The added demands of 3D programming were bound to hasten the transition from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4, and now Engadget HD is reporting that Comcast will rely solely on MPEG-4 to deliver 3D signals starting in August. At the moment, Comcast transmits ESPN’s 3D broadcasts in both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, but later this summer the MSO will drop the MPEG-2 stream and ask any 3D subscribers not using an MPEG-4 set-top to make the upgrade.
Meanwhile, Motorola encoder shipments suggest that more MPEG-4 broadcasts are on the way. In Q4 of 2009, shipments of MPEG-4 encoders outpaced shipments of the MPEG-2 variety. The MPEG-4 advantage means more content delivered and less bandwidth needed. It also means that DVRs can hold more video per gigabyte of space. Combined with growing hard drives sizes, this is a promising development for DVR households.
One final note – for those operators not ready to drop MPEG-2 just yet, it is possible to continue delivering frame-compatible 3D to older set-tops. Motorola set-top software even makes it possible to address challenges like closed captioning and program guide support, which otherwise can cause problems in frame-compatible transmissions.