Sky reveal 3D TV experiments – AVForums get a sneak peek

Phil Hinton

Editor
Staff member
On Wednesday the 17th of December I attended SKY TV’s London production facilities to get a special treat. I wasn’t made aware of exactly what I was going to see until about 10 minutes before my demo. I had attended thinking we were going to cover some of the existing technology and maybe do a podcast or video. So when I heard that I was about to see some 3D TV I was extremely interested in seeing what it would be like and completely sceptical that it would be any good.

As we all know, 3D technology has been around in the cinema world for a long time now, with the usual gimmick of the hand flying out of the screen or the giant shark appearing to hang in front of you. But the effects of the technology in the past have also been seen as pretty fake in realism terms. However I was happy to hear that the R&D team, along with the production staff at Sky certainly don’t want that old 60/70’s idea of items flying out of the screen at us, so maybe this will look ok?

First of all and something that made the use of the technology very appealing is that any SKY HD box can pick up, store and playback the 3D content. This content is broadcast using two HD bandwidth channels from the main transmission centre at Sky’s HQ and they are actively researching this technology and refining how it might work.

Indeed let’s get this extremely clear, SKY are NOT releasing any 3D channels yet, they are looking at the technology, testing how it might work within the broadcast environment and ultimately how it might look to end users. This is certainly the first time Sky have ever opened up their R&D division to the press and demonstrated anything at such an early stage.

So how does it work?

The advance in camera technology as well as the breakthroughs in post production and transmission will allow a 3D signal to be broadcast and played back on a 3D spec TV. These TVs are currently available in Japan but we expect to see many more announced for the US and UK markets at this years CES. This was one reason why Sky opened its doors, so when we see this new tech at CES, we can rest assured that Sky are actually working on bring it to market, and it won’t cost as much as many may think.

The TV used for the demo had a polarising panel fitted to its screen technology and to see 3D pictures you wear a set of glasses which also have a polarising layer to help the eyes pick up each image for the correct playback. These glasses can be designed in any way you like as long as they have the correct polarising lens, which are clear in colour.

The images are received by a normal SKY HD box and fed to the TV by normal means, but the image it displays is a mixture of two separate images which create a 3D image when used with the glasses.

The most difficult process with this technology is actually at the production level and not at the consumer. Indeed all a consumer will need to enjoy this potential content is a SKY HD box, a 3D TV and a set of glasses.

However the production of the programmes will create a few more challenges for the crews producing the content. But SKY has already fully tested their proposed shooting rigs at some big sporting events as well as with in house productions such as Gladiators.

The cameras used are High Definition cameras, but special rigs need to hold these in specifically aligned positions. This ensures that the images are captured as two separate pictures simultaneously. One method uses two cameras which sit directly next to each other with the lenses 6cm apart, roughly the same distance of human eyes. The two separate feeds (or recordings) need to be exactly time stamped from a single synchronised clock to ensure that both images are indeed displayed simultaneously during playback.

The next step requires the two images to be edited so that the colours match exactly, and any small discrepancies of image position and scale are corrected. Depth can also be manually manipulated to enhance or control the 3D image. These techniques help to avoid any rapid movements between differing depths and focus points, which can cause a feeling of sickness or eye strain with some viewers.

Once the captured images have been through the post production cycle, they need to be delivered into the home and onto the TV. This requires significant bandwidth – essentially the equivalent of two HD feeds.

This is where SKY is in a position to make this technology work. The current generation of SKY HD boxes already have the necessary processing power to be able to both receive the 3D encoded material, and store or deliver them to a 3D ready TV. SKY customers would therefore only need to purchase a new TV set to take advantage of the technology when and if it is finally released as a format.

Sky are set to continue their development and to liase with the industry and consumers to understand if there is a market demand for such programming. They will also continue to develop how they capture and transmit the signals.

How does it look?

So after a look at the transmission suite where the programs are broadcast from and the small area dedicated to the test transmissions, we headed for the viewing room to see exactly what it looks like.

Inside the viewing room were two Japanese 3D capable TVs with polarisation layers and we were given a set of clear polarised glasses to view with. The content was stored on a normal SKY HD box in the planner section which had been captured from the test broadcasts. There was no other technology involved in making this demonstration work, no hidden PC racks or curtains hiding a full 19” rack of processing units, it was all from just a normal SKY HD box.

