Posts Tagged ‘Blu-ray’

3D: All revved up, but nowhere to go!

How much fun would it be to buy a new sports car if there wasn’t any gas available to power it, or roads to drive it on?

That’s exactly the situation that today’s consumers are facing with 3D TVs: There just isn’t enough content to watch on them. And it’s even more of a problem with 3D movies, as manufacturers have inked several deals giving them exclusive rights to bundle specific 3D movie releases with their 3D TVs and Blu-ray players.

Remember when HDTV first got off the ground, back in 1998? There wasn’t a whole lot of HD content to watch, aside from a few prime time shows on CBS and the occasional movie on ABC.

Consequently, retail demand for HDTVs didn’t really take off until HD programming picked up with movies on HBO, an expanded slate of shows and sports on major TV networks, and the introduction of HD program services by Dish Network. The 2000 Super Bowl, the first to be broadcast in HD, helped generate more interest in HDTV sets.

Even so, it took a few more years before the ball really got rolling and events such as the 2004 Olympics, the Stanley Cup, NBA Playoffs, and World Series were all broadcast in HD formats.

While it’s true that 3D programming choices will expand considerably this month as ESPN launches its World Cup 3D coverage and DirecTV begins 24/7 3D broadcasts, the pickings are slim when it comes to 3D movies.

Those exclusive ‘bundling’ deals are part of the reason. Samsung has locked up 3D Blu-ray distribution of the Shrek franchise (four movies in all) for the rest of 2010, and had a recent exclusive deal for 3D BD copies of Monsters vs. Aliens.

Panasonic has a similar deal to ship 3D BD copies of Coraline and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs in 3D with their 3D TVs, and apparently will have first dibs on Avatar when it’s released in 3D this fall, according to the Web site www.hollywoodinhighdef.com.

What’s more, Sony is apparently negotiating a deal with Disney to have exclusive rights to the 3D BD release of Alice in Wonderland this fall, bundling it with Sony 3D Bravia TVs and BD players. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is supposed to be the first ‘open’ 3D BD release later this month, but even it will be part of a Sony 3D TV bundle (no surprise there, Cloudy was released by Sony Pictures!).

They jury’s still out on whether 3D in the home will be a success. But limiting the pipeline of 3D movies to a trickle at this critical juncture simply isn’t good business. If TV manufacturers really wanted to drive sales, they should pick up the costs of 3D BD mastering for popular movies and let distributors flood the market with these movies.

Frankly, I’m surprised the Blu-ray Marketing Association and Digital Entertainment Group aren’t lobbying more vigorously for this approach. The Blu-ray format hasn’t exactly been an overwhelming success, and 3D is a way for it to ‘niche’ its way forward as the replacement for red laser DVDs. (Incorporating DVRs and BD-R capacity into BD players is another, equally important way to drive adoption of the BD format.)

The DVD format wasn’t hamstrung like this, when it launched in 1997. Players were expensive at the time, but within months, consumers had plenty of DVD movies to choose from at retail, and it didn’t take long for rental stores to start offering them, either.

Reverting back to my analogy: For now, consumers can enjoy their shiny new sports car while it sits in the garage, or zips around the neighborhood. But until those fast roads get built and there is an ample supply of fuel, consumers will continue to drive around in their older sedans and SUVs.

Supply drives demand these days in the HDTV business. Come on, Hollywood – when will the floodgates open on 3D Blu-ray movies?

Aside to Netflix: What’s YOUR timetable for 3D movie streaming? Hmmm?

Product Review: Pioneer Elite BDP-09FD Blu-Ray Player (May 2009)

Back at CES, Pioneer unveiled their latest optical disc player masterpiece, the BDP-09FD. This player has all the bells and whistles a home theater buff could hope for, from dual HDMI outputs to 7.1 discrete analog audio connections, 4 GB of internal flash memory, and 16-bit video processing, not to mention eight Wolfson digital-to-analog (DAC) converters to drive the audio outputs.

