them.”

Using the Level3 backbone and technology from Microsoft and NVIDIA, Fay explains, broadcasters like Sky Sports can dual-purpose their 3D content at no additional cost: “It’s a win-win for them.”