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