Of course, that all comes at a cost – about $2,200 at full retail. And the BDP-09FD isn’t for everyone. The question is, does the player’s performance justify the price tag?

Figure 1. Pioneer’s BDP-09FD is a solid, no-nonsense Blu-ray player with stealth design.

OUT OF THE BOX

This is not everyman’s BD player. It’s quite large, measuring 16.5” W x 14.4” D x 5.7” H, and tips the scales at 31.5 lbs. (You read that last part correctly, almost 32 pounds!) What you gain is a rock-steady chassis with a more precise drive mechanism – a slight bump against the player won’t cause the optical reader to skip tracks.

The exterior housing is finished in a glass black – very high-tech – while the alphanumeric display uses orange-yellow LEDs. Directly below the display (and separated by a blue power-on LED) is the disc drawer. An oversized power button on the lower left is complemented by an equally oversized “play” button on the lower right front of the player.

There aren’t a lot of controls besides those, aside from two small buttons marker “Pure Audio” and “Resolution” to the left of the display, and the drawer open/close, chapter advance/reverse, pause, and stop buttons to the right. Two small red indicators show when the Pure Audio mode is switched on, and when the HDMI output is active.

The rear panel is loaded with connectors. In addition to a standard HDMI 1.3 output, there’s a second HDMI connection, plus YPbPr BNC jacks for analog HD playback. You’ll also find optical and coaxial SPDIF audio connectors for 5.1 channel playback.

Pioneer has also provided eight discrete RCA jacks for multi-channel analog audio output directly to your 5.1 or 7.1 AV receiver. This is handy if your receiver doesn’t decode the latest HDMI audio formats, such as Dolby True HD, DTS Master Audio, and DTS High Resolution Audio.

Now, I have to pause here and point out one absurdity of Pioneer’s thinking. Packed within the shipping carton of this $2,200 Blu-ray player are two cables. One is an Ethernet cable for connecting the BDP-09FD BD-Live function, along with getting firmware updates for the player. It’s a nice thought, but too short at six feet – my house has a wireless router in the basement, and I’d need at least a 50-footer to hook things up.

As for the other cable, take a guess. How about a six-foot HDMI cable? (Nope.) A three-foot HDMI cable? (Wrong!) OK, how about a six-foot component video cable? (Not even close.)

No, the extra cable that Pioneer has so graciously included with your $2,200 Blu-ray player is a composite video cable with analog stereo audio…the old, familiar “AV” cable, colored red, white, and yellow.

YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!! Who the heck is going to use a composite video connection with a Blu-ray player? Would it kill Pioneer to toss in a nice HDMI cable? (6’ is OK; 12’ is better) Or, just leave out the composite video cable altogether – it’s almost a slap in the face. Someone really dropped the ball on this at the factory.

Figure 2. The rear panel has every AV connection you’ll need, and then some!

MENUS AND FEATURES

This player is loaded for bear. You name it; the function is in there someplace.  The latest firmware version is 2.46, which lets the player convert the DTS-HD format to linear PCM output through the HDMI connector, or to 7.1 channels of analog audio. In addition, the player supports Dolby TrueHD, Digital and Digital Plus, DTS Master Audio, MPEG2 AAC, and Linear PCM formats.

As far as video is concerned, the BDP-09FD is compliant with HDMI v1.3 and can play back Deep Color content at 1080p/60 frame rates. According to the owner’s manual, you should use a High Speed HDMI cable when outputting video in this mode.

Presumably, High Speed HDMI cables have lower tilt or waveform distortion than regular cables, but I don’t see that you’d have much of a problem either way if your cable runs are short – say, less than six to eight feet. Both the Main and Sub HDMI jacks can be enabled for high-speed operation.

Initial setup goes quickly with this player. The HDMI connection automatically communicates with your TV, monitor, or projector’s EDID (Electronic Display Interface Data) to determine the optimum output resolution and frame rate, which will usually be 1080p/60 or 1080p/24.

