We observe the world in 3-D, so it is natural that we would want to view our movies and television, just as we see the things around us. 3-D television affords us this opportunity by making the images so life-like that we feel that we have stepped into the action.
The first 3-D television series was created by Sony in Japan earlier this year with ten episodes of a show titled, Tokyo Control, the concept of which is based on air traffic control. We do not yet have a 3-D television series in the U.S., but broadcasters are getting ready, and Direct TV has placed a satellite in orbit, which will be able to support 3-D content.
Of course, you will still have to have a 3-D capable HDTV to play back in 3-D. Technological advances are moving forward, but extensive programming availability will depend on the number of 3-D television sets in use.
Today, most 3-D televisions are used to watch Blu-ray 3-D DVDs. IHS Screen Digest reports that over 3 million 3-D Blu-ray movies have been sold in the U.S. since the middle of last year, which is exceptional considering the small number of titles available.
The impact of 3-D today is compared to the transition of Black and white to color. You no longer will just watch TV, but you will experience it, as you become immersed in the realistic world of 3-D.
Just because you own a 3-D television does not mean that you cannot watch 2-D, as you always have, but some of the 3-D TVs will convert 2-D to 3-D, such as Samsung, where all you have to do is hit the “3-D” button on the remote, and put on the Samsung active shutter glasses, but don’t expect a true 3-D experience. We will be exposed to two types of 3-D images, native and virtual. Native 3-D is content filmed using 3-D cameras, while virtual 3-D is material filmed in 2-D but converted to 3-D by a high-definition TV.
Because we have two eyes facing forward and those eyes are separated by a few inches, each eye perceives an object slightly different from the other. This difference is what enables us to perceive depth and distance. Therefore, to view a 3-D movie, it must be filmed by two cameras, spaced closely together, capturing the left and right eye images, or by a camera with dual lens, such as the Panasonic AG-3DA1 dual lens camera, in order to trick the brain into thinking it sees the same images as in real life. Since the television screen is flat with no dimension to it, we must use special glasses to capture the dual images as one.
There are two categories of 3-D technology, one using active shutter glasses and the other using passive glasses. The television manufacturer determines the type of glasses needed to view their 3-D content. It is important to note that when deciding on a 3-D television, you will need to find the technology that makes your viewing the most comfortable, and just as important, stay with the same television brand from room to room so that the glasses are compatible with each of your televisions.
The most advanced technology is called alternate frame sequencing with active shutter glasses, as these glasses are an active part of the viewing experience. These glasses communicate wirelessly with the television through an emitter in the TV, which tells the lens in the glasses when to open and close. It sounds weird, but this shuttering happens so fast that your eyes do not even notice it, and this technology is better than what you view in the theater. There are some drawbacks to this technology, as the glasses are expensive at $120.00 and up, and the glasses need batteries to operate, so you need to keep a few extra batteries around. Image your distress if your glasses stop functioning in the middle of a Bruce Willis action sequence.
Shutter glasses only work with the sets, for which they were designed. Panasonic and Mitsubishi are trying to set a standard called M-3DI, so that all shutter glasses work with all brands of shutter televisions. Be vigilant when cleaning shutter glasses. They can be easily damaged if you use too much pressure. Read the instructions carefully.
LG, Samsung and Sony, which comprise 85% of the market use passive polarized glasses. These glasses are just like the ones used in theaters, so there are no batteries and they are easy to replace at a low cost of around $12.00. You can easily stock up on them if you are having a Super Bowl party, or showing the latest 3-D movie. With polarized glasses, there are two images projected 90 degrees to the other. Polarizing glasses consist of two polarizing films that allow light of different polarizations through. As a result, each eyepiece allows the polarized image through, combining the two images to result in 3-D.
Of course the ideal situation is not to have glasses at all. This is called autostereoscopic display, which relies on special optical elements, such as lenticular lenses, built-in to the television so that each eye of the viewer receives a different image, producing the illusion of 3-D. LG and Philips have such a television sets, but the technology has some serious drawbacks, as you can only maximize the 3-D effect at a set distance from the TV, and you might experience eye strain if you watch TV for an extended period of time.
Pro-AnaTM ProX style passive polarized glasses is a new technology designed for flat screens, and they fit over most prescription eyeglasses. With these glasses, there is less ghosting, and they are larger than the older glasses. They can be purchased from Amazon.com. If you wear eyeglasses, it might be difficult to find 3-D shutter glasses that fit comfortably, so you should try them before making a purchase. One company that says their glasses should fit over eyeglasses is XPAND, which are available at Amazon, Best Buy and Sears. The XPAND Universal 3D Glasses™ is blend of state-of-the-art LCD technology, high-performance software, and simple, comfortable lightweight frames that work in combination to deliver games, movies, pictures, and graphics in the highest quality 3D. By being an active solution with fast switching speed, there are no headaches, ghosting, or eyestrain often associated with some other 3D solutions.
Before purchasing any 3-D television, view the image from where you would normally sit at home, because the viewing angle varies from set to set, and the critical viewing angle might be as narrow as 30 degrees from center. The off-center image will deteriorate due to how our brain perceives the images. This effect has nothing to do with your set. While both LCD and Plasma 3D TVs will be pleasing for viewing 3D content, plasma 3D TVs retain the advantage in the question of viewing angles. The manufacturers of passive viewing 3-D televisions, such as LG, claim a wide viewing angle.
You might hear the expression, LED-LCD televisions. LED televisions are really just LCD televisions that use LED lights for back lighting instead of the fluorescent lighting, which is normally used to backlight the LCD panels. Both employ the LCD technology in the front panel. LED TVs feature two forms of back lighting, edge and local dimming. Edge lighting has LEDs around the edge of the panel, while local dimming backlighting features banks of LED lights behind the panel, which can be controlled for higher contrast and blacker blacks.
LCD panels work by creating dark tones by blocking the backlight passing through the panel. Blocking the light has never been a good way to display blacks. With LED backlighting the light is dimmed, presenting darker blacks. With edge LED lighting, instead of backlight dimming, the whites will be brighter, but there is no control over the backlighting.
Capturing fast paced action is a function of response time and refresh rate in LCD and LED televisions. Compare these rates when making a purchase. The cost might be a consideration, but go for a TV that has a 240 Hz or 480 Hz refresh rate. The response time is the amount of time it takes for one pixel to go from active (black) to inactive (white) and back to black again. Look for a low response time, such as 4ms.
We no sooner buy a HDTV, when the industry unleashes Smart TV and 3-D. It could be very expensive to keep up with all of today’s television technology, but it is well worth it, as home entertainment has become a integral part of our lives. Just imagine the World Series or the Super Bowl in 3-D, not to mention Jersey Shores. I said not to mention it.
All though 3-D television is an emerging technology, it will be main stream sooner than we expect, as 3-D cameras are improved and all television sets will be capable of reproducing 3-D accurately. Obviously, 3-D televisions are expensive now, but like all new technology, the prices will become reasonable as more viewers step up to enjoy the wonders of the world around us. I look forward to the advancements, which will put forward great images without the glasses.