Info & Answers
Past, Present & Future of 3D
Once trendy in the 50s, 3-D is making a comeback with movies, video games and sporting events.
3-D in Home Theater
January 06, 2009 by Dennis P. Barker

Stereoscopic 3-D is the most exciting evolution in cinema presentation since color and widescreen. The question for film-makers is not ‘why 3-D?’, since the reasons are obvious, at least to audiences, and the negatives have all been removed. The question should be ‘how do I make 3-D a part of my art?”  - James Cameron, Film Director.

3-D movies burst on the scene back in the 1950s. We had these funny paper glasses with red and green cellophane lenses which made things pop out of the screen. Sadly, 3-D didn’t last long. Cinerama tried to re-capture the same feeling without glasses, but the format proved to be too technically challenging for the movie studios and cinemas (three curved screens, three cameras and three projectors all in sync).

Recently, however, 3-D has made a resurgence at the movies with films like “Beowulf,” “Chicken Little,” “Meet The Robinsons,” “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” and “Bolt,” among others, utilizing new stereoscopic 3-D technology. New polarized glasses have been employed to reduce eye strain. Polarized lenses only allow light waves to the left and right eyes individually, which creates the depth of the 3-D illusion. And, I have to say that these films have been very impressive!

Both the NBA (2007 All Star Game) and the NFL (Chargers/Raiders regular season game) have experimented with 3-D broadcasts (theater or via closed circuit) and both received decent reviews. Fox Sports will broadcast college football’s championship game in 3-D at CES later this week.

A market research firm (Quixel Research) recently found that three-fourths of consumers have seen a 3-D movie with 3-D glasses and nearly 75-percent would recommend a 3-D experience to family and friends.

Here’s a look at the types of 3-D available and the manufacturers behind the technologies.

Stereoscopic 3-D (Glasses-based)
Concurrent with this renewed interest at movie theaters, 3-D has also entered the home thanks to innovative algorithms from Texas Instruments’ DLP technology that allows viewers to watch select films and video games in 3-D with glasses. Texas Instruments released DLP 3-D Technology in early 2007. The DLP 3-D Technology uses an innovative format that allows for the left and right images to be combined into a single frame on displays with 120 Hz refresh rate. This format preserves the horizontal and vertical resolution of the left and right views, and enables superior viewing experiences.

In order to configure the TV to 3-D mode, consumers need to purchase a 3-D Accessory Kit (available for $129 from Samsung). In the case of Samsung, the kit was produced with its partner—DDD. The kit contains a pair of LCD shutter glasses, an infrared emitter that connects to the HDTV, and PC software.  These special glasses utilize shutters that open and close every 1/60th of a second allowing a 120Hz HDTV to show left eye images at 1/60th a second (or 60Hz) and right eye images at 1/60th of a second (or 60Hz) so that there won’t be any flicker, which causes eye strain. After installing the software to a capable PC, the PC needs to be connected to the HDTV using a DVI to HDMI, or HDMI to HDMI cable (depending upon the consumer’s PC graphics card). Then you need to place the TV in 3-D mode and you’re ready to go.

Besides rear projection DLP TVs (with over 500,000 models sold so far) from Mitsubishi and Samsung (Series 6 and 7 DLP TV), Samsung has also been able to carry 3-D technology to its plasma displays (their Series 4 models). All models are 120Hz 1080p TVs. 

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Dennis P. Barker - Contributing Writer
Dennis has been involved with Consumer Electronics forever it seems. His 25+-year career includes a 12-year tour of duty at Consumer Reports magazine, as well as stints as a product reviewer, market analyst, technical editor, and consultant for the electronics industry. He lives in Ossining, NY with his two children, one demanding cat and piles of A/V equipment.

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