You can also manually set the resolution and frame rate. Just make sure you use the main HDMI output – the “sub” HDMI jack only carries 2-channel linear PCM audio. I should also mention that the KURO Link function for control of all devices through HDMI interconnects only works through the Main jack.

If your AV receiver is not quite up-to-date, you’ll want to have the BDP-09FD do the Dolby/DTS decoding and pass the audio as analog signals to the rear panel. This can be selected quickly in the Setup menu. Note that digital audio output through the HDMI and SPDIF connectors is disabled in this mode.

Other selections you’ll need to make are the output resolution and aspect ratio (default setting is 16:9). The player can output video at 480i, 4880p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p resolutions, but only Blu-ray discs will work with all of them. Red laser DVDs will most likely limit your choices to 480i or 480p output, thanks to copy protection bits encoded on the DVD.

The Ethernet interface is conventional, with an option to have your wireless router or hub assign an IP address using Dynamic Host Control Protocol (DHCP). I suggest using this option unless you are fairly IP-savvy and can assign all of the required addresses, including the DNS addresses of your Internet service provider.

If you are facing a cable connection logistics problem (as I did), you may want to investigate using a wireless bridge – these gadgets emulate an Ethernet port tied to a wireless adapter, and are popular for hooking up printers to wireless networks. You’ll need to connect the bridge directly to your router or hub to configure it. Once that’s done, the BDP-09FD can sit anywhere in your house and still remain connected to the Internet.

IN OPERATION

I took the BDP-09FD for a test drive using both my Mitsubishi HC6000 3LCD 1080p front projector and a Pioneer PRO-111FD 50-inch Kuro plasma TV. Test DVDs included Iron Man, The Dark Knight, and BBC’s Planet Earth.

Let me mention once again the silky-smooth operation of the disc tray. It glides in and out effortlessly with no wobble, which would indicate the presence of quite a few ball bearings in its tracks. It takes the player about 30 seconds to boot up before it’s ready for a disc, and another 15 to 17 seconds before that disc is ready to play. (This holds true even for red laser DVDs.)

Since my AV receiver (Denon’s AVR-788) wouldn’t support the advanced Dolby and DTS BD audio formats, I opted to use the player’s analog audio outputs and let Pioneer do the decoding. It’s a great way to go, although my home system only supports 5.1-channel playback at present.

Picture quality from all three discs was as good as anything I’ve seen from my Reon-equipped Samsung BD-P1200 (the HC6000 also has Reon processing onboard) – excellent detail and dynamic range, with no evidence of false contouring. Unfortunately, the BD standard only calls for 8-bit video, and you can see the result in scenes that show deep blue skies – visible contour lines.

The BDP-09FD took care of that nicely, particularly in Iron Man where Tony Stark first attacks the terrorists in what’s supposed to be Afghanistan. Watch as he sails through the skies, pursued by a pair of F-22 Raptors. The blue sky gradient changes frequently from scene to scene, but you shouldn’t see any contouring along the way.

The Dark Knight shows off the player’s ability to pull out shadow detail in dark scenes, of which there are plenty in this film. I looked carefully for low-level noise and didn’t see much of it, especially around objects with green and blue coloring.

To top things off, I spun up Ice Worlds from Planet Earth. If you don’t own this boxed set on Blu-ray, go out right now and buy a copy – these are reference-grade HD discs. Ice Worlds has lots of high-contrast subject matter, along with the aforementioned deep blue sky gradients and underwater photography. All of it showed up beautifully, free of noise and other digital artifacts that I’ve seen on lower-cost players.

As for the audio, it came through with plenty of dynamic range, and no audible sampling artifacts. (Both Iron Man and The Dark Knight have plenty of explosions that task even the best audio systems.) The sound playback was as good as I’ve experienced in the best movie theaters, with great presence and spatial separation in the surround channels. (Dang, now I have to go find two more speakers and upgrade to 7.1 playback!)

