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2.4 3D Video

3D cinema has gained wide acceptance in theatres as many movies are now produced in 3D. Flat-panel 3DTV has also been positively received by consumers for watching sports broadcasts and blu-ray movies. Current 3D-video displays are stereoscopic and are viewed by special glasses. Stereo-video formats can be classified as frame-compatible (mainly for broadcast TV) and full-resolution (sequential) formats. Alternatively, multi-view and super multi-view 3D-video displays are currently being developed for autostereoscopic viewing. Multi-view video formats without accompanying depth information require extremely high data rates. Multi-view-plus-depth representation and compression are often preferred for efficient storage and transmission of multi-view video as the number of views increases. There are also volumetric, holoscopic (integral imaging), and holographic 3D-video formats, which are mostly considered as futuristic at this time.

The main technical obstacles for 3DTV and video to achieve much wider acceptance at home are: i) developing affordable, free-viewing natural 3D display technologies with high spatial, angular, and depth resolution, and ii) capturing and producing 3D content in a format that is suitable for these display technologies. We discuss 3D display technologies and 3D-video formats in more detail below.

2.4.1 3D-Display Technologies

A 3D display should ideally reproduce a light field that is an indistinguishable copy of the actual 3D scene. However, this is a rather difficult task to achieve with today’s technology due to very large amounts of data that needs to be captured, processed, and stored/transmitted. Hence, current 3D displays can only reproduce a limited set of 3D visual cues instead of the entire light field; namely, they reproduce:

  • Binocular depth – Binocular disparity in a stereo pair provides relative depth cue. 3D displays that present only two views, such as stereo TV and digital cinema, can only provide binocular depth cue.
  • Head-motion parallax – Viewers expect to see a scene or objects from a slightly different perspective when they move their head. Multi-view, light-field, or volumetric displays can provide head-motion parallax, although most displays can provide only limited parallax, such as only horizontal parallax.

We can broadly classify 3D display technologies as multiple-image (stereoscopic and auto-stereoscopic), light-field, and volumetric displays, as summarized in Figure 2.10. Multiple-image displays present two or more images of a scene by some multiplexing of color sub-pixels on a planar screen such that the right and left eyes see two separate images with binocular disparity, and rely upon the brain to fuse the two images to create the sensation of 3D. Light-field displays present light rays as if they are originating from a real 3D object/scene using various technologies such that each pixel of the display can emit multiple light rays with different color, intensity, and directions, as opposed to multiplexing pixels among different views. Volumetric displays aim to reconstruct a visual representation of an object/scene using voxels with three physical dimensions via emission, scattering, or relaying of light from a well-defined region in the physical (x1, x2, x3) space, as opposed to displaying light rays emitted from a planar screen.

Figure 2.10

Figure 2.10 Classification of 3D-display technologies.

Multiple-Image Displays

Multiple-image displays can be classified as those that require glasses (stereoscopic) and those that don’t (auto-stereoscopic).

Stereoscopic displays present two views with binocular disparity, one for the left and one for the right eye, from a single viewpoint. Glasses are required to ensure that only the right eye sees the right view and the left eye sees the left view. The glasses can be passive or active. Passive glasses are used for color (wavelength) or polarization multiplexing of the two views. Anaglyph is the oldest form of 3D display by color multiplexing using red and cyan filters. Polarization multiplexing applies horizontal and vertical (linear), or clockwise and counterclockwise (circular) polarization to the left and right views, respectively. Glasses apply matching polarization to the right and left eyes. The display shows both left and right views laid over each other with polarization matching that of the glasses in every frame. This will lead to some loss of spatial resolution since half of the sub-pixels in the display panel will be allocated to the left and right views, respectively, using polarized filters. Active glasses (also called active shutter) present the left image to only the left eye by blocking the view of the right eye while the left image is being displayed and vice versa. The display alternates full-resolution left and right images in sequential order. The active 3D system must assure proper synchronism between the display and glasses. 3D viewing with passive or active glasses is the most developed and commercially available form of 3D display technology. We note that two-view displays lack head-motion parallax and can only provide 3D viewing from a single point of view (from the point where the right and left views have actually been captured) no matter from which angle the viewer looks at the screen. Furthermore, polarization may cause loss of some light due to polarization filter absorption, which may affect scene brightness.

