Freeview’s HD broadcasters could add 3D without losing an HD channel using a system approved this week by Europe’s TV standards organisation.
It’s called ‘service compatible 3D’ and adds an extra signal to standard HD transmissions which can be used to create a Full HD 3D picture, and has been agreed by the DVB.
The downside is that service compatible 3D needs a dedicated set-top box, unlike the ‘frame-compatible 3D’ used today by the BBC and Sky, which can work through any HD set-top box.
But frame compatible 3D splits the HD picture in half, reducing the resolution, and needs a whole HD channel – so at last week’s Wimbledon finals, the BBC has to use BBC HD for 3D and BBC One HD for 2D.
The extra data for service-compatible 3D is a low-bandwidth stream, a fraction of the size of a full HD video signal.
That’s because it only tells your digital TV receiver what the difference should be between the left and right eye images, so it can create the second image itself with clever processing.
It’s the same method already used for Full HD 3D movies on Blu-ray, with a video format called MPEG MVC.
It’s not necessary for services like Freesat and Sky, where there’s a lot of free bandwidth on satellite, but it could prove valuable on Freeview, where space for new channels is at a premium.
The DVB is Europe’s top think-tank for digital TV, and has been responsible for successfully creating and developing TV standards across Europe, which have also been adopted around the world.
The service-compatible 3D standard will sit alongside frame-compatible 3D in the next version of the DVB’s Blue Book 3D TV, a Bible of TV standards, and will be forwarded to world standards bodies.