CONCLUSION

If you really want a superlative Blu-ray player, the BDP-09FD is for you. It oozes high quality all around and delivers excellent image and audio quality. My guess is, it will hold up for a long time, probably longer than your flatscreen TV. The video quality wasn’t substantially better than lower-cost players with high-end video processing, but the build quality is.

Where you’ll really notice the difference is in the internal audio processing, particularly if you opt to go analog to your existing receiver. The improvement in dynamic range over conventional SPDIF connections, even with 5.1 movies, is one you can hear – there’s just more audio to play with, from the subtlest sounds to swelling music and explosive special effects.

Pioneer Elite BDP-09FD Blu-ray Player
MSRP: $2,199

Specifications:
Dimensions: 16.5” (W) x 5.6” (H) x 14.2” (D)
Weight: 31 pounds

Analog video output formats: composite, S-video, BNC YPbPr (480i/29.97, 480p/59.94, 720p/59.94, 1080i/29.97)
Digital video output formats: 2x HDMI 1.3 (480p/59.94, 720p/59.94, 1080i/29.97, 1080p/59.94, 1080p/23.97)
Analog audio output: 1x RCA (Stereo)
Digital audio output: Toslink, HDMI (bitstream or PCM), Optical/Coaxial SPDIF
Supported playback formats: BD-ROM, BD-RE, BD-R, DVD VIDEO, AUDIO CD, DVD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-R DL, DVD+R/RW, CD-R, CD-RW, CD ROM

Supported audio formats: Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital/Plus, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS-HD HR Audio, DTS Digital Surround, MPEG, MPEG2 AAC, Linear PCM

LAN Interface: 100BaseT Ethernet

Pioneer Electronics USA
2265 E. 220th Street
Long Beach, CA 90810
(213) 746-6337

 

http://tinyurl.com/ophcl5

Product Review: OPPO BDP-83 Blu-Ray Disc Player (August 2009)

Considering how well their upscaling red laser DVD players work, it’s amazing more people don’t know about OPPO Digital. But then again, you can’t just walk into Best Buy or Wal-Mart and pick one up off a shelf.

No, OPPO prefers to conduct its sales mostly through the Internet, with retail giant Amazon.com as good a place to find them as anywhere. And that will hold true with the BDP-83, OPPO’s first foray into BD-land.

But don’t kid yourself. This is no bargain basement BD player, like the Magnavox models Wal-Mart had on sale last holiday season. Au contraire! The BDP-83 has more in common with Pioneer’s top-of-the-line BDP-09FD, reviewed here.

Figure 1. OPPO’s BDP-83 is a sharp-looking player for the money – and it’s no lightweight with performance, either.

OUT OF THE BOX

This player has high quality written all over it, from the brushed metal front panel to the solid housing that is actually more substantial than other name-brand Blu-ray players I’ve tested. It’s not particularly light at 11.2 pounds, but it does feel solid and stable.

That same front panel has a very subtle design, with small, “stealth” buttons for power and drawer open/close buttons. A mouse disk about the size of a half-dollar provides navigation and is located to the right of the panel. At the far right, you’ll find a covered USB 2.0 slot for playback of music and movie files and JPEG still images. A fluorescent display sits below the disc drawer and is very easy to read. It can also be dimmed in a projection theater.

The rear panel connections are sufficient for any home theater system. One HDMI 1.3 output is provided for connection to an AV receiver or HDTV set, and there’s also an analog component (YPbPr) output via RCA jacks.

Note that the only way to get upscaled video from regular DVDs will usually be through the HDMI connection – depending on the level of copy protection encoded on the DVD, you may only see 480i or 480p playback through the component video ports.

