Page last updated at 10:05 GMT, Friday, 2 October 2009 11:05 UK

Sony shows off 3D TV technology

3d viewers
Broadcasters hope that the time has come for 3D television

Sony has shown off a new single-lens camera able to capture 3D images.

The majority of existing 3D set-ups use two-camera systems to record images tailored specifically for the left and right eye of the viewer.

The new camera takes a single image that is split by mirrors and recorded on two sensors, resulting in a "smoother" picture, according to Sony.

The prototype camera will be unveiled at next week's Ceatec electronics show in Tokyo, Japan.

Viewers will be able to watch the 3D images using special polarised glasses. Without them, they will just see normal 2D television, according to the firm.

The firm said the camera, which is able to capture images very quickly, is especially suited to sporting events.

Long shot

The new camera is one of a number of developments being put forward by the firm, which hopes that 3D TV is about to take off.

This week, the firm also opened the doors to its European research labs to show off a different 3D camera technology for recording football games.

3D sports event
Broadcasters are focusing efforts on 3D sporting events

The technology uses three fixed cameras to record the entire football pitch. The images can them be mapped and, using software, create a 3D view.

"Each camera films a third of the pitch," explained John Stone, general manager of research and development at Sony Professional.

"Because those cameras are set up at the same focal point, they can be stitched together.

"And because we have the depth information for every shot we can a synthesise a 3D impression be effectively positioning the pixel to different depth positions in the 3D composition."

Mr Stone stressed that while the technology to display images in 3D was in place, it would be some time before it would be common place.

"I'm not sure we're quite at the stage now where we're going to have 3D Match of the Day," said Mr Stone. "But i'm hoping that there's going to be live events televised in 3D from 2010, and that can be edited down into shorter 3D highlights."

Sporting chance

There have been a number of forays into the 3D market, pioneered by the film industry.

In 1953 The House of Wax became the first commercial 3D movie. However, the early technology caused unsteady images that induced nausea.

A second attempt was made in the 1970s, using stereoscopic images that required users to wear red and green glasses; while the image was steady there was considerable loss of colour quality and it also failed to take off.

Sony 3D TV graphic
There are a number of stages to get live 3D TV into the home.

The latest revival, dubbed "The 3D Wave" kicked off in 2003 with the release of the film Ghosts of the Abyss.

Users now wear polarized glasses - rather than the standard red and green spectacle - with the resulting image "fooling" the brain into thinking it is 3D.

Meanwhile, the technology to capture in 3D - or create a virtual 3D image using conventional cameras - has also been getting cheaper and is now affordable by some traditional TV and satellite broadcasters.

Very few broadcasters are in the position to control the entire process
Fergal Ringrose
TVB Europe

Sony hopes, by demonstrating what its technology is capable of, broadcasters will follow Hollywood's lead.

There are also signs that some of the bigger broadcasters are dipping a toe in the water.

In 2008, the BBC broadcast the world's first live sporting event in 3D, beaming back an England vs. Scotland game from the Six Nations to a cinema in London.

In addition, the corporation's director of London 2012, Roger Mosey, said there were plans to capture some of the Olympics in 3D.

"We could, and I believe should, capture some of the Games in 3D", he said.

"Nobody would expect the Games of 2012 to be comprehensively in 3D because the technology will be nothing like widespread enough; but it would be a shame not to have any images of London that were part of an experiment with what will be one of the next big waves of change."

Sky has gone a step further, announcing in July that it would launch "the UK's first 3D channel" by 2010.

However, Fergal Ringrose - editor of Europe's broadcast technology magazine, TVB Europe, told BBC News that Sky was in a rather unique position and that the majority of broadcasters were still reluctant to embrace 3D TV.

"Sky is going to be broadcasting through its existing high definition infrastructure, through its satellite network and then through the Sky set-top box.

"Very few broadcasters are in the position to control the entire process.

"We did a reader survey on 427 broadcasters across Europe and asked them if 3D TV was on the horizon. Only 15% said yes, and another 20% said they were looking at it as an option.

"That's somewhat underwhelming," he added.

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