Primer: The Principles Of 3D Video And Blu-ray 3D

Blu-ray 3D

Blu-ray 3D is a new movie format developed by the member companies of the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA). Blu-ray 3D movies are expected to be released in early 2010, providing an extremely high-quality format for enjoying 3D movies at home.

The physical format for Blu-ray 3D is identical to all other forms of Blu-ray disc. The logical format is based on the current Blu-ray audio/video format, but has been extended to provide for stereo 3D video and 3D menus. Earlier Blu-ray players will not be able to play Blu-ray 3D titles. While set-top Blu-ray players will need to be replaced, PC-based Blu-ray player software can be upgraded. Blu-ray 3D player software will require a Blu-ray drive that is capable of 2x or faster read speeds. Fortunately, all but the first generation of BD-ROM and BD-R drives are 2x or faster.

Blu-ray players capable of playing Blu-ray 3D are backward-compatible, supporting standard (two-dimensional) Blu-ray movies. In addition, the Blu-ray 3D format allows for Blu-ray 3D titles to be created in such a way that they can be played by a legacy Blu-ray player as a standard 2D Blu-ray movie. Blu-ray 3D players can be configured to operate in either 2D or 3D (stereoscopic) mode, allowing consumers to upgrade their player and disc collection before they upgrade their TV or display to 3D.

Blu-ray 3D movie titles will contain two full Blu-ray quality video streams, one for each eye. Decoding a Blu-ray 3D is comparable to decoding two standard Blu-ray movies at the same time. While it would be reasonable to expect that the video file size and bit rate would double (since the number of decoded frames doubles), there are some efficiencies in a 3D video that can be taken advantage of. Since each eye is seeing a slightly different perspective of the same scene, there are many similarities in the frames of video for the left and right eyes. The video encoding experts in the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) have taken advantage of this fact to reduce the overall bit rate and file sizes for stereoscopic 3D. A new video codec was developed, based on the Advanced Video Codec (AVC, also known as H.264), called Multi-View Codec (MVC). Blu-ray 3D uses MVC video encoding, which provides for very high picture quality with an overhead (versus standard Blu-ray) of 50%. While the peak bit rate for standard Blu-ray movies is 40 Mb/s, the peak bit rate for Blu-ray 3D is 60 Mb/s. 

Blu-ray 3D MVC is encoded as a primary video stream (for one eye, or for 2D playback) and a dependent video stream for the other eye. The dependent video stream references the objects in each frame of the primary video stream, encoding only the differences.

Blu-ray 3D has enhanced graphics capabilities, allowing for 3D menus and subtitles positioned in 3D video. Menu and subtitle graphics and text can be defined to appear on a plane that is offset from the screen. This plane can be defined to be either closer to or farther away from the viewer. This depth offset is accomplished by shifting the text or graphics horizontally by an equal and opposite amount over the video stream for each eye.

Upgrading to Blu-ray 3D

To enjoy Blu-ray 3D titles, consumers must upgrade their PC or their home theater system. There are several components that are needed:

  • A 3D-capable display (TV, desktop display, or notebook PC display)
  • 3D glasses compatible with your display
  • A PC with Blu-ray 3D player software, or a (set-top) Blu-ray 3D player

In order to choose the right solution, there are some important things to consider for each of these components.

Blu-ray 3D TVs or Displays

The Blu-ray 3D format does not specify the 3D display technology. This allows consumers to choose the 3D display technology that best meets their needs. At the high-end, consumers will likely select true 120 Hz frame-sequential displays that use LC active shutter glasses. Less expensive systems can be configured using polarizing displays and glasses.

Blu-ray 3D Players

Blu-ray 3D players can be implemented on a PC using Blu-ray player software, or as a dedicated hardware solution, otherwise known as a set-top Blu-ray player. Sony's PlayStation 3 (PS3) game consoles, for example, are expected to get a firmware upgrade in the summer of 2010, providing support for Blu-ray 3D. Several set-top Blu-ray 3D players have been announced, and some are already available.

Blu-ray 3D on a PC

Another way to enjoy Blu-ray 3D is to purchase Blu-ray 3D player software like CyberLink's PowerDVD 10 Ultra. PCs can be connected to a 3D-compatible display, and later, to a 3D-capable TV. In other words, a PC with Blu-ray player software is a true Blu-ray player, capable of all of the same functions as a set-top Blu-ray player. In addition, a Blu-ray 3D-capable PC offers many capabilities that fixed function hardware devices don’t:

  • Enjoy 3D Games; over 400 game titles can be played in 3D
  • Access and enjoy Internet video from any Web site, including 3D video
  • Play 2D and 3D video files from almost any source (DV, HDV, AVCHD, AVI, WMV, MOV, etc.)
  • View 2D and 3D photos
  • Support for cable or satellite TV content through solutions such as DirecTV2PC
  • Support for premium, protected video (Amazon, iTunes, etc.)
  • Video enhancement, such as CyberLink TrueTheater HD, TrueTheater Motion, and TrueTheater Lighting
  • Access and play music, video, or browse photos on your home entertainment system
  • Use other 3D software, such as CAD, 3D animation, or 3D solid object modeling software

Blu-ray 3D capability will be available in every PC form factor, including:

  • Notebook PCs (with true 120 Hz sequential-frame displays)
  • Desktop PCs and displays
  • Home Theater PCs
  • JohnnyLucky
    Very informative primer. Lots of information that was easy to undertsand.

    Unfortunately I am one of those who recently purchased a new TV. It will be quite some time before I upgrade.
  • TheGreatGrapeApe
    Nice article, but I think there's a few issues with regards to the overall balance of the information being put forth.