There are several ways to get audio out of the player. The first is through the HDMI connection, which is the only direct digital interface for high-resolution audio formats, including 7.1 channel PCM, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD.  The Toslink and coaxial SPDIF connections can handle Dolby Digital 5.1 formats, while 7.1 and 5.1 direct analog connections to appropriate receivers are handled by a separate bank of eight RCA jacks on the left rear panel.

Other connections include a second USB 2.0 jack for external audio, video, and image files, IR loop-through ports for controlling other compatible AV devices through the player, and a RJ45 Ethernet jack for Internet connections, required to enable and use the BD-Live function. (You can also use a wireless bridge with this port.) There’s also a RS232C jack option for an additional $89, for remote control in an integrated home theater system,

Figure 2. Here’s a look at the rear panel connections. Note the second USB 2.0 input (the other is on the front panel).

REMOTE AND MENUS

The supplied remote is very different from older OPPO designs. In fact, it also resembles more of a Pioneer product in size and shape. All of the buttons are large and backlit, making operation in a darkened room a snap – altogether, much more user-friendly and substantial (there’s that word again!).

OPPO has built quite a few neat tricks into this player. Of course, it supports 1080p/24 playback, and that’s the recommended mode when connecting to the latest generation of flat panel LCD and plasma HDTVs, as well as front projectors. You can easily toggle the 24p output from the player’s menu. This mode may also be activated automatically during the HDMI “handshake” between the BDP-83 and your display.

Now, this is cool: You can switch output resolutions on the fly while a disc is still playing, instead of having to stop the disc and make the change. It works very quickly and you get a visual confirmation of the selected resolution on the front panel display. Feeding an external video processor/seamless switcher? Select the player’s Source Direct mode, and it will send raw, unprocessed video from the disc directly to the HDMI output connector.

If you elect to process video onboard, you’re not giving up anything. The BDP-83 uses Anchor Bay’s VRS technology for deinterlacing, 3:2 and other cadence correction, and multi-axis motion interpolation. This is the same chipset used in the DVDO Edge processor, and it works exceptionally well.

Other menu options include aspect ratio settings (4:3 letterbox and pan/scan, plus 16:9 wide and auto) and image zoom modes, of which there are numerous options. Some of the more useful options include the correct vertical stretch for showing 2.35:1 movies on 2.35 screens, and several letterbox zoom modes to handle older DVDs that do not use anamorphic expansion to show widescreen movies.

The BDP-83 supports other legacy audio formats like conventional CDs, DVD Audio, and SACD. Using the Pure Audio menu or remote function, video playback is disabled through the HDMI output (only video black is transmitted) to your AV receiver. Ostensibly, this function is used to minimize any crosstalk between digital audio and video.

Going deeper into the menu, you can play back red laser DVDs at a 24p frame rate with 1080p upconversion. (This is not available through the analog HD outputs.) Your TV or projector must support native 24-frame playback for this to work correctly, and the choice of whether to output 24p or not can be left up to the Auto setting, plus a successful HDMI handshake with your display.

The VRS processor adds multiple levels of choices, including five different deinterlacing modes (Auto, Film, Video, 2:2 Even Field, and 2:2 Odd Field), two chroma upsampling error correction modes, four different color space setup modes (RGB Video, RGB PC, YCbCr 4:2:2, and YCbCr 4:4:4), and HDMI Deep Color modes (30-bit and 36-bit). An audio delay mode (lip sync correction) is also included.

The audio menu is also deep. For the initial setup, you’ll choose between linear pulse-code modulation (LPCM) and Bitstream modes, the first being used when the HDTV or AV receiver is unable to handle advanced Dolby and DTS formats. For compatible receivers, select Bitstream mode and let the receiver do the heavy lifting. You can, of course, go straight from the rear panel analog audio connections, if need be.

There are numerous digital audio output configurations that are detailed in the owner’s manual, so I won’t go into them here. Suffice it to say that the BDP-83 will support whatever standard or advanced multichannel audio formats you’re likely to encounter. Just make sure your AV receiver is as up to date!

