By Yasmin Hashmi, 3Droundabout
IBC, Amsterdam, 8 – 13 September 2011
When we first set up our stand and wandered through the halls of the RAI in Amsterdam the day before the exhibition opened, our hearts sank. Despite our show supplement mentioning more than 180 companies offering stereoscopic 3D technology at IBC, there were almost no obvious signs of 3D on the show floor, and it seemed as if the broadcast industry had given up on it. But how first impressions can be wrong! As it turned out, the 3D community took IBC 2011 by storm, and the following is a selection of highlights.
Grass Valley got the ball rolling at its press conference also on the day before the exhibition opened. The company introduced Karrera, a mid-level price-point video switcher that supports 2D and 3D production. The company was keen to stress that with a few simple upgrades, people can use their existing Grass Valley products to work in 3D, and no sooner had this been stated than James Cameron and Vince Pace came on stage and announced a strategic partnership between the CAMERON | PACE Group (CPG) and Grass Valley. The thrust behind the move is to promote cost-effective integrated 2D/3D systems in order to increase 3D production.
In our interview with Cameron and Pace after the press conference, we discussed the future of 3D and how to grow the market. Pace underlined that when done right, 3D is very compelling, but it needs to work commercially. Cameron noted that 3D needs to be integrated into creative peoples’ workflows, that it must be egalitarian, but we must all be mindful of creating a quality experience. They also confirmed that CPG will be opening a London office. I was struck by the enthusiasm and generosity of both gentlemen in their desire to drive the 3D market. They also took advantage of the IBC Big Screen auditorium equipped with Christie digital projection, to give a ‘3D Myth Busters’ presentation showcasing a range of content including the US Open Tennis Championships and Cirque du Soleil. Watching Serena Williams walk towards you on the big screen in 3D certainly made you appreciate the tennis star’s muscle definition!
Among the new cameras on show was the Sony HXR-NX3D1E. Marketed as an entry-level 2D/3D Full HD camera, it is a lightweight, compact camera that is particularly useful for aerial applications. It uses the AVC HD codec, includes 96GB of internal memory for 7.5 hours of 3D images at 28Mb/s, and comes bundled with Sony Vegas Pro 10 software, which inherently supports 3D. Sony also launched the shoulder-mounted PMW-TD300 camera. Aimed at XDCAM EX workflows, ENG, and live and dynamic shooting, the camera features a 3.5″ colour glasses-free 3D LCD viewfinder. It also has one control comprising 3 concentric dials for focus, zoom and convergence respectively, with an auto-convergence button in the centre.
Hot on the heels of the announcement that there will be around 200 hours of the London 2012 Olympics broadcast in 3D, Panasonic announced that its Full HD AG-3DP1 and AG-3DA1 will be the official cameras for the event. The company also launched the HDC-Z10000, an integrated twin-lens 2D/3D camcorder that is compatible with the AVCHD 3D / Progressive standard and is suited to prosumer requirements. In addition, Panasonic announced an extension of the AVC Ultra recording format to the cost-conscious segment where speed and flexibility are required, with AVC Long GOP, which has twice the efficiency of current MPEG2-GOP.
Another camera development was the Delta 4K S3D from Meduza Systems. This British camera has been designed to deliver super-high precision, with the ability to use different sensors for different applications, including a 5 mega-pixel sensor for 1080p at 30fps or 2k at 24fps @12 bits, and a 4k at 24fps sensor. For higher frames rates, there is a 2/3-inch sensor that supports 1080p up to 340fps. Remote or on-camera control of interaxial distance are supported, as well as variable convergence, focus and iris. Options include matched lens sets.
Among the many mirror rigs on show was the PS-Freestyle rig from P+S Technik. The demo unit sported the new Quarterwave Filter designed to reduce polarization artefacts significantly with almost no light loss, while also reducing flare and protecting the beamsplitter mirror. The rig also featured the new Magic Support that can be mounted on cranes, lambda heads and tripods, while also working as an adjustable riser on tripods in the 90-degree position. The new accessories were completed by the addition of blue-coloured hot rods, designed for gripping the camera without disturbing other components, and which can provide a frame for a rain cover.
The Fraunhofer stand is always worth a visit. Fraunhofer developed the mp3 format, and it is at the forefront of research into audio and video capture, processing and distribution. Among the technologies on show was Lightfield Imaging and non-regular sampling. The former uses a microlens array mounted in front of a camera sensor. Each lens records a slightly shifted image of the scene as if several cameras had been aligned, and records the position, intensity and direction that the beam of light shines in at. The resultant lightfield means that the depth of focus and angle of view can be decided on after filming has taken place, and depth maps can be created.
