Are you bored now that the Blu Ray vs HD-DVD format war is over? Perhaps you are nostalgic for the glory days of Beta vs VHS vs V2000. Or maybe you are an old guy who thinks nothing can compare to the CBS vs RCA color TV war of the early 1950s?
Insight Media Analyst
In the area of video formats for standard- or high-definition TV viewing of 3D content, take heart, while we are not yet ready to call it a 3D format war, we are certainly seeing alliances develop that could lead to war.
The issue is getting 3D content that you may have seen in the movies onto DVDs, Blu-ray disks or broadcast standards that allow viewers to see 3D on their TVs at home. For the most part, that is not possible today as 3D movies like Chicken Little are only available in 2D versions now.
At least three companies have developed 3D video formats that they hope will help bring 3D content into consumer’s homes. The Sensio (Montreal, Canada; www.sensio.tv) format for example, uses a special compression technique to minimize or eliminate the resolution losses associated with previous anamorphic techniques. Currently, you can buy half a dozen Sensio-encoded 3D DVDs today, although not Chicken Little. Currently you need an external Sensio decoder to view the 3D on a 3DTV, but later this summer SpectronIQ will introduce a "Full 3D" TV with a Sensio decoder built-in. If you watch a Sensio-encoded DVD without a Sensio decoder, you may see the left and right eye images side-by-side on the screen with extra noise representing the encoded horizontal resolution data.
DDD (Santa Monica, CA; www.ddd.com) actually has a few DDD-equipped sets from Hyundai on the market in Japan. More importantly, they have inked a deal with Samsung that that will lead to an embedded 3D processor inside Samsung TVs. The DDD processor will decode a variety of legacy formats, plus DDD has proposed a 2D plus depth format for encoding 3D material. When viewed on a 2D TV, the DDD format would show a good 2D image. On a 3D set equipped with the correct decoder, the DDD format will show a full 3D image.
TDVision (Naperville, IL; www.tdvision.com) has their own 3D format and it was used to demonstrate the first live 3D broadcast over the existing 2D infrastructure at NAB earlier this month. This format uses MPEG encoding to send the 3D image. When the MPEG stream reaches a 2D MPEG decoder, the extra information is ignored and you see a normal 2D image. If the stream reaches a 3D MPEG decoder, the extra data is used to reconstruct the full 3D image. This was also demonstrated at NAB where the same disk, when played in a the Blu Ray player in a PS3 showed a 2D image but when played in a Blu Ray player in a special TDVision PC with a 3D decoder in it, it showed 3D on the 3D display.
This column is not intended to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these three competing formats, and it ignores the legacy 3D formats that have been around for years but may still have life in them. One advantage of these legacy formats is the patents have expired-no license fees. The point is there are three (or more) formats, and they all have good credentials. But a TV built with one type or decoder may not necessarily play DVDs designed for a different format. Will Wal-Mart be willing to stock 5 versions of Chicken Little (2D DVD, 2D Blu Ray, Sensio 3D, DDD 3D and TDVision 3D) so you can get the right version for your TV? My guess is Wal-Mart, the studios and everyone else thinks this would be a bad idea.
By the end of 2008, there will be an estimated 2 million "3D Ready" TVs in the US. (Yes–2 million. You may own one and not even know it.) To watch 3D on these 3D-ready sets, it will be necessary to buy an external decoder box plus a DVD or a Blu Ray disk with the desired content encoded to match the decoder box. If you buy a decoder box or pay a premium for a TV with an embedded decoder, plus buy 3D content on DVD, will all this be obsolete in 2 years or 5 years? Finding a solution before a war begins is the desire of most players.