The material used was a montage of Rugby, football, boxing and scenes from Gladiators. Each clip had been captured using the 3D camera Rigs, with the sports footage caught live. There was also a demonstration of a SKY advert which had been transferred from 2D to 3D.

The main montage of 3D captured images from a Liverpool game was very good indeed. There is certainly none of the fake stunts of objects flying towards you. Instead the effect is like the TV screen extending backwards, giving you a feeling of looking into a viewing box. This is a stunning effect which creates some breathtaking images, but which can also still look a little fake. The shots that really work well involved scenes where sharp edges where not quite as clinically sharp as with scenes such as crowds. In the crowds it was almost like several layers of super sharp images had been laid over the top of each other, with edges looking false and overly sharp.

When I raised this point, the reply which was extremely valid, pointed out that the tech is still very new and the traditional 2D camera operators and producers are still trying to figure out exactly what the limitations are. Indeed they have had to re-evaluate exactly how they shoot their footage, like live sporting events where in 2D they chase the ball, whereas with 3D it’s about lingering on the action more. Indeed some of the Liverpool footage where the illusion of depth worked looked stunning! There was one example with a side view from touchline to touchline, where the ball is crossed from the far wing, to Gerrard in the box. The flight of the ball and the sense of depth was like sitting in row G. Gerrard then heads the ball into the goal and the crowd erupts and again the sense of depth as he runs away from us towards the fans on the far side is really good.

However other footage looked a little strange, such as Ricky Hatton being interviewed where cameramen are standing in the foreground of the shot, just out of the focal plane and they look like they are CGI effects due to over sharpness. However I am sure that the production guys at SKY will get to grips with these small issues I found, as they experiment and perfect their 3D capture techniques.

Overall, this wasn’t a product launch, but more a look at what SKY can do with the 3D technology now and how they might be able to introduce such a service should the 3D market develop over the coming months and years. I was suitably impressed with what was shown and the fact that SKY could quite easily deliver these services in the future.

It will now give us more to think about at CES next month where we should see even more 3D technology being unwrapped.
 
J

jingle68

Guest
they should concentrate on fixing the issues with HD that we are suffering from before getting ahead of themselves with more technology.
 

Jules

Distinguished Member
My view is that that several big companies, including Sky, will try to force 3-D on the market very quicky.... but it simply won't work for several reasons:

1) If you still have to wear glasses, game over!
Even if the glasses are more stylish than the cardboard / plastic ones supplied at theme parks.... people will just not bother with them, lose them, or (like me) hate wearing them... particularly if your viewing something whilst drifting off in bed.

2) We've just gone through several very quick technology breakthroughs requiring new kit, i.e. DVD, digital TV, Blu-Ray and HD TV.
Another one within the next 5 or even 10 years will not go down well with the buying public.

3) 3D maybe be fun, but that's it. It will not make it's way into people's homes for another 20 years, by which time holographic projection will be a much more appealing alternative.


Sorry Sky, I think you're wasting time and money with this little excercise.
 

Sonic67

Banned
I can remember the BBC doing some broadcasts with 3D glasses given away with the Radio Times about 20 years ago. Sitting watching a screen wearing glasses is always going to be a major problem. Getting a new TV another.
 

ldoodle

Distinguished Member
My view is that that several big companies, including Sky, will try to force 3-D on the market very quicky.... but it simply won't work for several reasons:

1) If you still have to wear glasses, game over!
Even if the glasses are more stylish than the cardboard / plastic ones supplied at theme parks.... people will just not bother with them, lose them, or (like me) hate wearing them... particularly if your viewing something whilst drifting off in bed.

2) We've just gone through several very quick technology breakthroughs requiring new kit, i.e. DVD, digital TV, Blu-Ray and HD TV.
Another one within the next 5 or even 10 years will not go down well with the buying public.

3) 3D maybe be fun, but that's it. It will not make it's way into people's homes for another 20 years, by which time holographic projection will be a much more appealing alternative.


Sorry Sky, I think you're wasting time and money with this little excercise.
Completely agree. No one in their right mind is going to put a pair of silly glasses on everytime they want to watch TV!

I even think 10 years is optimistic. DVD has 'lasted' 10 years before being bettered by BluRay. 3D certainly won't be the successor of BluRay so something will come in between, making 3D 15-20 years away at least.
 

