Inter BEE 2010: A New Era of Video? Futuristic technologies and products giving high frame rates -- are they nearly upon us?
Inter BEE 2010 (main sponsor: Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association) was held at Makuhari Messe (Chiba City, Chiba) from January 17 to 19, and had as its main focus recent 3D technologies. Waiting in the wings were the technologies and products that will provide us with the video of the future. While not immediately available for use in broadcasting, they may well be effective tools in making next-generation broadcasting technologies a reality. (Koji Suginuma, Visual Communications Journal)
■ 3D in Full Bloom
Overseas broadcasting exhibitions such as NAB and IBC featured a surprisingly small number of 3D-related products. It was by no means a case of the industry not being interested, or it not being the right time -- the products simply weren't on show. While there was an emphasis on imaging and displays, it seemed that little attention was paid to the multifarious component technologies that bring us 3D video.
The situation at Inter BEE was very different, with 3D exhibits at every turn, and every company present showing off their own equipment. 3D is starting to make inroads into fields in which it has until now not been seen. An example of this is IMAGICA DIGIX, which is presenting a virtual studio that can achieve 3D while using current cameras. Even using crane cameras that have not been adapted for 3D, a background created using 2D-3D conversion can provide video that has a feeling of depth. This is one example by which 3D can be delivered even without needing to transition all equipment over to this format.
The Sony booth exhibited 2D/3D conversion software, which uses focusing blur to determine distance, and thus create a 3D effect. This is an upgrade of the technology in their Bravia consumer televisions, and has already shown outstanding results in the FIFA world cup. This software operates on the MPE-200 multi-image processor. New functions are provided by installing new software in the MPE-200, which uses a cell processor -- an excellent example of providing new functionality through software updates.
This year's Inter BEE presented a range of imaginative processing methods which provide ways in which to achieve 3D. Their significance is that the creation of 3D content is possible even if not all hardware has been made 3D-capable. It is thought that the appearance of this equipment and software is a major result of this year's Inter BEE.
■ The return of FED
This year's Inter BEE saw the return of field emission displays (FED), exhibited in the FETJ booth.
FEDs output electrons from nano-sized cones, and these illuminate phosphors. Whereas a CRT has a single (or in some cases, 3) electron guns, which emit electron beams to illuminate phosphor scan lines, a FED has as many as 10,000 of these illuminating each pixel. Imagine a great number of miniature CRTs lined up together.
FEDs use phosphors for illumination, giving them lighting characteristics close to those of CRTs. In LCDs, pixels can remain lit in between frames, and their cumulative effect can lead to blurring in moving parts of the picture. In FEDs, phosphors are illuminated to their maximum by the electron emissions providing high initial brightness which rapidly drops off, meaning there is little cumulative effect, and little ghosting.
Furthermore, FEDs do not use scanning, so there is no electron beam to be manipulated. Steering the beam requires a certain amount of time, making it difficult to attain high scanning rates on CRTs.
Absent this limitation, FEDs can achieve high frame rates in excess of 60 fps, and 240 fps video has been demonstrated.
FETJ exhibiting here was established in order to assist in the manufacture and marketing of FEDs after Sony spinoff FE Technologies sold off its technical assets to Taiwanese company AU Optronics. This company has on its staff many of the same employees from the former FE Technologies. The company is aiming to release to market broadcasting and medical monitors in 2011, and hopes to have prototypes on exhibit at next year's Inter BEE.
■ 120 Hz-capable UDR
The Keisoku Giken booth had on show their latest UDR-40S-DV uncompressed video recorder/player, capable of 4k x 2k@120P (12 bit) output. This is a brand-new product, only just released on November 4.
With the exception of high-speed video recording, 3D is the only application that currently requires 120 fps 4k x 2k digital cinema resolution. In the world of digital cinema, 3D requires more than 24 fps, meaning there is a drive towards increased frame rates. When projecting in digital cinema, the same frame is projected 3 times for each eye, but given that this is the same frame, this should not be interpreted as meaning this is a high frame rate. Increasing the frame rate essentially means increasing the data rate, requiring servers and players that can provide data at a rate faster than hitherto possible, and this latest device is capable of meeting these demands.
As with conventional UDR, this model also supports multiple device connections, and 4k x 2k@240P operation is also possible even at these times. This high frame rate is one proposal, and shows much promise for use in future research and device development.
Additionally, if the bit depth is dropped to 8 bits, even higher frame rates are possible. The BBC has proposed high frame rates of 300 fps, however, much BBC research is focused upon the use of film and high-speed cameras, and verification of their claims is difficult. Introduction of the new UDR will simplify decisions into which frame rate is best while actually viewing the image.
Some research into increasing frame rates at HD resolution has been carried out, but this has only just started for 4k x 2k and super hi-vision resolutions (8k x 4k). Meeting both current demands for recording and playback of high-speed video, and future demands for research into high frame rates has led to the birth of a groundbreaking recording and playback device.
■ Stereo high-speed shooting
NAC Image Technology is known for its high-speed cameras, and is also active in the field of 3D. This year, the company is exhibiting 3D video shooting equipment using the Hi-Motion high-speed camera.
This exhibit featured two Hi-Motion cameras mounted on the rig. 3D video shooting is proceeding at full speed, and a natural development is that this will also move towards high-speed shooting. High-speed video is frequently used in scientific video, and increasing the expressive power of 3D is expected to provide a heightened sense of presence.
However, there are as yet few actual examples of the visual relationship between 3D and high-speed, and actual produced works are few. Sharing information and building up experience within the industry are required in order to avoid discomfort and to ensure safety.
■ Higher frame rates...
Cameras, recording and playback equipment, and displays are all heading towards 60 fps or better. Until now, 60 fps video has in a sense been partly fixed. However, recent research has put forth the problem that the optimum frame rate may differ depending on the expected viewing angle and visual distance. For SDTV, this is thought to be about 5 degrees, for HDTV (full hi-vision) about 30 degrees, and for super hi-vision 100 degrees. As a result, visual distances of approximately 6H (H being picture height), 3H, and 0.75H are being planned. These variable environments mean that the formerly fixed 60 Hz fixed frame rate may need reconsideration. However, even with researchers up until now developing their own research equipment, testing has not been straightforward.
The equipment supporting high frame rates that have appeared at Inter BEE hold much interest for researchers, whose quest for optimum frame rates continues. This will surely result in even better image quality in the future.
(Description of photographs)
Photo 1: FETJ's FED can provide 240 fps display. This is expected to be released as a product for broadcasting and industrial purposes.
Photo 2: NAC Image Technology receives an Emmy for its Hi-Motion high-speed camera. The exhibit showed these mounted on a 3D rig.
Photo 3: Keisoku Giken's latest UDR-40S-DV uncompressed recorder/player supports 4k x 2k at 120 fps. The colorful indicator on the panel was the idea of the company president.