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ATSC Publishes Interim 3D TV Report

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) has published an interim report on 3D digital television that examines both the various technologies that might be used to broadcast 3D content and some of the health issues that have been raised by the medium.

To ensure that the final version of the report provides a complete analysis of all available broadcast delivery options, the ATSC also issued a formal request for input from the industry on additional technologies, including those that are still under development, and formats for 3D broadcast that might not have been covered by the report.

The report provides a generally positive assessment, noting "there is no doubt that creating and displaying 3D content offers many benefits to increasing the viewer experience and enhancing revenue" and that "there appears to be viable options for 3D broadcasts."

In the section dealing with the various broadcast technologies, the authors note that the technologies create bandwidth and spectrum challenges, requiring "more bandwidth which is scarce" and that 3D feeds would increase the size of files and data needed to be moved inside the broadcast infrastructure.

It also notes that some of those problems could be overcome with advanced codecs that provide better compression, though the use of MPEG-4 compression would require some major changes in the MPEG-2 broadcast infrastructure currently used inside stations or channels and potentially inside the home, where TV sets would need to either be capable of handling MPEG-4 signals or be connected to some kind of MPEG-4 settop box or decoder.

In terms of health issues, the report is also generally positive but notes that "improperly" done 3D broadcasts "can result in a negative and potential painful experience for their viewers. Clearly technology can solve many of the issues but given the subjective nature of the impact of many of the factors, more information is needed to better understand and implement the services."

One key issue is its potential impact on children. The report stresses "the importance of further studies that are required for examining the potential long term effects of viewing stereoscopic 3D contents. Since stereoscopic 3D content on 2D displays disassociates vergence and accommodation and since this natural association develops over time in young children, the question of the sensitive period in which potential disruption or negative impact of that development can occur needs to be addressed. For broadcasters, a solution for practical means to measure and monitor image and depth quality of 3D content is required."

The interim report, which provides a useful primer in the technological and health issues raised by 3D broadcasts, can be downloaded here.