3DTV will double the storage needs

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When full-resolution 3DTV technology comes into play, storage requirements will go up but before that, it's a long way ahead for 3DTV

Rajesh Khurana, country manager for India & SAARC, Vietnam, Phillipines, Seagate Technology

BANGALORE, INDIA: Riding on the success and penetration of digital TV and HDTV, 3D TV is set to enter our homes in a big way. The technology has been around for sometime and is also improving at a pretty fast speed.

Unlike its predecessors digital TV and HDTV, 3DTV is expected to see a much faster acceptance cycle, by consumers and in terms of technology growth. 3D Blu-ray movies are already widely available. Dedicated 3D online channels like Sky Channel 3D, ESPN 3D, etc, are also coming up in the US.

The thirst of consumer for something new will ensure that the momentum for 3DTV will only increase in future. The world's three largest markets - Western Europe, Japan and USA - bought 74 percent of the 3DTVs in 2011, according to Strategy Analytics. As per their future projection, this number will drop to 59 percent in 2014 of the global sales, as the sale of 3DTVs grows in the emerging markets. This spells good times ahead for 3DTV, and for storage companies too, as 3DTV will ultimately translate into more storage requirement as compared to 2D in the long run, especially for hard drive storage.

Current 3DTV technology and its limitations
We say "in the long run" here because the current "panel" technology used in 3DTV compresses image in a way that it uses the same bandwidth as the 2D format and there's practically no increase in the storage requirement (See table 3DTV Bandwidth requirements). The problem with this technology is that it doesn't provide a realistic 3D experience.

 

 Approach  Pros  Cons
 Checkerboard  First-to-market on DLP TVs
Compatible with existing transport equipment
 Difficult to encode Not backward compatible
 Panels  Easier to encode
Compatible with existingtransport equipment
Similar as 2D variant
 Not full resolution
 Full Resolution Using Simulcast  Fully backward compatible
Maintains highest resolution
Easier to switch between 2D and 3D
Allows for different quality in left and right eye views
 100% bandwith premium over 2D
Products not currently available
 Full Resolution Using MVC  Maintains high resolution
2D mode is backward compatible
Easier to switch between 2D and 3D
 70% bandwith premium over 2D
Products not currently available
 Full Resolution Using 2D Depth  Maintains high resolution
Depth information createdfrom stereo views
More bandwidth-efficient than MVC
 More complex than MVC
Products not currently available

Table: 3DTV Bandwidth Requirements (Source: Motorola's Guide to 3D TV, 2010)

There are a number of factors that have been holding back the growth and adoption of 3D broadcasting, despite there being a rise in the number of successful 3D movies. One, there's not enough programming available for 3DTV. Production companies need completely new set of equipment and tools to create good-quality 3D programs. Adding 3D to existing content doesn't bring the right effect.

Two, there's no industry-wide standard for 3D and hence consumers are embroiled in this confusion between active and passive 3D technologies. Three, of course, 3DTV technology is still in its infancy. 3D TV sets are expensive. 3D glasses for one brand of TV are often not compatible with another brand. Price of 3DTVs that don't require 3D glasses are prohibitive.
3DTV is in that phase of evolution where a new technology either dies or survive to live for long.

At the same time, consumers are in the phase where they can purchase really large-sized 2DTVs at low prices, viewing experience is great and there's no dearth of good 2D content.
In such a scenario, if 3DTV expects to get accepted at a mass-scale, it has to reach a point where a viewer doesn't need 3D glasses to see 3D programs on a TV at home, and also the price of 3DTVs comes within the reach of an average consumer. Fortunately, that's where industry efforts are focussed.

Full-resolution 3DTV and increase in storage requirements
Content that will drive the adoption of 3DTV are high-definition movies, sporting events and games. According to the research firm IMS, majority of high-end, large-screen TV sets and Blu-ray players are likely to offer 3D capability in the next five years.

According to Motorola, if each eye of the viewer can get a full-resolution image, then it will provide an ideal 3D viewing experience. This format will require two 2D streams, one for each eye, and therefore double the bandwidth of a 2D signal (See table 3DTV Bandwidth requirements). While this format will offer an optimum 3D experience, the bandwidth requirement will double from the current HD standards. This will translate into double the storage requirement of today.

 

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