Authoring 3D Blu-Ray Discs

The big news at CES was 3D Blu-Ray. I wanted to know a bit more than all the articles that came up in Google - so I spent some time on the phone with Rob Aubey, Software Engineering - Blu-ray Technologies at Sony Creative Software Inc.

First, the new 3D Blu-Ray spec is full raster 1920 x 1080p. You will need a new, yet to be released Blu-ray player with HDMI 1.4 or ... an existing PS3 with a firmware update that will exist "around Summer 2010".

PS3 has HDMI 1.3, so this firmware update will actually take the HDMI up to 1.4 spec - or ... there's just some magic in the PS3 that the forthcoming firmware can hack to make it work with HDMI 1.3 - regardless - It's the only existing Blu-ray player that is getting a 3D update.  You monitor MUST have HDMI 1.4 spec and be 240Hz refresh rate. Current 240Hz refresh rate monitors with HDMI 1.3 or 1.3a WILL NOT SUPPORT 3D BLU-RAY VIEWING. So if you are about to buy a new panel for your home ... hold off.

note: 240Hz is a "derived" specification since no content is currently produced at that "refresh" level - fine print generally says "capable of 240Hz" which implies a setting and matching source content. 

note: PCs with DualLink DVI are capable to do 120Hz full HD 1080p@60fps per eye

HDMI 1.4 can handle 8.16Gbit/s and is capable to send 1080p@60fps per eye at 8bits per color or 10bits per color (can't do 16bits per color depth)

If you want 16bits per color then you should stick to no more than 1080p@30fps per eye.

Here's a summary of what's new in HDMI 1.4 - of key interest here is:

4K Resolution Support
The new specification enables HDMI devices to support extremely high HD resolutions, effectively four times the resolution of a 1080p device. Support for 4K allows the HDMI interface to transmit digital content at the same resolution as the state-of-the-art Digital Cinema systems used in many movie theaters. 


The new 3D Blu-ray format uses active shutter 3D glasses estimated at approx. $100 - most likely many will be bundled with new 3D Blu-Ray ready monitors.

how does it display: Via the HDMI input- the Left and Right buffers are stored into memory, and inside the display it duplicates effectively the display refresh rate to 120Hz or 240Hz and sending the IR signal to the shutter glasses 

How do you author and encode a 3D Blu-Ray disc? First you need to encode your left eye and right eye streams to MVC (Multi View Codec) codec - which is an extension to the ITU-T H.264 Advanced Video Coding (AVC) codec. There is currently no encoding application available. Several folks are working on them.

Then you need an authoring application. The two high-end "studio grade" industry standards for Blu-Ray are Sonic's Scenarist® and Sony's Blu-print.

Rob informed me that the 3D update for Blu-print should actually be ready around NAB time - although ... there won't be any devices available to actually PLAY the 3D Blu-ray you encode. Such is life on the bleeding edge. Blu-print is a Windows based, software only solution that lists for $50,000 with a $10,000 annual support contract. Scenarist is priced similar. Yes ... it's a hell of lot more expensive than Adobe Encore, which can author and burn 2D Blu-ray discs.

I asked if Blu-print would be able to PLAY the authored 3D file via software and the answer was no. But it seems obvious that some folks will make a software player/decoder  - and it would be easy to put line-by-line, side-by-side and DLP mesh modes into a software decode of stereo media - so one could play out to one of the current 3D displays (HyundaiMiracube, JVC, etc.) that accept these modes and even play anaglyph 3D (red/cyan) to ANY monitor.

I'll keep updating this post as I get more intel. I plan to take a nice hard look at Blu-print at NAB.

Crossing my fingers that RED is going to have 3D support (and HDMI 1.4) in RedRay.

Now I'm going to start my personal campaign to get the Adobe folks to really consider BOTH MVC encoder support as well as 3D Blu-ray authoring support ...