Sephiroth0000

Novice Member
My view is that that several big companies, including Sky, will try to force 3-D on the market very quicky.... but it simply won't work for several reasons:

1) If you still have to wear glasses, game over!
Even if the glasses are more stylish than the cardboard / plastic ones supplied at theme parks.... people will just not bother with them, lose them, or (like me) hate wearing them... particularly if your viewing something whilst drifting off in bed.

2) We've just gone through several very quick technology breakthroughs requiring new kit, i.e. DVD, digital TV, Blu-Ray and HD TV.
Another one within the next 5 or even 10 years will not go down well with the buying public.

3) 3D maybe be fun, but that's it. It will not make it's way into people's homes for another 20 years, by which time holographic projection will be a much more appealing alternative.


Sorry Sky, I think you're wasting time and money with this little excercise.


I agree with your points. I mean it took even me 2 years to upgrade from CRT to HD TV, HD amp, BLuRay player and all that crap.
 

Migman

Well-known Member
Hmmm, well after all that negativeness all i can say is "i want it now" ,how much will a tele be, my Sammy is getting old now, over a year i think, i love this sort of thing, i even bought Journey to centre of the Earth because it had a (not so good) 3D version, this polarising tech should be much better.
 
The most difficult process with this technology is actually at the production level and not at the consumer. Indeed all a consumer will need to enjoy this potential content is a SKY HD box, a 3D TV and a set of glasses.
Hmm, and a willingness to buy a 3D TV after already replacing their old CRT, and to tolerate wearing said glasses.

I've not seen these 3D demos so don't want to comment too soon, but it sounds very much like Sky are being too innovative for their own good here. Where is the 3D content, consumer interest and extra bandwidth going to come from?
 

imjay

Active Member
In the US it seems the trend is toward a stereoscopic system. 3D content is made up of two 60hz streams that are put together in displays and front projectors that are 120hz provisioned.

The glasses are RF wireless that use high speed shutter mechanism that alternates between left and right eyes at 60hz/sec each and in sync with the streams fed to the display.

Actually, Mitsubishi and Samsung have these 3D compatible on store shelves in the US and other countries and I have been eyeing a Infocus 3D PJ - the DepthQ.

Recently an NFL football game was shown in commercial cinemas in live HD that was very well received and the Jan. 8th college championship game will be shown across the US in selected equipped theaters live in 3D.

You can goggle DDD 3D and XpanD 3D - XpanD is a commercial theater 3D system provider but they are also releasing consumer systems that promise to take any 2D input and output 3D - including 1080p resolution 3D.

This is new technology with new processes and I believe it will be the next major visual entertainment step and it is racing to the market place.

The Cinema industry is candid and expects 3D to lure people like me away from our Home Cinema big screens with 3D plus allow a significant increase in ticket prices.

Anyway, I suggest you do some online research and you will be surprised at just how far this technology will be in the market in 2009 and specially in 2010.

I wouldn't buy a new display or projector unless if is clearly 3D ready and compatible.
 

Timbo21

Well-known Member
It's going to be very hard to take 3D away from being merely a gimmick.

From everything I've seen of it, I think you get a more natural and believeable picture from our current 2 dimensional offerings. I think many Sky customers would prefer broadcasts in 1080p and perhaps some Dolby True-HD audio chucked in for good measure before going down this windy path :D.
 

madprofessor

Active Member
I agree that this seems more gimmiky than practical, though in answer to the point about always having to wear the glasses to watch TV - you'd only need to bother with that if you were watching something where you actually wanted to observe the 3D effect. If there was a setting on the playback equipment (whether it be the Sky HD box as per this example or the TV) to watch in 2D mode, all it'd need to do is turn off one of the eye's pictures and what would remain would be a 2D image. Admittedly it'd be polarised but that ought not matter with bare eyes.

Even before my PJ broke I only used it on occasion when watching a film or something. Most of the time I used the regular TV. The same could be true about turning the 3D on or off.

And on another note, if they work on the technology now, they will probably have all but perfected it by the time the market is ready for it, meaning that the market can have a product that works really well straight away.
 

krull

Standard Member
Now the real question is surely whether you'll need a TRUE3D HD OLED WIDESCREEN DOLBY DIGITAL COLOUR TV or just a plain ordinary 3D tv :)

Seriously though, 3D sounds fun but no one will interested in buying into it for at least 5-10 years because so many of us have just upgraded from analogue to digital and for the non-tech savy its likely to have been a forced upgrade. Even though does strike me as a gimmicky kind of feature for Disney movies and maybe for sports but beyond that 3D belongs in the gaming world.
 

