Comcast at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo: 3DTV still a long ways away

Despite the hopes of programmers and consumer electronics manufacturers, 3DTV still has a long way to go and a lot of questions to answer before it can be considered a successful cable option.

Probably the biggest hurdle will be how to standardize the different formats over which 3D content is now being delivered, said Daniel Holden, a Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) fellow with the Comcast Media Center, during a presentation detailing how to implement 3DTV over existing HFC architectures at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in New Orleans.

"For linear broadcast it's very important to get a set of standards," he said.

Among those standards are the technical challenges presented in the way content is delivered--frame compatible, which cuts resolution by about 50 percent, or service compatible, which delivers full resolution but is years from fruition--to the business issues.

Other problems include the way content is shot--ESPN, for example, uses 720p while HBO uses 1080i--and even whether it's formatted on a top-and-bottom progressive basis, as Comcast prefers, or a side-by-side interlaced in a DirecTV system.

"You can't send two production crews, one to shoot 3D and one to shoot 2D" as ESPN and CBS did with this year's Masters Tournament. "There are going to be a lot of challenges there."

There are enough challenges, in fact, that Holden, an admitted 3D fan, is a little wary about predicting near-term success for the new video experience. The best chance for both testing the multiple formats in which the content is created and delivered is via VoD, but, he said, "there's not enough content right now to populate" a VoD offering.

"It's almost like we're where we were five or 10 years ago with HD," he said.

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