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3D TV moves into focus

Work underway at ITU sets out roadmap for highly advanced new broadcasting systems that mimic real-life visual experience

Geneva, 14 January 2010 — Television viewers could soon be enjoying their favourite programmes or feature films in ‘stereoscopic 3D’, thanks to ground-breaking work being undertaken at ITU.

Study Group 6 of ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) has released a new Report outlining a roadmap for future 3D TV implementation, which envisages systems so smart they accurately mimic the way our eyes and brains perceive the visual world.

The new roadmap would see 3D TV technology rolled out in three successive generations (technically known as profiles).

The first generation — 'plano-stereoscopic television' — calls for two views to be delivered to viewers’ TV sets. Wearing special glasses similar to those used to watch 3D cinema, viewers will be able to see depth in the picture, although the view will remain the same when they move their heads (in real life, our view changes when we move our heads).

The second generation will provide for multiple views, with head movement changing the view, for a viewing experience that more closely mimics real life.

The third generation will feature systems that record the amplitude, frequency, and phase of light waves, to reproduce almost completely human beings’ natural viewing environment. These kinds of highly advanced systems are technically some 15-20 years away.

"This new ITU report establishes a clear framework for the development of new types of systems that will totally change the way we experience broadcast and multimedia content," said Valery Timofeev, Director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau. "It maps out an exciting vision that won’t just change the look of entertainment, but open up a whole range of exciting new possibilities in sectors from education and healthcare to traffic management."

New 3D TV technologies being developed under the auspices of ITU will also have major implications for the film and television production sector, as content will need to be filmed using special new equipment in order for viewers to enjoy the full 3D experience.

Christoph Dosch, Chairman of ITU-R Study Group 6 said: "This is an important step forward on the road to globally-agreed ITU Recommendations on 3D TV. I’m optimistic that we’ll make further advances at our next meeting in April 2010."

ITU 3D TV Categorization

Compatibility level

Matrix of signal formats for 3D TV


1st generation 3D TV

Multiview profile

2nd generation 3D TV

Object wave profile

3rd generation 3D TV

Level 1

Conventional High Definition display Compatible (CDC)

Optimized colour anaglyph    
Level 2

Conventional HD Frame Compatible (CFC)

Frame compatible

Left and Right in same High Definition frame

Level 3

High Definition Frame Compatible

Frame compatible plus H.264/MPEG4-AVC resolution (for example, H.264 SVC)    
Level 4

Conventional High Definition Service Compatible (CSC)

2D HD + MVC (ie, H.264 MVC)

Left and Right formed by matrixing

2D HD + MVC (ie, H.264 MVC)

Depth, occlusion, transparency data


This table shows the anticipated development of 3DTV technologies in increasing order of performance and complexity (indicating the degree of compatibility with conventional 2DTV)
Note: The empty boxes are to be filled on the basis of the future work within ITU-R.
SVC: Rec. ITU-T H.264 Scalable Video Coding; MVC: Rec. ITU-T H.264 Multiview Video Coding

For more information contact:

Sarah Parkes
ITU Media Relations
Tel: +41 22 730 6039
Mobile: +41 79 599 1439
Grace De Angelis-Petrin
Communications Officer,
ITU Radiocommunication Bureau
Tel: +41 22 730 5810

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Updated : 2010-01-19