The National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys plan to demonstrate this Sunday how conventional two-dimensional HD video can be converted to 3D HD through sophisticated software processing, using technology from Edison, N.J. start-up HDLogix.
During their game against the San Diego Chargers at Cowboys Stadium, the Cowboys will use the giant (160 by 72-foot) video wall that hangs 90 feet above the field to show 3D “anaglyph” images that will be created using HDLogix’s 2D to 3D conversion system, ImageIQ3D. It will take feeds from the teams’ in-stadium cameras and convert them to 3D for display on the giant LED video wall. The Cowboys will distribute the red & blue glasses required to watch the anaglyph 3D images to the 80,000-odd fans attending the game, and plan to begin showing the 3D images during halftime and throughout the second half.
HDLogix, a privately-owned firm started a year-and-a-half ago by veterans of Sun Microsystems, IBM, Clique Communications and AgileVision, has developed a variety of image processing software for upconverting standard-definition video to HD and other applications. According to chief technology officer Will Gaddy, some of the “super-resolution” technology the company developed, such as sophisticate motion estimation algorithms, is also applicable to creating 3D images from 2D video. By closely analyzing each individual pixel of video, the HDLogix software can generate highly detailed information about a scene’s depth of field, and then modify the image to create the 3D effect.
“We’re doing motion estimation for every pixel, with one-hundredth of a pixel accuracy, and we’re [tracking] occlusion and disocclusion—when you’ve an got object moving in front of a background, you’ve got a leading edge that is hiding pixels and a trailing edge that is revealing pixels,” explains Gaddy. “In combination with camera motion, that gives you a lot of information about the depth of scene.”
That “optical flow” processing software, which runs on graphical processing units (GPUs) from chip makers like Nvidia and ATI, is the basis of how HDLogix creates what it calls “synthetic 3D” from conventional video. According to Gaddy, the software can sit anywhere in the transmission chain, and can be used to create all the varieties of 3D, including anaglyph, stereoscopic, which also requires special glasses, and autostereoscopic, which doesn’t need glasses. It can also be used to convert anaglyph 3D content to stereoscopic 3D, which is the format being adopted by major TV set manufacturers and used by several networks in early 3D trials.
HDLogix aims to sell its technology to programmers as a cost-effective way to produce 3D content, either for live broadcasts like an NFL game or for remastering movies and other archive content to 3D. The company says it can create a powerful 3D effect for live broadcasts, without requiring a specialized 3D HD production truck and a separate set of cameras, and can do an even better job with non-real-time content while costing a fraction of current manual processes for converting 2D to 3D. The company demonstrated the technology to cable executives at the CTAM show in Denver this fall, and will use the showcase of the Cowboys game to bring it to a much broader audience, including top sports executives.
A technology executive familiar with HDLogix says that the company thinks it has a groundbreaking technology for cheaply creating 3D, but that it remains to be seen whether programmers are satisfied with the image quality its system produces.
3D HD content is expected to be available on Blu-ray disc next year, and some 3D insiders have suggested that a 3D pay-TV service may also debut in the U.S. in 2010; British satellite broadcaster BSkyB already says it will launch a 3D service next year in the U.K. But HDLogix VP of sales and marketing Simon Tidnam expects there will still be very little 3D programming made available in the near term using traditional production methods, and says that HDLogix has a “golden opportunity” to fill the current void in 3D programming.
“It’s great that people are buying 3D sets, but there’s probably not enough content to justify that significant price premium,” says Tidnam. “To get to where there’s value, you need to have content.”
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