CableLabs Publishes 3D Content Encoding Specification

--3D Round-Up: DirecTV, Panasonic, Softel, Verizon

US cable-industry research, development and standardization body, CableLabs, said Wednesday that it has published a new specification as a guide for producers, programmers and aggregators of stereoscopic 3D programming. The new spec--entitled Content Encoding Profiles (CEP) 3.0 Specification (OC-SP-CEP3.0-I01-100827), and representing CableLabs' first 3D content encoding spec--can be viewed here in the OpenCable Specifications area of the CableLabs Web site.

According to CableLabs, the new CEP spec--which it says was developed with support from cable operators, programmers and equipment vendors, and is publicly available for any industry to use--details exact requirements for formatting or "panelizing" 3D content into a frame-compatible format for use by cable TV systems. "This spec release marks a great step in the commercialization of 3D TV because it is the first public specification that fully describes the coding and signaling for these top-and-bottom and side-by-side 3D video formats," Comcast CTO, Tony Werner, said in a prepared statement. Added Avail-TVN CTO, Michael Kazmier: "Ensuring that content from all programming sources and cable systems is prepared in a uniform way will enable a nationwide footprint for 3D programming and enable interoperability with STB's and 3DTV's in the home." And added Jim Occhiuto, VP of technology and engineering at Showtime Networks: "A key part of this specification includes the definitions for signaling 3D content over existing digital video infrastructure that uses either MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 (AVC/H.264) coding. This signaling is critical for the receiver/decoder to enable automatic format detection and simplified user experiences when going between 2D and 3D programs."

The new CEP specification replaces the previous VOD-Content Encoding Profile 2.0 spec that was widely used within the industry. According to CableLabs, it builds upon the existing 2D coding framework defined by the previous version of this document, and will be used as the reference for both 2D and 3D video going forward. The organization says that it represents the first step in a continuing process of defining 3D formats for cable TV that work with existing equipment and infrastructure; and that it plans to continue work on the development of standards for future 3D delivery systems that will expand the resolution and the quality as new equipment becomes available.

In related news: A number of companies in the interactive TV space contacted [itvt] Wednesday with 3D TV-related announcements:

  • DirecTV says that it will provide exclusive, live 3D coverage of the 2010 US Open on its n3D Powered by Panasonic channel (103). "Throughout Labor Day weekend, Sept. 4th-6th, n3D will air CBS Sports' center court coverage of both the men's and women's third and fourth rounds from 11:00AM. to 6:00PM EDT each day," the company states in its press materials. "DirecTV will also broadcast coverage of the semifinal and final rounds on: September 10th from 12:30PM to 6:00PM EDT; September 11th from 12:00PM to 6:00PM EDT and 8:00PM to 11:00PM EDT; [and] September 12th from 4:00PM to 7:00PM EDT. Immediately following the East Coast broadcast, DirecTV will re-air matches played throughout the day." In addition, DirecTV says, it will team with Panasonic to "provide the US Open semifinal and final matches live in 3D to hundreds of TV retail outlets nationwide, including Best Buy stores, as part of the September 10th-12th 'National 3D Demo Days' organized by the Consumer Electronics Association."
  • Panasonic says that it will establish a 3D Innovation Center in the US this fall. It has also just announced the establishment of such a facility in Berlin, and has previously established one in Japan. "The new Panasonic 3D Innovation Center will be based on the campus of Panasonic Corporation of North America in Secaucus, NJ," the company states in its press materials. "The Center also plans to create a branch in the Los Angeles area to facilitate collaboration with the entertainment industry...The mission of the Panasonic US 3D Innovation Center will be to serve as a platform for developing alliances and partnerships with companies that are exploring how to apply 3D technologies in their own operations. With the aim of promoting innovation, the Center will also serve as a forum for ongoing communication with local 3D stakeholders in all industries to share 3D content, exchange ideas and establish best practices for creating and delivering 3D services." Panasonic has also just announced the launch of its first full-HD 3D Blu-ray Disc home theater systems, the SC-BTT750 and the SC-BTT350. Among other things, the devices incorporate Panasonic's Viera Cast connected-TV platform.
  • Softel, a UK-based company which claims to have over 25 years of experience in providing ancillary data solutions--including solutions for interactive TV, opt cuing/ad insertion, subtitling and captioning--to leading broadcasters and service providers across the world (note: earlier this year, the company revealed that it is powering Showtime Networks' new HD EBIF application--see the article published on itvt.com, March 24th), says that it is launching an end-to-end stereoscopic 3D subtitle creation and rendering product suite in partnership with graphics specialist, Pixel Power. The companies plan to demo Softel-created 3D subtitle content, rendered by Pixel Power's Clarity 3D, BrandMaster 3D and LogoVision 3D systems in Pixel Power's booth (7.A31) at the IBC next week. "Existing Softel Swift users will be able to purchase a 3D upgrade, allowing optimum flexibility for a limited cost while benefiting from a best-of-breed solution," Softel states in its press materials. "The joint solution has the capability either to repurpose 2D subtitles or to create them from scratch. 3D TV programming is fast becoming a reality in the United Kingdom, United States and elsewhere around the world, and there is significant demand for a 3D subtitle solution to manage the creation, and repurposing from 2D, of 3D subtitles. As the global market leader for subtitle authoring workstations, Softel has addressed the challenges of 3D subtitle content creation and encoding through innovative development to existing products, combined with a new and proven technology partnership. Pixel Power has spent over two decades redefining what is possible in the broadcast graphics field and it has continued that innovation into the emerging stereoscopic 3D world. During the 3D post-production subtitle authoring process, it is vital that each subtitle is carefully placed in each 3D scene in such a way that it avoids other 'close-up' content whilst remaining clear to the viewer. Softel has developed an upgrade to their Swift Create subtitle workstation to allow Z-axis placement metadata to be stored for each subtitle whilst ensuring that this is within a pre-specified 3D object space. Swift Create can also deploy '3D Smart' Z-axis auto-placement logic if metadata is available for the 3D video content to describe the placement of 3D activity in each scene. Pixel Power's stereoscopic 3D-equipped graphics products can now import Softel subtitle files with the subtitle, timecode and Z-axis metadata. Subtitles are then rendered automatically in real-time stereoscopic 3D in sync with timecode, using simple graphics templates. The Z-axis metadata (which can also be used to animate the Z position of a displayed subtitle) is used to position dynamically the subtitles to match the underlying action and avoid distracting the viewer."
  • Verizon says that it will broadcast the first-ever 3D NFL game on television tonight (Thursday). "Verizon's FiOS TV customers in the New York City area, including parts of New Jersey, as well as Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, can watch this Thursday's final preseason match-up between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots in 3D," the company states on its blog. "The broadcast begins on FiOS1 channel 834 at 6:45PM and includes half-time and post-game shows--all in 3D." Verizon is also partnering with various local retail stores to bring the 3D broadcast to New York and New England residents who are not equipped with 3D TV sets.

 

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