Auto-stereoscopic displays do not require glasses. They can display two views or multiple views. Separation of views can be achieved by different optics technologies, such as parallax barriers or lenticular sheets, so that only certain rays are emitted in certain directions. They can provide head-motion parallax, in addition to binocular depth cues, by either using head-tracking to display two views generated according to head/eye position of the viewer or displaying multiple fixed views. In the former, the need for head-tracking, real-time view generation, and dynamic optics to steer two views in the direction of the viewer gaze increases hardware complexity. In the latter, continuous-motion parallax is not possible with a limited number of views, and proper 3D vision is only possible from some select viewing positions, called sweet spots. In order to determine the number of views, we divide the head-motion range into 2 cm intervals (zones) and present a view for each zone. Then, images seen by the left and right eyes (separated by 6 cm) will be separated by three views. If we allow 4-5 cm head movement toward the left and right, then the viewing range can be covered by a total of eight or nine views. The major drawbacks of autostereoscopic multi-view displays are: i) multiple views are displayed over the same physical screen, sharing sub-pixels between views in a predetermined pattern, which results in loss of spatial resolution; ii) cross-talk between multiple views is unavoidable due to limitations of optics; and iii) there may be noticeable parallax jumps from view to view with a limited number of viewing zones. Due to these reasons, auto-stereoscopic displays have not entered the mass consumer market yet.

State-of-the art stereoscopic and auto-stereoscopic displays have been reviewed in [Ure 11]. Detailed analysis of stereoscopic and auto-stereoscopic displays from a signal-processing perspective and their quality profiles are provided in [Boe 13].

Light-Field and Holographic Displays

Super multi-view (SMV) displays can display up to hundreds of views of a scene taken from different angles (instead of just a right and left view) to create a see-around effect as the viewer slightly changes his/her viewing (gaze) angle. SMV displays employ more advanced optical technologies than just allocating certain sub-pixels to certain views [Ure 11]. The characteristic parameters of a light-field display are spatial, angular, and perceived depth resolution. If the number of views is sufficiently large such that viewing zones are less than 3 mm, two or more views can be displayed within each eye pupil to overcome the accommodation-vergence conflict and offer a real 3D viewing experience. Quality measures for 3D light-field displays have been studied in [Kov 14].

Holographic imaging requires capturing amplitude (intensity), phase differences (interference pattern), and wavelength (color) of a light field using a coherent light source (laser). Holoscopic imaging (or integral imaging) does not require a coherent light source, but employs an array of microlenses to capture and reproduce a 4D light field, where each lens shows a different view depending on the viewing angle.

Volumetric Displays

Different volumetric display technologies aim at creating a 3D viewing experience by means of rendering illumination within a volume that is visible to the unaided eye either directly from the source or via an intermediate surface such as a mirror or glass, which can undergo motion such as oscillation or rotation. They can be broadly classified as swept-volume displays and static volume displays. Swept-volume 3D displays rely on the persistence of human vision to fuse a series of slices of a 3D object, which can be rectangular, disc-shaped, or helical cross-sectioned, into a single 3D image. Static-volume 3D displays partition a finite volume into addressable volume elements, called voxels, made out of active elements that are transparent in “off” state but are either opaque or luminous in “on” state. The resolution of a volumetric display is determined by the number of voxels. It is possible to display scenes with viewing-position-dependent effects (e.g., occlusion) by including transparency (alpha) values for voxels. However, in this case, the scene may look distorted if viewed from positions other than those it was generated for.

The light-field, volumetric, and holographic display technologies are still being developed in major research laboratories around the world and cannot be considered as mature technologies at the time of writing. Note that light-field and volumetric-video representations require orders of magnitude more data (and transmission bandwidth) compared to stereoscopic video. In the following, we cover representations for two-view, multi-view, and super multi-view video.

2.4.2 Stereoscopic Video

Stereoscopic two-view video formats can be classified as frame-compatible and full-resolution formats.

