With 'Avatar' close at hand, the Blu-ray 3D spec is launched

Now that the theatrical release of James Cameron's Avatar is only hours away, the Blu-Ray Disc Association has announced the final release of the Blu-ray 3D specification.

During Panasonic's keynote at CES 2009, Cameron spoke about the production of Avatar and his collaboration with Panasonic on the acceleration of 3D Blu-ray technology. The film, which debuts nationwide at 12:01 am tonight, was filmed with new stereoscopic cameras that were still in development as filming took place. Panasonic, as well as other Blu-ray Disc Association member companies, devoted floorspace at CES to showing off the possibilities of 3D in the home.

Today, Victor Matsuda, chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Association's Global Promotions Committee said, "Throughout this year, moviegoers have shown an overwhelming preference for 3D when presented with the option to see a theatrical release in either 3D or 2D. We believe this demand for 3D content will carry over into the home now that we have, in Blu-ray Disc, a medium that can deliver a quality Full HD 3D experience to the living room."

The BDA says that the Blu-ray 3D specification encodes 3D video using the Multiview Video Coding (MVC) codec, an extension to the ITU-T H.264 Advanced Video Coding (AVC) codec currently supported by all Blu-ray Disc players.

"MPEG4-MVC compresses both left and right eye views with a typical 50% overhead compared to equivalent 2D content, and can provide full 1080p resolution backward compatibility with current 2D Blu-ray Disc players. The specification also incorporates enhanced graphic features for 3D," a statement from the group said.

A BD-3D player will be able to be hooked up to any display and output three dimensional imagery, the BDA said today, and the most popular Blu-ray player of all time, Sony's PlayStation 3, has been taken into consideration in the spec. The consoles will reportedly be able to support the discs.

"3D playback will require a new player in most cases," Pioneer's Andy Parsons, Chairman of Promotion at the Blu-ray Disc Association told Betanews this morning. "Some existing playback systems might be capable of a retroactive upgrade to 3D playback if they were designed to accommodate it, but this would most likely be the exception and not the rule. The new 3D specifications do provide a way for 3D titles to be played in 2D on existing players if they are authored this way -- this is a studio decision."

So to answer the question: Blu-ray 3D discs are designed to be compatible with standard BD players, they just won't be in 3D when played back in one.

The Spec will be available to manufacturers soon, and the BDA expects the first Blu-ray 3D products to be available in 2010.

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