Wednesday, June 16, 2010

3D TV Introduction

What technologies are required for 3DTV?

BSkyB: 3DTV is easier business model than HD

Brian Lenz, Director of Product Design and TV Product Development at BSkyB, told the 3DTV World Forum last week that it was much more challenging to create the business case for digital TV and then HDTV than it is for 3DTV before deciding: “Will 3D be the next big innovation that radically alters television? I think there are reasons to believe that could be the case.”

Referring to the reaction of consumers to early Sky 3D broadcasts, Lenz said: “Every time we put this in front of people they are excited and want more. We do not need to convince them. HD was a harder sell because some people cannot see the difference between SD and HD but 3DTV is immediately obvious to them.”

Responding to questions, Lenz said that for BSkyB, 3D success would mean repeating the kind of uptake witnessed for its Sky+ PVR and HD services and, before those, its introduction of digital TV. “This is just the beginning. Success for us would mean that in 2-3 years time consumers are clamouring for more channels and there is enough content available to expand the offering,” he said.

Lenz said the time was finally right for 3DTV. The big changes since previous industry attempts to introduce 3D television have been the transition to digital, including file based storage and editing, plus high quality camera rigs. These have removed many of the difficulties witnessed before.

The ability to re-use the existing HD infrastructure, from cameras to set-top boxes, presents the chance to take 3DTV to market earlier than was ever anticipated three years ago. Lenz recalled that there was no appetite at Sky for infrastructure upgrades while the company was only just paying off its HD investment, but then Hyundai introduced a television that could take side-by-side inputs using HDTV signals to create 3D television. “We realised that by keeping it simple the question became whether we could produce the content.”

Lenz pointed out that Sky is able to pull all the pieces of the 3D puzzle together in-house, operating its own platform with 2.5 million HD subscribers (all able to receive 3DTV using the side-by-side transmission standard). And of course, the company owns its own channels including premium sports. “We can control multiple pieces of the value chain and that allows us to be more aggressive with the introduction of 3DTV in the early days,” he declared.

BSkyB wants to offset any talk of format wars, pointing out that the side-by-side approach favoured today will work on any kind of 3D television. “This is not a VHS versus Betamax or a Blu-ray situation,” he declared. “Buying an active television or a passive television does not determine if you can watch Sky 3D. We are using common standards like HDMI 1.4 so let’s not get excited about format wars.”

Having broadcast its first live soccer game in January 2010 to a handful of pub venues, Sky launched its 3D channel in April for outdoor venues and has signed up over 1,000 pubs and clubs. 3D television will be made available to home viewers in the autumn.

“First and foremost we are focused on making that live pub experience great because we want to build up the appetite for 3DTV and want as many people as possible to see it so they think maybe now is the time to buy a television. Our commitment is that when people put on those glasses they will have a fantastic experience.”

Lenz emphasised that Sky is focused on native 3D production, saying he was sceptical about the possibilities for 2D-to-3D conversion. He highlighted the risk that bad conversions will damage 3D in the minds of consumers.

“One thing we have learned is that creatively, 3D is different to 2D,” he added. “You need to understand that the brain works differently when watching 3D and you don’t want to cut content as quickly. 2D cuts don’t work for 3D so this is not where you want to start from and you certainly won’t realise a level of great 3D content with that approach.”


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