Frame-compatible stereo-video formats have been developed to provide 3DTV services over existing digital TV broadcast infrastructures. They employ pixel sub-sampling in order to keep the frame size and rate the same as that of monocular 2D video. Common sub-sampling patterns include side-by-side, top-and-bottom, line interleaved, and checkerboard. Side-by-side format, shown in Figure 2.11(a), applies horizontal subsampling to the left and right views, reducing horizontal resolution by 50%. The subsampled frames are then put together side-by-side. Likewise, top-and-bottom format, shown in Figure 2.11(b), vertically subsamples the left and right views, and stitches them over-under. In the line-interleaved format, the left and right views are again sub-sampled vertically, but put together in an interleaved fashion. Checkerboard format sub-samples left and right views in an offset grid pattern and multiplexes them into a single frame in a checkerboard layout. Among these formats, side-by-side and top-and-bottom are selected as mandatory for broadcast by the latest HDMI specification 1.4a [HDM 13]. Frame-compatible formats are also supported by the stereo and multi-view extensions of the most recent joint MPEG and ITU video-compression standards such as AVC and HEVC (see Chapter 8).

Figure 2.11

Figure 2.11 Frame compatible formats: (a) side-by-side; (b) top-bottom.

The two-view full resolution stereo is the format of choice for movie and game content. Frame packing, which is a supported format in the HDMI specification version 1.4a, stores frames of left and right views sequentially, without any change in resolution. This full HD stereo-video format requires, in the worst case, twice as much bandwidth as that of monocular video. The extra bandwidth requirement may be kept around 50% by using the Multi-View Video Coding (MVC) standard, which is selected by the Blu-ray Disc Association as the coding format for 3D video.

2.4.3 Multi-View Video

Multi-view and super multi-view displays employ multi-view video representations with varying number of views. Since the required data rate increases linearly with the number of views, depth-based representations are more efficient for multi-view video with more than a few views. Depth-based representations also enable: i) generation of desired intermediate views that are not present among the original views by using depth-image based rendering (DIBR) techniques, and ii) easy manipulation of depth effects to adjust vergence vs. accommodation conflict for best viewing comfort.

View-plus-depth has initially been proposed as a stereo-video format, where a single view and associated depth map are transmitted to render a stereo pair at the decoder. It is backward compatible with legacy video using a layered bit stream with an encoded view and encoded depth map as a supplementary layer. MPEG specified a container format for view-plus-depth data, called MPEG-C Part 3 [MPG 07], which was later extended to multi-view-video-plus-depth (MVD) format [Smo 11], where N views and N depth maps are encoded and transmitted to generate M views at the decoder, with NM. The MVD format is illustrated in Figure 2.12, where only 6 views and 6 depth maps per frame are encoded to reconstruct 45 views per frame at the decoder side by using DIBR techniques.

Figure 2.12

Figure 2.12 N-view + N depth-map format (courtesy of Aljoscha Smolic).

The depth information needs to be accurately captured/computed, encoded, and transmitted in order to render intermediate views accurately using the received reference view and depth map. Each frame of the depth map conveys the distance of the corresponding video pixel from the camera. Scaled depth values, represented by 8 bits, can be regarded as a separate gray-scale video, which can be compressed very efficiently using state-of-the-art video codecs. Depth map typically requires 15–20% of the bitrate necessary to encode the original video due to its smooth and less-structured nature.

A difficulty with the view-plus-depth format is generation of accurate depth maps. Although there are time-of-flight cameras that can generate depth or disparity maps, they typically offer limited performance in outdoors environments. Algorithms for depth and disparity estimation by image rectification and disparity matching have been studied in the literature [Kau 07]. Another difficulty is the appearance of regions in the rendered views, which are occluded in the available views. These disocclusion regions may be concealed by smoothing the original depth-map data to avoid appearance of holes. Also, it is possible to use multiple view-plus-depth data to prevent disocclusions [Mul 11]. An extension of the view-plus-depth, which allows better modeling of occlusions, is the layered depth video (LDV). LDV provides multiple depth values for each pixel in a video frame.

While high-definition digital-video products have gained universal user acceptance, there are a number of challenges to overcome in bringing 3D video to consumers. Most importantly, advances in autostereoscopic (without glasses) multi-view display technology will be critical for practical usability and consumer acceptance of 3D viewing technology. Availability of high-quality 3D content at home is another critical factor. In summary, both content creators and display manufacturers need further effort to provide consumers with a high-quality 3D experience without viewing discomfort or fatigue and high transition costs. It seems that the TV/consumer electronics industry has moved its focus to bringing ultra-high-definition products to consumers until there is more progress with these challenges.

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