The evolution of 3-D imaging had advanced at a glacial pace when compared to other video technologies. From time to time since its development, 3-D imaging has bubbled up to the surface, capturing the imagination of the public. 3-D movies made brief splashes in the 1950s and again in the 1980s but they ultimately were treated as novelties by the general public and quickly retreated from center stage; but the concurrent development of high speed digital broadcast mediums, flat screen televisions, digital movie theaters and powerful gaming consoles have created the primordial soup for 3-D television to take the next big step in its evolution.
But while the elements surrounding the evolution of 3-D television look promising, will the development of standards, or the lack thereof, accelerate or slow down the widespread acceptance of this technology? Has the industry learned lessons from previous standards battles and are various groups more inclined to work together than during previous technology developments.
The cinematic industry appears to be ready to fully embrace 3-D, from big budget movies to mainstream television. There are four basic links in the 3-D chain, each with their own unique set of requirements and which must all connect or else 3-D content will never become widespread. Production, post-production, distribution and consumer electronics must all be synchronized, making sure the standards in one area meshes seamlessly with the others in the chain.
There are a number of groups around the globe which are actively plotting different 3-D standards, including: the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the Society of Cable Telecommunication and Engineers (SCTE). Each of the groups includes large numbers of industry representatives. For example, the Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) Project is an industry-led consortium of more than 250 broadcasters, manufacturers, network operators, software developers, regulatory bodies and others in over 35 countries committed to designing open interoperable standards for the global delivery of digital media services. As DVB’s name suggests, these include broadcasting. Services using DVB standards are available on every continent with more than 500 million DVB receivers deployed.
While each group focuses on their area of prime concern, many companies are active in multiple standards groups to enhance cross-pollination of ideas. Further, most of the standards groups have established formal liaisons with other standards-setting organizations. Intensive work has been going on for the last several years on 3-D standards, and it appears that the cinematic industry is committed to working closely together to avoid contentious battles between proprietary formats.