IBC 2012: Day 4 - I Have Seen The Future

Posted By Katie Hinsen on September 10, 2012 10:29 am | Permalink
People are getting "IBC Fatigue". I can feel it all around me, the excitement that existed a couple of days ago is diminishing. For the vendors, tomorrow is the light at the end of the tunnel. For the visitors, sleep and a chance to rest the feet is in sight. Today was less crowded, the past two days was when the conference swelled with all the Europeans who only took off work for the weekend. Last year there were over 50,000 people at IBC, and I'm told this year the show is much bigger. There is 900,000 square feet of indoor space, plus an additional large temporary show hall and an outdoor exhibit section. Those numbers make my economy class airplane seat seem even smaller.

To combat the feeling that I maybe no longer care about anything other than being in my own bed at home, I decided to spend the day looking for new and interesting technology and innovations. I dragged along a geeky cohort and we paced the halls looking out for anything we hadn't seen before.

The most interesting thing we noticed was the trend toward autostereoscopy. It's becoming more and more obvious that it's a technology that might not go away, and the industry is trying to push it into the home. This means it has to be of high quality, and low cost. 

Right now, there are two manufacturers of autostereoscopic displays, Alioscopy and Dimenco (an offshoot of Philips). These guys have been around for quite a while, but content has been mostly CG, produced specifically for the display. As stereo images are half-res (HD on an HDTV are only SD), depending on the system used autostereoscopic images can be much lower res still and there are generally only a few good viewing angles. 

Dolby and Sony are now showing 4K monitors that render from stereo to autostereo on-the-fly, so your 3D blu-ray or 3DHD broadcast content show at (upscaled in the conversion) HD/2K quality. Dolby's one is actually a Dimenco with 28 viewing angles, and a custom chip in the back that does the conversion pretty well. Everyone is talking about it at IBC this year. It stutters a little and distorts occasionally, and it hasn't got much depth to it but fantastic picture quality. 

Sony has done something really clever. They have come up with their own monitors. They have turned their VAIO LCDs into autosterescopic displays. They are doing this across the range, too- adding a conversion chipset to all their VAIO televisions, computer monitors, laptops, and handheld devices. You can turn the lenticular barrier on or off, so if you're not watching 3D you can still see perfect 2D. Even cooler than that, they are showing the holy grail of 3D... autostereoscopy with head tracking. There's a camera on the top of the screen, that uses facial recognition to find your eyes and make sure that no matter where you're sitting, you are in the "sweet spot". Now of course, this only works for one viewer, and it is still in need of a lot of development; but it's a great concept. 

Even further into the future, and deeper into the realms of geekdom, we have the serious R&D guys. The most impressive is actually the Fraunhofer Institute. These guys won the IBC Award for Best Conference Paper, for their research into autostereoscopy. 

They have a very fast chip for converting stereo to autostereo, so the quality is better. Even cooler in my mind, was actually their version of the Lytro camera that does light field video. So in the future, we might not be doing autostereoscopic conversion in post houses, but we could be replacing the on-set focus pullers.

The IBC Future Zone has a stand showing holographic autostereoscopy, and a stand showing autostereoscopy so fast, that it can convert live video. But I really do have to give massive credit to the research team at NHK in Japan. Instead of focusing on 3D like the rest of us, they are letting everyone else figure that out, and creating Super Hi-Vision. I watched clips of the London Olympics that they shot, on their 8K monitors with 22.2 channel audio, and I could see the individual faces of people in the stadium crowd. It was really, really amazing. The cameras have a 120 Hz image sensor, and 72 HD-SDI cables coming out the back.

Looking at the back of this beast, makes me glad I'm in post production!

Tomorrow is the last day of IBC 2012. The show officially closes at 4pm, and I'm sure every vendor who has been standing at a booth being nice to people for five days, will have a well-deserved drink to make up for having to watch the rest of us wandering around with freebies, brochures, beers, and lots to talk about, both from the show and after-hours in Amsterdam.