3D TV moves into focus at the ITU

Thursday, January 14th, 2010 

Work underway at ITU sets out roadmap for highly advanced new broadcasting systems that mimic real-life visual experience

GENEVA — Television viewers could soon be enjoying their favourite programmes or feature films in ‘stereoscopic 3D’, thanks to ground-breaking work being undertaken at International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Study Group 6 of ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) has released a new Report outlining a roadmap for future 3D TV implementation, which envisages systems so smart they accurately mimic the way our eyes and brains perceive the visual world.

The new roadmap would see 3D TV technology rolled out in three successive generations (technically known as profiles).

The first generation — ‘plano-stereoscopic television’ — calls for two views to be delivered to viewers’ TV sets. Wearing special glasses similar to those used to watch 3D cinema, viewers will be able to see depth in the picture, although the view will remain the same when they move their heads (in real life, our view changes when we move our heads).

The second generation will provide for multiple views, with head movement changing the view, for a viewing experience that more closely mimics real life.

The third generation will feature systems that record the amplitude, frequency, and phase of light waves, to reproduce almost completely human beings’ natural viewing environment. These kinds of highly advanced systems are technically some 15-20 years away.

“This new ITU report establishes a clear framework for the development of new types of systems that will totally change the way we experience broadcast and multimedia content,” said Valery Timofeev, Director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau. “It maps out an exciting vision that won’t just change the look of entertainment, but open up a whole range of exciting new possibilities in sectors from education and healthcare to traffic management.”

New 3D TV technologies being developed under the auspices of ITU will also have major implications for the film and television production sector, as content will need to be filmed using special new equipment in order for viewers to enjoy the full 3D experience.

Christoph Dosch, Chairman of ITU-R Study Group 6 said: “This is an important step forward on the road to globally-agreed ITU Recommendations on 3D TV. I’m optimistic that we’ll make further advances at our next meeting in April 2010.”

ITU 3D TV Categorization
Compatibility level Matrix of signal formats for 3D TV
1st generation 3D TV
Multiview profile
2nd generation 3D TV
Object wave profile
3rd generation 3D TV
Level 1
Conventional High Definition display Compatible (CDC)
Optimized colour anaglyph    
Level 2
Conventional HD Frame Compatible (CFC)
Frame compatible
Left and Right in same High Definition frame
Level 3
High Definition Frame Compatible
Frame compatible plus MPEG resolution (for example, SVC)    
Level 4
Conventional High Definition Service Compatible (CSC)
2D HD + MVC (ie, MVC)
Left and Right formed by matrixing
2D HD + MVC (ie, MVC)
Depth, occlusion, transparency data

Note: The empty boxes are to be filled on the basis of the future work within ITU-R.
SVC: Scalable Video Coding; MVC: Multiview Video Coding

This table shows the anticipated development of 3DTV technologies in increasing order of performance and complexity (indicating the degree of compatibility with conventional 2DTV)