Hollywood Moves on 3D Effort – The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) has formed a task force to define a stereo 3D mastering standard for content viewing in the home. There are currently two competing professional formats for theatrical showings and several different ones for home viewing on DVD or broadcast. SMPTE’s 3D Home Display Formats Task Force will report on the issues, challenges and suggested minimum standards for a 3D content format for the home. It will not address hardware issues or mobile video systems – the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) are investigating that 3D area.  

A variety of 3D display makers will demonstrate their offerings at the group’s first meeting in LA on August 19.  It is unclear how long the work of defining common 3D codecs for TVs and computers could take; a VP of engineering for SMPTE predicted from 18 to 30 months after getting the Task Force report. “It took a quarter century to bring high definition to the home, but I hope 3D doesn’t take that long,” she said.  The timing is right for starting on 3D for the home due to consumers moving away from analog CRTs to digital flat-panel displays, which makes the engineering easier.  The theatrical market – where improved 3D is being exposed first – is relatively small (less than 100,000 theaters worldwide) compared to the wide variety of networks and devices that will carry and play 3D content for consumers in their homes.

Inexpensive HD Radio
– Regular radio today is getting stiff competition from satellite radio and digital audio files which have replaced standard FM radios in many cars and homes. HD radio was launched with the idea of providing improved audio quality [not proven…Ed.] but free programming.  However, you still need to purchase a new HD Radio receiver, and most are quite expensive.  Budget audio provider Coby Electronics has come up with two solutions: the HDR-650 HD radio tuner at $99 and the HDR-700 portable HD radio at$149.  The tuner plugs into any home component system or the Aux input of the simplest boom box. The portable is the first HD radio running on an internal rechargeable battery and is said to have a splash-proof case.

Audiophiles Abandoning CDs, Survey Claims
– A recent voting feature at Stereophile magazine’s web site asked users how they listened to digital music. [So right there vinyl was eliminated from the possibilities. Also, keep in mind these are online computer-savy readers – a somewhat different group from the print magazine…Ed.]  The results showed that 34% still use CD players as their primary music source, with 11% using a SACD, DVD-Audio or universal player. [That’s encouraging!…Ed.]  But 36% use a computer-based server and 10% a dedicated server such as Squeezebox.

Three “Mummy” Blu-rays Street Today
– Universal has released new Blu-ray versions of all three of the Mummy franchise films which had been released earlier on the now-defunct HD DVD format. The differences between the two formats were found to be negligible in other comparisons, but word is that the Blu-rays show a vast improvement in picture and especially audio quality.  All three have a DTS-HD track which makes the previous tracks sound weak. There are also additional special features over the HD DVD versions of The Mummy and The Mummy Returns – though not on The Scorpion King [which is such an awful movie who cares? We’ll have reviews of the first two soon…Ed.]