Last week, Eutelsat Communications took part in a demonstration in Europe of an end-to-end 3D satellite broadcasting chain, at the Sat Expo Europe 2009 International Conference and Exhibition in Rome. Using capacity on Eutelsat’s EUROBIRD3 satellite, a live music performance was shot, transmitted, received and projected in stereo 3D-HD on a cinema screen and on prototype models of stereo 3D-HD television sets.
Insight Media Consultant
Reproducing the conditions of a live 3D event, the shooting and production was managed by dBW, a specialist production company based in Rome, while OpenSky, which specializes in transmitting digital content via satellite, managed the encoding, decoding (from Sensio) and projection. The three companies have also agreed to combine their resources and expertise in order to be able to provide end-to-end 3D services in Europe.
The EUROBIRD9A satellite has already been transmitting a test 3D channel over the last three months, as a test bed to analyze the performance of displays, encoders and decoders, and to gather experience on the use of 3D content in the home and at public locations. Commenting on the demonstration in Rome, Eutelsat CEO Giuliano Berretta said, "This new step towards 3D broadcasting continues Eutelsat’s longstanding commitment to innovation that opens satellites to a new generation of applications. Early and close collaboration between all actors in the broadcasting chain will be a key success factor for this new broadcasting revolution."
As we know, it’s all about content, and there seems to be a growing library of 3D material for distribution and consumption. But the last variable remains to be the service providers, and conspicuously absent from any of the press surrounding this event is any mention by major satellite broadcasters such as Sky.
Olivier Millies-Lacroix, the commercial director of Eutelsat, said, "Within one to two years [satellite 3D] is technically possible, but it is more a matter of getting a large broadcaster to decide to it." Speaking at the SatExpo conference, he added, "I believe that there is an interest from the public for 3D but it will be for pay TV operators and broadcasters to organize a product."
A number of major British broadcasters including BSkyB and the BBC have been actively researching 3D. BSkyB has been evaluating the viability of launching 3D services through its existing high definition infrastructure, via a standard Sky+ HD box. The BBC’s R&D division has been investigating several 3D display technologies, including autostereoscopic, according to a BBC spokeswoman who cautioned, "it is too early to have a 3D-TV strategy at the moment because there is not yet a clear route to audiences."
Not surprisingly, the success or failure of a 3D TV business depends on the business model, just like any other business. The technology may increase costs to the producers, distributors, and consumers, and this cost must be recouped to make for a viable business. Whether the added value will offset the current conservative spending of most parties is a judgment call, but there are signs that people may be willing to shift some of their discretionary income to more in-home entertainment. Before a disc standard becomes popular, satellite and cable remain the best ways to reach a mass market - unless, of course, online video takes off. Bet on this one to proceed cautiously. -agc