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3D now arrives live and live

altThis system has a low cost due, in part, to the fact that it has technology whose flexibility derives from a standards-based one, and not only with its own developments like other similar systems on the market.



There is nothing more exciting than watching a live sports competition and having the possibility to experience the atmosphere, sounds and action on the pitch.

The latest advances in stereoscopic vision technology for TV allow broadcasters to bring games to the living room and offer the viewer what they crave most: to experience the feeling of being in the stadium itself. Televisions strive every day to achieve a more attractive offer of live content that wins the adhesion of viewers.

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Now, the fan can contemplate the plays of his team or feel the speed of Formula 1 with the same closeness as if he were sitting in the stands, but without the crowds of people, without the nightmare of looking for parking and without paying astronomical prices for tickets.

But live 3D broadcasts come with enormous technical difficulties. Unlike in a movie or a recorded TV show, in a live show you do not have the luxury of post-production.

A technical challenge
Live 3D transmissions force you to record the scene with two simultaneous cameras: one to capture the image sent to the left eye and the other to capture that of the right eye.

The images from both cameras must be perfectly aligned, with the same lenses, the same focal length, identical orientation, etc. And, since there is no time for post-production, the operation of the two cameras has to be based on very complex processors or analyzers that synchronize the pair of stereoscopic images in real time.

Until now, production in 3D format involved the use of a very expensive technology, but the R&D division of Mediapro, a group of production companies and television networks based in Barcelona, has designed an affordable and practical system to analyze stereoscopic images in real time.

With it, it is possible to broadcast live 3D programs taking advantage of the capacity of the Quadro Digital Video Pipeline solution and its Cuda processing architecture.

Medialuso, a Portuguese production company of Mediapro, was the first to use this system based on Nvidia technology to broadcast around the world several high-level sporting events in 3D format.

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Football and tennis matches, images of the world surfing championship or concerts broadcast in 3D by the production company are arousing the enthusiasm of spectators in Europe, Asia and other places on the planet who have a television or a stereoscopic home theater system.

According to Sergi Sagàs, scientific director of Mediapro's R&D department, "The big difference with watching a 3D show is that you feel much closer to the action. Suddenly, you bend down unintentionally to avoid being hit by a ball or raise your hands to protect yourself from the waves that seem to be coming over you."

Sagàs says that 3D requires coherent stereoscopic images, which involves aligning with enormous precision the pair of cameras that record the scenes.

When a live show is broadcast, it is essential to automatically and instantly correct any discrepancies that occur between the two cameras and the only way to do this is through an intelligent and very fast image processing system.

This is exactly the basis of the processing system developed by Mediapro to produce live programs in 3D format.


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No margin for error
Live broadcasts carry many risks and the team has to behave perfectly.

Mediapro's image analyzer reads the two HD video streams from the pair of cameras and processes the two images in real time to correct any color discrepancies, alignment or rotation, and any other variations that occur between them.

The software, based on Quadro, also controls robotic camera platforms specially designed by Kronomav, another Spanish company collaborating on the project.

The software tells Kronomav platforms how to modify in real time the focal length, color balance, rotation angle and other parameters necessary for the pair of cameras to produce perfectly aligned stereoscopic images.

Each pair of cameras is automatically corrected with Mediapro's image processing system: a workstation that uses the Quadro Digital Video Pipeline solution to capture, correct and send two HD-SDI video signals.

This solution takes advantage of Cuda's enormous parallel processing power to calculate the color variations, alignment and other parameters needed to synchronize and correct each pair of live cameras.

Quadro Digital Video Pipeline is a GPU-accelerated solution capable of performing the functions of capturing, processing and broadcasting high-resolution video in real time across a wide variety of standard and 3D broadcast environments.

It is also the only platform that offers up to four HD-SDI video inputs on each graphics card while keeping gpu processing power fully available to render graphics.

Industry expertise
Jordi Alonso, member of Mediapro's research department specialized in 3D technologies, explains how this system works:

"To produce coherent stereoscopic images in real time, all processing must be done extremely fast. The Quadro solution with Cuda architecture is the only technology we seriously consider. It allows us to process massive amounts of data in real time and with virtually no latencies between the system's SDI input and output."

Sagàs adds: "Nvidia has worked closely with us to help us optimise all aspects of the technology and has given us all the technical support needed for the development of the analyzer."

Mediapro continues to adjust its systems to simplify the production of live 3D programs. In this sense, the research team is working on mechanisms that improve the calculation of depth, which includes obtaining depth maps that indicate the distance of an object from each of the cameras of the pair.

In addition, automatically equalize discrepancies across production cameras to help filmmakers quickly move from one camera platform to another during the event, and improve interface and communication with hardware platforms to speed up automatic calibrations.

To conclude, Sagàs affirms: "The technology of Quadro Digital Video Pipeline has allowed us to introduce real-time 3D production capabilities that others do not yet have and at a price that no one else can reach, which makes us more competitive worldwide."

*Nvidia is a company dedicated to computational visualization with interactive graphics solutions.





Richard Santa, RAVT
Author: Richard Santa, RAVT
Periodista de la Universidad de Antioquia (2010), con experiencia en temas sobre tecnología y economía. Editor de las revistas TVyVideo+Radio y AVI Latinoamérica. Coordinador académico de TecnoTelevisión&Radio.

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