IN OPERATION

In my review of the Pioneer BDP-09FD, I mentioned the precise, smooth operation of the disc tray and drive motor. While the BDP-83 doesn’t quite have that “Swiss watch” feel, it’s a lot closer to the Pioneer than to competing players from Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, and LG.

OPPO makes a big deal of the fast load and play times on the BDP-83. I measured them with a stopwatch, and it took just 11 seconds from powering up until the OPPO logo appeared, and I was prompted to load a disc. 12 seconds after I loaded a disc, the first video image or menu on that disc appeared. That’s REAL fast! Of course, disc loading times also depend on whether the studio added BD-Live content that will boot up at the same time, or needs to be accessed separately.

I ran the BDP-83 through my Denon AVR-788 receiver and used it to watch a 5.1 channel mix from Ice Worlds from the BBC’s Planet Earth BD collection (buy this one, it’s a keeper!). This series features one of the better DD 5.1 channel mixes around, particularly the dubbed-in and location sounds of nature. It’s immersive, to say the least.

The audio playback was smooth with no “hits” or dropouts and had plenty of dynamic range. The 1080p video, which went through my Mitsubishi HC6000 3LCD projector, had excellent contrast, color, and detail – although with a VRS processor on one end and a HQV Reon on the other, it would be hard to screw things up.

Just for kicks, I took the BDP-83 upstairs to my office and connected it to a Westinghouse Digital L2410NM WUXGA (1920×1200) LCD computer monitor, which has zero video processing. Here’s where you can really see the VRS chipset shine, spinning up the Realta Blu-ray test patterns perfectly and giving me gorgeous 1080p playback of Iron Man (in thrilling two-channel stereo, of course).

CONCLUSIONS

For $500, this is one sturdy, precision Blu-ray player. If you want to go high-end, it would be hard to justify paying a lot more for what the BDP-83 already delivers. As OPPO has demonstrated more than once in the past, you usually do as well (if not better) with their upscaling red laser DVD models, and it looks like OPPO’s unique combination of engineering and value has successfully migrated to Blu-ray platform. Grab one for yourself!

OPPO Digital BDP-83
Blu-ray Disc Player

MSRP: $499.00

 

Specifications:

Compatible disc types: BD-Video, DVD-Video, AVCHD, DVD-Audio, SACD, CD, HDCD, Kodak Picture CD, CD-R/RW, DVD±R/RW, DVD±R DL, BD-R/RE

BD Profile: BD-ROM Version 2, Profile 2 (also compatible with Profile 1, Version 1.0 and 1.1)

Internal Storage: 1GB (Actual available storage varies due to system usage)
Analog audio output: Stereo, 5.1ch, 7.1ch (RCA)
Digital audio output: Coaxial, Optical, HDMI 1.3
Analog video output: Composite, Component (480i/p only)
Digital video output: HDMI (NTSC 480p/720p/1080i/1080p, PAL 576p/720p/1080i/1080p)
Other interfaces: 2x USB 2.0, 2x IR (1/8” Mini plug)

Optional interfaces: RS232C

LAN Interface: RJ45-type jack
Dimensions: 16.9” W x 13.3” D x 3” H

Weight: 11.2 lbs.
BD firmware updates: Through Internet connection

OPPO Digital, Inc.
2629 Terminal Blvd. Suite B
Mountain View, CA 94043
(650) 961-1118
www.oppodigital.com

HDTV Tech Talk Tutorial: 3D Program Formats

Here’s a quick tutorial on 3D program and transport formats, all coming to a TV near you.

Have you heard enough about 3D yet?

Probably not. Samsung and Panasonic are long out of the gate, while LG just started its advertising campaign for INFINIA LCD TVs during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  And there will be more companies following with 3D TVs, Blu-ray players, and a host of accessories.