Stephen Neal

Distinguished Member
In the US it seems the trend is toward a stereoscopic system. 3D content is made up of two 60hz streams that are put together in displays and front projectors that are 120hz provisioned.

The glasses are RF wireless that use high speed shutter mechanism that alternates between left and right eyes at 60hz/sec each and in sync with the streams fed to the display.

This system looks to be being superceded by two new options :

1. Polarised glasses rather than shutters (which are lighter to wear and cheaper). This has been made possible by it now being possible to make displays with alternately polarised rows. (This falls apart if you tilt your head from side to side)

2. 6 coloured primaries rather than 3. Dolby have developed lenses with VERY tight spectral filtering - so you use two very similar (but different primaries) for left and right eye red, blue and green pixels but each eye only sees one set of primaries. This uses more expensive lenses, but you can tilt your head.
 
They should think a bit more about the content on SKY rather than fancy gizmos

And how much is this all going to cost us the viewers ?

Really don't want to watch more repeats like frasier and Star trek in 3d

Nice try SKY :thumbsdow
 

museumsteve

Distinguished Member
Well I for one think it's quite exciting and being an early adopter will definately jump on the bandwagon ;)
Thanks to Phil for the write up :)
 
D

Deleted member 241106

Guest
great another reason to increase subs. So these new 3d tvs are meant to do a good job of sd hd and now 3d for the same money.
 
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loz

Distinguished Member
the time to introduce it would be together with the next leap in resolution.

When the broadcasting system is up to transmitting everything at a much higher resolution than today's HD, and everyone is prepared to upgrade their displays again, then introduce 3D at the same time.

Imagine 3D and something like 4000+ pixel resolution :eek:

Both are now clearly doable, it just needs to technology to mature, costs to fall, and the infrastructure put in place.

But it will be at least 10 years away....
 

WelshRob

Standard Member
All very good tech, but one BIG problem. What about people with less than 20/20 vision? These ways of viewing 3d (ie via glasses) never works if there is a weakness in one eye!

Why not focus attention on projection/holographic 3d tech that everyone could enjoy without glasses?
 

madprofessor

Active Member
This system looks to be being superceded by two new options :

1. Polarised glasses rather than shutters (which are lighter to wear and cheaper). This has been made possible by it now being possible to make displays with alternately polarised rows. (This falls apart if you tilt your head from side to side)

2. 6 coloured primaries rather than 3. Dolby have developed lenses with VERY tight spectral filtering - so you use two very similar (but different primaries) for left and right eye red, blue and green pixels but each eye only sees one set of primaries. This uses more expensive lenses, but you can tilt your head.

On the topic of head tilting, I admit that polarising filters will limit that quite quickly but for a 3D effect to work properly surely you've still got to sit fairly upright? Your brain expects the left eye's image to appear slightly to the left of the right eye's image, not diagonally across from it.
 

kenedin

Well-known Member
I hope this thread doesn't stretch from here to eternity, like the EPG thread.:D:D. 3 D is LIGHT YEARS away, in a far off distant galaxy ( at least as far as mainstream broadcasting is concerned ).:hiya:
 

madprofessor

Active Member
I hope this thread doesn't stretch from here to eternity, like the EPG thread.:D:D. 3 D is LIGHT YEARS away, in a far off distant galaxy ( at least as far as mainstream broadcasting is concerned ).:hiya:

Ah, so we have plenty of time to discuss it then ;)
 

Nivek TT

Distinguished Member
I think this is closer than you all think. The key points here is Sky is able to offer this service using the existing Sky hardware in your home and very inexpensive polarised 3d glasses. The only 'gotcha' seems to be that you need a 3d compatible TV which do exist but not in this country. I really wouldn't be surprised to find out that a large part of Sky's research is being funded by LG / Samsung / Panasonic / etc. who are trying to push their existing 3d screen technology into western homes.

It seems like Sky only need to sort out the post production techniques and we will start seeing some sporting events and movies being offered in 3d! Day to day TV, no. But considering the ritual I go through to get everything perfect before I sit down to watch a movie, putting on a pair of specs is nothing!

Polarised specs are really cheap to produce, we're talking pence for a cardboard pair, and I suspect Sky will offer a handful for free when this is launched. There will no doubt be a huge range available very soon after Sky's launch from numerous suppliers filling shelves in Currys, Comet, PC World, etc. in various materials, colours, styles and function - such as sitting over existing glasses.
 

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