Gamers looking forward to using the PlayStation 3 as a 3D Blu-ray player could be faced with a few limitations when the system’s BD 3D capabilities go live in October.
A piece in the Blu-ray 3D spec contains language that indicates the PS3 cannot handle 3D playback and BD-J at the same time:
As defined in Part 3-1 Section 8.2.4, the Existing Game Console does not support the BD-J application environment during Stereoscopic Output Mode. Therefore, in order to maintain compatibility with the Existing Game Console, the First Playback Title will be authored such that:
1) it will not execute a BD-J application that depends on Stereoscopic Output Mode for successful execution; and
2) it will execute a BD-J or HDMV application that, when run on a 3D Game Console, directly or indirectly(*) activates an HDMV Title to play the relevant Stereoscopic PlayList(s) in Stereoscopic Mode.
The document goes on to describe how developers can fake 3D menus and subtitles using 2D with a 3D depth value (“1plane+offset”), instead of a true 3D experience.
So why is this necessary, given the high performance of the PS3 when it comes to Blu-ray playback?
The most likely answer, based on discussions I’ve had with developers, comes down to the Cell Processor’s chip design. One of the secrets behind the PS3′s pep has been the Cell Processor’s helper cores. The main CPU core takes care of the 1080p video decode while the 8 smaller ones have plenty of bandwidth to handle lossless audio and BD-Java. When you introduce the load of a second 1080p stream to the mix, something has to go and it looks like it’s going to be BD-Java. Of course, there is a possibility that by refining and optimizing their code Sony may be able to add these features in the future, but as it stands it’s not looking good. While this may be a cause for celebration for some home theater enthusiasts who are always annoyed by Java loading time, I have to wonder how this will affect Fox’s output, since for them Java-based BD+ copy protection is mandatory.
Does this matter for the bigger Blu-ray 3D picture? Maybe; maybe not. Most users probably won’t even notice on the current titles, but with more elaborate 3D features on the horizon, it’s certainly something that could tarnish the PS3′s reputation as one of the best Blu-ray players on the market.
We reached out to representatives of Sony Computer Entertainment for clarification on the matter, but haven’t gotten a response yet. If they have any further insights, comments, or rebuttals, we’ll be sure to report them here.