One question I’ve gotten repeatedly is this: “How do they pack a 3D signal into a conventional cable TV channel?” Another one: “How can DirecTV send out 3D, which is progressive scan? They’re not broadcasting in 1080p!”

Time to wheel out the whiteboard! In a nutshell, here’s how the different 3D transmission formats work.

THE DETAILS

Earlier this month, the 3D amendments for the HDMI 1.4 standard were released. These standards include a host of broadcast 3D formats, along with the Blu-ray top/bottom packed 1080p frame format. (I’ll touch on that, too.) These mandatory 3D formats must be supported if the HDMI interface is a ‘true’ 3D connection.

That’s not to say that a TV manufacturer won’t support other formats: They can, and they are! Examples of ‘other formats’ include checkerboard, interlaced 3D, line-by-line, and alternate frame. There are even 2D+ depth and other ‘overlay’ formats (think of the FM subcarrier for stereo from the 1950s) that are backwards-compatible with older TVs.

What we’re interested in is what DirecTV, Dish, Comcast, Cox, Discovery, and possibly major TV networks like CBS, NBC, and Fox are doing, and might do. Here’s the short list:

Side by side: This is the format that DirecTV will launch in June. It’s also likely to be used by Comcast, Dish, Cox, and any other multi-channel video system. In the side-by-side system, the left eye and right eye images are anamorphically squeezed to fit into a single 1920x1080i/30 frame. (Figure 1)

Figure 1. The side-by-side (2x 960×1080) 3D format. Image copyright ©2010 DirecTV. All rights reserved.

That means that each image has half the horizontal resolution, or 960×1080 pixels, when expanded back to its normal shape and presented sequentially. Does this look bad? Not really, considering there’s still over 1 million pixels in each eye. As it turns out, HDMI 1.4a calls for side-by-side exclusively with 1920x1080i video content.

Top + Bottom: This format is more likely to be used by stations transmitting progressive scan signals. Once again, the left and right eye images are anamorphically squeezed and packed into a single frame, except they are aligned one atop the other. This is the standard for 1280x720p/60 and 1920x1080p/24 transmissions. (Figure 2)

Figure 2. The top + bottom 3D transport format. Image copyright ©2010 DreamWorks Animation. All rights reserved.

In this case, each image has half the vertical resolution of a full HD video frame. For a 1080p program, that’s no big deal – each eye works out to 1920×540 pixels. But 720p comes up short, with an effective resolution of 1280×360 pixels in each eye.

The thinking here is that it’s better to sacrifice vertical resolution in a progressive scan TV system than horizontal resolution. I don’t think it makes much of a difference with 1080p content, but 720p? It may not look as good as it should.

What about the alternative? Using a side-by-side format, this would reduce the resolution of each left and right eye image to 640×720 pixels – not much more than a regular DVD. As a result, adopting 720p as an HD format may leave something to be desired with respect to 3D.

HDMI 1.4a: There are two formats here. One uses a top/bottom dual-frame structure (Figure 3) with a total of 1920×2205 pixels. (45 pixels are a blanking or metadata interval.) This retains full 1080p resolution and the frame rate is 24 (23.98) Hz. The other format is for video games, and oddly enough, it’s at a lower resolution – 1280×720 pixels, with either a 50Hz or 60 (59.94) Hz refresh. (Figure 3)

Figure 3. The HDMI 1.4 Blu-ray frame packing structure.

To summarize, these are the ‘mandatory’ HDMI 1.4a 3D formats. A compatible 3D TV will support all of them. On the other hand, set-top boxes and media players only have to provide one of these signals (for Blu-ray players, it’s the full 1080p top + bottom format exclusively), based on the content being served up.

It’s important to remember that, not matter what delivery (transport) format is used, the 3D TV will present ALL of these as sequential left eye/right eye images, using the same active shutter glasses. Only the physical resolution of the images will vary, along with frame rates.

And now you know the rest of the story…to quote the late, great Paul Harvey.