Next3D, a startup based here that develops compression technology for FullHD 3D streaming media, will use the upcoming NAB Show (April 11-14) to present new technology enabling streaming FullHD 3D content over the Internet and eventually broadcast pathways.
David Cole, Next3D co-founder, said the company has partnered with Turner to deliver in 30 to 40 days demos of a video-on-demand (VOD) client running sample streaming 1080p 3D material, and will gradually transition over the course of the summer into a full pay-for-play system running undisclosed 1080p theatrical content in 3D.
In the same time frame, gaming PC OEM partners will begin delivering keys pre-installed in their hardware to enable playing streamed Full 1080p 3D video games, as the company also takes its system to “by far the largest community of early adopters in the 3D space,” Cole said.
He added that Next3D will not compete with 3D gaming developers or distributors like Crytek or EA but is establishing “very fertile ground” for cooperatively reaching the market.
The following is a Q&A interview with Next3D’s Cole prior to the 2011 NAB Show, where the company will engage content producers and broadcasters in discussions on using his 3D platforms.
What is Next3D’s mission?
We are taking an H.264 3D-compression- technology system that is what we believe to be the best form of stereoscopic compression possible for bit rate-constrained distribution like home broadband. That core technology is the basis for two independent business units for us. One is a stereoscopic VOD service that is getting ready to launch this spring. That utilizes our core technology built on the compression technology to deliver FullHD 3D to the home, initially to PC clients over the Internet, but the road map includes Internet-connected devices and game platforms as well.
For the second business unit, we’ve been developing a system with Turner for over a year, called Next- Stream, that will soon be formally announced. It is real-time live streaming technology for stereoscopic 3D, using our core technology built out to deliver fastaction content as effectively as possible.
The bias that we have in compression is that utilizing existing 2D infrastructure and technology is potentially very destructive for a stereoscopic image because, unfortunately, it can quantize out the most important psychological stereoscopic cues and the resultant image can cause some pretty insidious eye strain.
So, we have focused on preserving very important stereoscopic cues, including occlusions [strong edges]. That information is held precious, as other portions of video is quantized out. It gives us leverage to deliver a Full 3D 1080 signal over a relatively low bandwidth connection. We are visually equivalent to 3D Blu-ray at about 8Mbps.
TWICE:Who are your distribution partners?
Cole: Turner is sort of a one-stop-shopping partner because not only are they a co-developer, they will be utilizing the technology themselves and that helps propagate the core technology.
The strategy on the VOD service right now allows us to ally with some of the strongest partners. We aren’t ready to announce any quite yet, but an early target is manufacturers of 3D-ready PCs using any of the three GPUs that are stereoscopically compatible — Nvidia, AMD or Intel Sandy Bridge. We have in development a number of relationships with OEMs that will be including the VOD service and effectively bundling content, although they’ll just be bundling download keys for various theatrical releases. So those announcements are still to be determined, but we should be able to announce the first partner both on the distribution side [an OEM of a 3D-ready PC] and content partners around NAB.
TWICE:How far are you from introducing a 3D distribution system for connected TVs?
Cole: Our app requires our decoder be live on the hardware. Leading CE TV manufacturers have added more sophisticated system-on-a-chip (SoC) abilities in the last year, and we are now developing for a few core SoCs being used across manufacturers’ products.
We expect to announce around midyear a single manufacturer with whom we’ve integrated across the product line.
TWICE: Can this be adapted to a multichannel video service system, such as cable TV or home satellite?
Cole: It certainly can, and our partner Turner is extremely interested in the broadcast opportunity. There are political and technical issues to push a proprietary format. We have miles to go yet with Turner, but they are certainly eager to evangelize a solution that gets beyond the half resolution distribution solution, particularly for sports. Destruction of the occlusions really is causing problems for sports. Turner is eager to evangelize a solution that works beyond over-the-top (OTT) distribution — which is Internet distribution that works for broadcast as well, but our business model right now is very much targeted toward Internet delivery.
TWICE:Will passive 3D present an impediment to what you are trying to do?
Cole: No. In fact, it helps. If you use a half-resolution format to send an image to a half-again-resolution device, you are effectively quartering the resolution. So our marketing message actually gets stronger in that environment. In fact, it is a substantially important issue.
We talk natively to the display controller, which gives us the capability of only abandoning the information that we are sure the television isn’t going to use.