Info & Answers
Flip-a-Switch 2D to 3D
Special processing with your new TV lets you view regular content as 3D, but remember it's not native 3D.
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July 27, 2010 by Arlen Schweiger

Now that you’ve bought your spiffy 3D television, you’re probably wondering how to best take advantage of the extra dimension.

You may have heard about, or even seen by now, 3D programming from ESPN, Discovery Channel (that one’s not due out till next year) and DirecTV. Then there are 3D Blu-ray discs, but watching them means you’ll also have to buy a compatible Blu-ray player with HDMI 1.4 technology. Even after that, you might get tired of watching Monsters vs. Aliens, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and My Bloody Valentine (only old anaglyph style) over and over, because there aren’t many other choices in terms of 3D content.

It makes you wonder: Did you just blow a couple thousand dollars upgrading to a TV whose main feature you can’t use?

Let’s not get carried away. So many other technologies, like Blu-ray, were slow to take off, too. And just think about HDTV. A decade ago it suffered from many of the same ailments as the nascent 3D TV trend—limited programming, extra hardware, premium pricing, skepticism among consumers.

Some companies are trying to ease your doubts. They’re talking up technology that provides “real-time 2D-to-3D conversion” of any content at the switch of a menu setting. That way, even if you don’t subscribe to ESPN 3D, you’ll be able to feel like you’re on the field for those Monday Night Football games come September.

Samsung, Panasonic and Toshiba made note of the technology during this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Toshiba planned to include its “TriVector” technology in upcoming Cell TVs, shown as prototypes during CES and expected “later this year.”

Already shipping 3D HDTVs that feature 2D-to-3D conversion, Samsung explained to me: “The process is based on the analysis of hundreds of millions of images that were used to determine what types of image characteristics provide depth information. The TV’s processor looks for those characteristics on a near pixel-by-pixel basis. For example, if an image is brighter or has more detail, it’s more likely to be in the foreground. Larger objects that have less detail can more safely be relegated to the background.”

Makes sense; and yes, expect to see blurry, double images if you’re viewing “3D mode” without the requisite glasses. Samsung adds that the processing works especially well with your crisp high-res photos that can be displayed through the USB port, for extra slideshow pop.

And no, just because you can flip a switch to real-time 3D, don’t expect miracles. Back to analogies, it may be more like upscaled DVDs versus Blu-ray resolution. “The quality of the source material impacts the quality of the 3D imagery,” says Samsung. So think twice before converting the local news because you want a closer look at the pretty anchorwoman.

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Arlen Schweiger - Contributor, Electronic House Magazine
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com and Electronic House magazine.

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