Non-regular sampling on the other hand, uses a special image sensor with fewer pixels than on a high-resolution HD sensor. It then interpolates the data to create a high-quality image. This means that less data is required, so non-specialised interfaces and cables can be used, and it could also be used for image restoration. Fraunhofer has also developed STAN (STereoscopic ANalyzer) software that assists in the calibration of multiple cameras, which is particularly useful for applications that would benefit from more viewing angles. STAN allows you to set the depth budget and convergence, and will automatically correct. The software is currently being used by the DVS Clipster.
Following the acquisition of Element Technica, 3ality Technica as it is now known, sees itself as one big family, with products lines existing in parallel, but sharing research and development. The company was previewing its Intelle family of products designed to take away the headaches of production and remove the need for a convergence puller. The products variously support automatic alignment, zoom match alignment, interocular and convergence, handling of live graphics with removal if a conflict arises, quality checking and image stabilisation for box lenses, and stereo calibration of lenses.
Editing and post
Avid gave us a technology demonstration of its Media Composer 5.5 that supports a complete stereoscopic 3D workflow from ingest to finishing. The software includes tools for managing the metadata of each eye independently, and the ability to manage dual- and single-eye material. The principles of traditional Avid working are the same, but there are many specific tools for correcting L and R streams, including colour and convergence, as well as 3D titling with depth control and visual effects. The two streams can be viewed and corrected side by side or upper/lower, and can also be displayed in anaglyph for viewing on the Avid monitor using low-cost glasses. An AAF offline file can be created and then used with third-party systems or the Avid Symphony. Version 5.5 uses the AVC Intra (AVC-I) encoder model, and the plan is to offer dual-processor AVC-I or Avid DNxHD support for capture and monitoring – a feature unique to Avid. There is no date yet for the launch of the software, but it could be by the end of the year.
The SGO Mistika was on show supporting SD, HD, 2k, 4k, 5k and stereo 3D, with real-time native RAW camera format support, and advanced data workflows. Mistika integrates timeline-based editing, conforming, infinite layer compositing, colour-grading and image restoration. Among the on-set and post-production innovations being demonstrated was the Equaleyes tool that supports fast, automated stereoscopic image-matching. Indeed SGO was honoured at the IBC Innovation Awards, which turned out to be an inspirational showcase for 3D. The special award to Atlantic Productions with Sky 3D, production facilities company ONSIGHT and SGO as supporting partners, was for ‘Remarkable stereo 3D production and post production of Flying Monsters 3D’ featuring Sir David Attenborough.
The IBC Awards evening finished with Anthony Geffen of Atlantic Productions presenting some stunning clips of forthcoming 3D programmes including Rockstar (about no-ropes rock climbing), Bachelor King 3D (about Emperor penguins on South Georgia) and Kew (a national botanical garden in England). Geffen also and confirmed a joint venture with Sky, called Colossus Productions, specifically set up to produce 3D programming.
Filmlight was showing Baselight colour grading with automated geometry so that if there is a misalignment between L and R, it only requires one click to fix. The L and R can be represented on the timeline as a single stack, but this can be split at any point, and there is a new depth grading feature. The company also showed its Blackboard 2 grading control surface. Each button is a miniature screen and can be programmed to display any function, or indeed, collectively the buttons can dynamically display a client’s logo for example.
Dataton was showing an imaginative use of 3D with the launch of version 5 of its WATCHOUT system for live entertainment and public display. The system is very flexible in how it can be controlled, supporting IP, DMX or MIDI, with control from virtually any compatible device, and RSS feeds can be used a data sources. Version 5 allows output to multiple projectors or screens with edge blending, and support for 3D effects, stereoscopic playback, and enhanced live interaction.
Sisvel was showing the 3D Tile format for delivery of S3D programmes via existing HD infrastructure, and on its stand was a prototype 3DTV from Vestel with the 3D Tile Format decoder embedded. Also on the Sisvel stand was a set top box from Antik Technology that supports the 3D Tile Format. This hybrid DVB/IPTV box is planed to be ready by the end of the year with a retail price of less then 100 Euros. The company provides the encoding technology for the headend too.
Broadcasters in particular, feel that 3D will become more widespread once autostereoscopic displays make it into the home, and there were a handful of companies at IBC showing AS3D technology. These included 3D Impact Media, in conjunction with sports producer Plazamedia, showing real-time content conversion with no sweet spots; Tridelity with a glasses-free 3D monitor capable of displaying 3D content from any source and converting 2D to 3D in real time; Triaxes which can receive Sky 3D broadcasts, transcode and transmit them around a building via IP; and iPONT which was showing a live feed from the Astra satellite being converted in real time via its set-top box. The key to all of these technologies is how much latency the transcoding or conversion process requires, as this could be noticeable if the TV is in the vicinity of a 2D TV showing the same content.
There are still sceptics about the future of S3D, as well as a number of manufacturers who took the plunge but have been disappointed by the uptake. One of the main messages we took away from IBC 2011 was the need to build 3D into existing products and workflows, so that the transition can be done fairly painlessly as demand increases. The other message was that while it was movies that have brought 3D to the masses first, it’s only a question of time before TV catches up.