    I understand the author's preference for shutter glasses (especially since it's a certain product's preferred method of choice) even if I don't share it, the major limitation is having to buy a pair for all your friends coming over, which gets impractical until they are more commonplace.

    Also polarized solutions are not limited in resolution if they are set-up beyond just the example provided in this article (like they do in the theatre with dual projectors ) and may have an improving single source future with 2K and 4K displays on the horizon. It's a question of preference, but it seems like the full story wasn't explored on that subject.

    Now on to a pet peeve: I love the part about "While set-top Blu-ray players will need to be replaced, PC-based Blu-ray player software can be upgraded." as a subtle product benefit plug.

    Unless it's a free upgrade, you are still replacing the software, not upgrading it (it's not a plug-in), and you're likely forking out nearly the same amount of money for the 1/100th of the cost to produce that software update, so it's not like it's a major advantage. Especially when upgrading requires a FULL upgrade to the most expensive model Power DVD (version #) Ultra 3D, and I can't simply add it to my existing PowerDVD bundles thus potentially changing my backwards compatibility (Ultra 9 already removed my HD-DVD support from Ultra 7 that I upgraded on my LG HD-DVD/BR burner

    , until then it's $99 (or $94.95 for loyal saps) vs $150-200, plus with the set-top route now I have a second BR-/DVD player for another room or to give to a friend (the BR software on its own is useless to give to someone else without a drive), and that's not even compared to the free PS3 upgrade.

    Also can someone explain this statement;
    "Blu-ray 3D video decoding solutions can be expected for ATI Radeon 5000-series graphics in the future."

    Didn't Cyberlink already show their BR-3D solution on ATi hardware last year? So what's the issue?

    Also why is it limited to "GeForce 300M-series mobile graphics" when often the core is the same a previous generation 200M series (example GTS 350M / 250M )?

    And this section "Full-quality 120 Hz frame-sequential 3D video (such as Blu-ray 3D) is only supported through a High Speed
    HDMI cable to a HDMI 1.4-compliant TV. " seems to miss the DVI dual-link to monitor option currently being used for 3D on PCs, and also the dual 1.3 input monitors/TVs.

    A nice little article for people unfamiliar with 3D, but there's a subtle under-current of product preference/placement in it, and far too many generalities with little supporting information. :??:
  • hixbot
    well done. I would of liked more detail on the hdmi 1.4 spec, specifically framepacking and the mandatory standards (no mandatory standard for 1080p60 framepacking).
    also some info on AVRs and how a 1.3 hdmi AVR might pass on 3d video and still decode bitstream audio, or not - do we need 1.4 hdmi AVRs to decode audio from a 1.4 source? we shouldn't need 1.4 receivers since the audio standards haven't change, but I'm understanding that in fact we do neeed new receivers. :/
  • hixbot
    double post. good article.
  • ArgleBargle
    Unfortunately for people with heavy vision impairment (astigmatism, etc.) which require corrective lenses, such 3D technology is out of their reach for the time being, or at least next to useless. Until some enterprising company comes out with 3D "goggles", people who wear corrective lenses might as well save their money.
  • boletus
    3D is cool, and high definition video is cool. But Sony's moving target of a BD standard is not cool, and Cyberlink's bait and switch tactics are not cool (unless you have bundles of money you can throw at them every 6-12 months). I sent back my BD disk drive (retail, with Cyberlink software) for a refund after finding out that I would have to shell out another $60-100 just so I could watch a two-year old movie. As far as I'm concerned, high definition DVD video is dead until some more open standards and reliable software emerge.
  • cangelini

    This piece is a prelude to tomorrow's coverage, by Don, of Blu-ray 3D on a notebook and a desktop. Perhaps that one will answer any of the questions you were left with here?

    As for AMD, Tom and I went back and forth on this piece, and we agreed that it was critical to get AMD's feedback on Blu-ray 3D readiness. The fact of the matter is that it isn't ready to discuss the technology. It's behind.

    The mention of dual-link DVI was in the first revision of this piece and removed in a subsequent iteration. I've asked the author for additional clarification there and should have an answer shortly.
  • cangelini
    So it turns out there were two sections on this and one was cut accidentally. Should be good to go now, though--dual-link DVI is discussed with PC displays!
  • cleeve
    TheGreatGrapeApeAlso can someone explain this statement;"Blu-ray 3D video decoding solutions can be expected for ATI Radeon 5000-series graphics in the future."Didn't Cyberlink already show their BR-3D solution on ATi hardware last year? So what's the issue?
    It turns out the demo (I think it was at CES?) only used CPU decoding over an ATI graphics card; the Radeon did no software decoding.

    The Cyberlink rep tells me that Blu-ray 3D software decoding is extremely CPU-dependant and might even require a quad-core CPU. He said all four threads were being stressed under software decoding, not sure what quad-core CPU they were using though.

    Definitely something I'd like to test out in the future...
  • Alvin Smith
    This was a very informative and well written article BUT, I chose to skip to the last two pages ... Because ...

    These implementations, while ever more impressive, are still being threshed out. Because of possible physiological side effects, I think I will NOT be a first adopter, with this (particular) tech (3D).

    Anyone ever watch that movie "THE JERK", with STEVE MARTIN ??

    = Opti-Grab =

    ... I can see all these class-action suits by parents of cross-eyed gamers ... hope not, tho ... I *AM* very much looking forward to the fully refined "end game", for 3D ...

    Additionally, the very best desktop workstations are only just now catching up to standard (uncompressed) HD resolution ingest and edit/render ... since that bandwidth IS shared, between both eyes, this may be a non-issue.

    I will let the kiddies and 1st adopters take-on all those risks and costs.

    Please let me know when it is all "fully baked" and field tested!

    = Alvin = (not to mention "affordable").