3DTV, A Look Ahead

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Is 3DTV poised to become the next enabler of digital media in the home, just as color TV was in the 1940s and HDTV was in the late 1990s? Indications point to yes, and as was the case with high-definition; movies, sporting events and games will be the main drivers for 3D adoption. Although 3D technology has some obstacles to overcome in the short term, it does not face the same uphill battle as high-definition faced in its infancy. For the first several years, high-definition programming was scarce, the cost was extremely prohibitive (the first HDTV went on sale in 1998 for US$5499), and the digital transition mandate was largely responsible for bringing high-definition programming into the home. In comparison, 3D does not face those challenges, as penetration of digital TV and high-definition have paved the way for 3D to be successful much sooner in the product life cycle than its predecessor. In fact, over the introductory five-year span for both technologies, shipments of 3DTVs could significantly outpace those of HDTVs. And with 3D Blu-ray movies widely available and dedicated 3D channels coming online, including ESPN 3D, Sky Channel 3D and Discovery 3D, it appears momentum for 3DTV will only increase.

FIGURE 1: Worldwide 3Dtv Shipments and Installed Base 

Analysts agree. Research firm IMS believes that within five years, the majority of high-end, large-screen TV sets and Blu-ray players are likely to offer 3D capability. The price premium of 3D models in these markets over similar 2D products is expected to diminish quickly,and, without a significant price premium, consumers are likely to future proof their purchases by opting for devices with 3D.1 Parks Associates concurs, with projections that around 80% of TV sets sold in 2014 will be 3D-ready.2 Figure 1 illustrates the projected growth of 3DTV in terms of shipments and installed base through 2014. According to Strategy Analytics, the world’s three largest markets—Western Europe, Japan and the U.S.—which accounted for 74% of total 3DTV sales in 2011, will account for only 59% of global sales in 2014, demonstrating plenty of growth opportunities in emerging markets.3

Approach Pros Cons
Checkerboard First-to-market on DLP TVs
Compatible with existingtransport equipment
Difficult to encode
Not backward compatible
Panels Easier to encode
Compatible with existingtransport equipment
Similar as 2D variant
Not full resolution
Full Resolution Using Simulcast Fully backward compatible
Maintains highest resolution
Easier to switch between 2D and 3D
Allows for different quality in left and right eye views
100% bandwith premium over 2D
Products not currently available
Full Resolution Using MVC Maintains high resolution
2D mode is backward compatible
Easier to switch between 2D and 3D
70% bandwith premium over 2D
Products not currently available
Full Resolution Using 2D Depth Maintains high resolution
Depth information createdfrom stereo views
More bandwidth-efficient than MVC
More complex than MVC
Products not currently available

FIGURE 2: 3DTV Bandwidth Requirements 

How does this growth in the 3DTV market impact storage, specifically hard drive storage? Current 3D technology lends itself to the panels format, which compresses images so that they use the same bandwidth as today’s 2D high-definition signal. As consumers demand more from their viewing experience, as was the case in the progression from 720p to 1080p, the same will hold true for 3D. According to Motorola, the ideal presentation format for 3D is to dedicate a full-resolution image per eye (see Full Resolution Using Simulcast in Figure 2). This format utilizes two 2D streams, one for the left eye and one for the right eye, which requires double the bandwidth of a 2D signal. In the long term, full-resolution formats will offer viewers of 3D content the optimum viewing experience and with a 100% bandwidth premium over current high-definition standards.4

From a storage perspective, if you had recorded all 64 games of the 2010 FIFA World Cup to their DVR in one of these full-resolution formats, well over one terabyte of storage would have been required to capture all the action. So as 3DTVs continue to proliferate in the home, it follows that storage devices will need to be equipped to handle the excess bandwidth, which will be at least twice the storage requirement needs of today.


1IMS, 3D Video and Gaming in the Home, July 2010

2Parks Associates, Trends in 3DTV, June 2010

3Strategy Analytics, Global 3D Enabled Device Sales Forecast, February 2011

4Motorola, Motorola’s Guide to 3D TV, 2010

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