SMPTE 3D Conference Garners Standing-room-only Crowd

In a two-day gathering hosted by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) last week in New York City, leading experts from multiple industries detailed a series of critical, next-generation 3D approaches and findings, from lighter-weight camera designs and image-processing capabilities to speed 2D-to-3D conversion to more efficient 3D content pre-preproduction techniques and a review of the latest 3D display technologies, including holography.

The event was sponsored by Sony, Evertz, Marshall Electronics, Ateme, and Get 3D Display. The Sports Video Group, TVNewsCheck, and Broadcast Engineering served as media sponsors.

The presentations, which drew a standing-room only audience, took place at the SMPTE International Conference on Stereoscopic 3D for Media and Entertainment, the only scientific gathering focused exclusively on 3D; they will be available for sale beginning August 1, 2010 at

“There is a vibrant, worldwide community of stereoscopic researchers, scientists, and engineers laying the groundwork for the next generation of 3D tools and technologies,” said Pete Lude, SMPTE EVP and conference program chair. “As the worldwide leader in motion-imaging standards and education, our mission is to enable these experts to exchange the latest ideas and accelerate the development of the 3D standards and solutions that industry needs.”

Tapping All Resources – And Industries

In addition to insights from media and entertainment professionals, the conference featured presentations from a range of other industries and researchers, including those focused on spatial phase-imaging technologies, which are used to capture three-dimensional position information in pharmaceutical and security applications; light detecting and ranging (LIDAR) technology, which is used in aeronautical, atmospheric, and military applications to detect the characteristics of distant objects; and machine-vision technologies used in manufacturing.

“Solving the complex and unique challenges associated with acquiring, manipulating, transmitting, and displaying 3D images cannot be done by repackaging existing 2D tools,” said Lude. “Our attendees want to understand the full range of what’s available – inside and outside the industry – so that they can get down to the practical issue of whether it will work for their specific applications.”

One application getting attention at the conference was 3D acquisition, as the current generation of 3D cameras requires expensive mirror rigs that are cumbersome to set up and require frequent alignment. Presenters described more compact and lighter-weight camera designs, as well as software tools to offload the tasks of 3D color and geometry alignment.

On the other end of the workflow, presenters walked through strengths and limitations of current 3D display; the requirements for glasses-free, or autostereoscopic, displays; as well as the long-term potential for holographic displays.

Conference Provides Scientific Reality Check

Ted Szypulski, Senior Director, Technology Research & Standards at ESPN and moderator of the conference’s panel on transmission and display technologies, said that the detail and candor at the proceedings is a helpful scientific reality check for the CFOs and CEOs who need to make informed capital-equipment decisions related to 3D.

“Our work is all about telling stories, so making an effective business case for any technology means it first has to support or enhance that story-telling ability,” Szypulski said. “But it also has to maximize the overall viewing experience and keep spending within the financial realities of our industry.”

Szypulski said those requirements may lead future SMPTE 3D conferences to tap the work of leading researchers in cognitive, neurological, psychovisual, and psychoacoustical sciences.

“As an industry, we have a lot to learn about all facets of 3D – and the role of SMPTE in broadening and distributing that knowledge is crucial,” he said.

SMPTE – 3D Standards Leader

Among the important motion-imaging efforts underway at SMPTE is work on a stereoscopic 3D Home Master standard that will help drive new revenue opportunities for content creators and distributors. The standard, scheduled to be finalized later this year, will be a key element in enabling 3D feature films and other programming to be played on home television and computer displays – regardless of the delivery channels. The SMPTE 3D Home Master Working Group is working closely with other standards development organizations that will develop companion standards for complete end-to-end interoperability.

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