Encoding And Delivering 3D Video Content (Stanley posted on September 26th, 2010 )

The highest-quality method to encode and deliver a 3D video program is to store and deliver it as a dual-stream synchronized video program, with one full-quality video stream for each eye. This is how Blu-ray 3D works, storing the video for each eye as a full “Blu-ray quality” video program.

The HDMI 1.4 specification provides for 3D stereoscopic video to be delivered in several different ways, including over/under-formatted frames that are 1920 pixels wide and 2205 pixels high. The frame for the left eye and right eye are delivered together, to assure that synchronization is always maintained, even if the signal is momentarily lost and then restored.

Compressed 3D Encoding

For compatibility with existing equipment and video standards, 3D video content can be compressed to fit in a standard video signal. There are several ways that this can be done.

Side by Side encodes the video for each eye in half of a standard video frame (with the right eye picture on the right side of the frame). Thus, the video for each eye is stored with half of the horizontal resolution (960×1080 pixels in a standard 1080p video frame).

Interlaced stores the video for each eye in alternate horizontal lines. The odd lines store the picture for one eye, while the even lines store the picture for the other eye. The picture for each eye has full horizontal resolution, but half of the normal vertical resolution (1920×540 in a 1080p video frame).

Over/Under is a format that encodes the picture for each eye with half the vertical resolution stacked on top of each other in a single video frame. The picture for the left eye is stored in the upper half of the frame, and the right eye is stored in the lower half. As with the Interlaced format, the picture for each eye has full horizontal resolution, but half of the normal vertical resolution (1920×540 pixels for a 1080p video frame).

Displaying 3D Video

A stereoscopic 3D video contains two time-aligned video channels (one for each eye). To view 3D video, the display technology and the 3D glasses must assure that the left eye sees only the video meant for the left eye, and so on for the right eye. There are a number of different technologies that are designed to accomplish this, and each technology has its own benefits, drawbacks, and costs.

Anaglyphic 3D

Mention 3D video and the image that comes to mind for many people is that of the familiar 3D glasses, with one red and one blue lens. These glasses use the anaglyphic method of displaying a 3D image.

Anaglyph images are created by using color filters to remove a portion of the visible color spectrum from the image meant for each eye. When viewed through the color filters in the 3D glasses, each eye only sees the image that contains the portion of the color spectrum not filtered out by the lens. The benefit of the anaglyphic method is that no special display is needed; any standard 2D display or TV can display an anaglyphic 3D image. The drawback of anaglyphic 3D is obvious. The overall image quality suffers as a large portion of the color spectrum is filtered out of the image for each eye.

Liquid crystal shutter glasses

Liquid crystal shutter glasses (also called LC shutter glasses or active shutter glasses.) are glasses used in conjunction with a display screen to create the illusion of a three dimensional image, an example of stereoscopy. Each eye’s glass contains a liquid crystal layer which has the property of becoming dark when voltage is applied, being otherwise transparent. The glasses are controlled by an infrared, radio frequency, DLP-Link or Bluetooth transmitter that sends a timing signal that allows the glasses to alternately darken over one eye, and then the other, in synchronization with the refresh rate of the screen. Meanwhile, the display alternately displays different perspectives for each eye, using a technique called Alternate-frame sequencing, which achieves the desired effect of each eye seeing only the image intended for it.

Blu-ray 3D

The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) created a task force made up of executives from the film industry and the consumer electronics and IT sectors to help define standards for putting 3D film and 3D television content on a Blu-ray Disc. On Dec. 17, 2009 the BDA officially announced 3D specs for Blu-ray Disc, allowing backward compatibility with current 2D Blu-ray players.The BDA has said, “The Blu-ray 3D specification calls for encoding 3D video using the “Stereo High” profile defined by Multiview Video Coding (MVC), an extension to the ITU-T H.264 Advanced Video Coding (AVC) codec currently supported by all Blu-ray Disc players. MPEG4-MVC compresses both left and right eye views with a typical 50% overhead compared to equivalent 2D content, and can provide full 1080p resolution backward compatibility with current 2D Blu-ray Disc players.” This means the MVC (3D) stream is backward compatible with H.264/AVC (2D) stream, allowing older 2D devices and software to decode stereoscopic video streams, ignoring additional information for the second view.

Sony has released a firmware upgrade for PlayStation 3 consoles that enables 3D Blu-ray Disc playback. However, when playing in 3D mode, the PlayStation 3 will downgrade high-def audio (such as Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD) to standard Dolby Digital or DTS, as HDMI 1.3 does not provide enough bandwidth for both 3D video and high-def audio. They previously released support for 3D gaming on April 21, 2010  (followed by availability of 3D Movies).


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