29 Feb 2012

So you finally have a 3D monitor/TV or you were thinking about going the 3D route.. Think no more, 3D is here to stay and not a gimmick.  Many people consider 3D a passing fad, one that will eventually go the way of the 8-track.  However, the reality is that until you have experienced it, you really do not realize that it truly is the next dimension (literally) in the TV viewing experience.  

Granted there are many people out there, something in the range of 10% or more of the population that can't even perceive 3D for various reasons.  There are also those that seem to become sickened by the 3D experience.  If you aren't one of these people then you should be in for a treat, especially over time as the 3D content grows.

In this 3D guide and overview we will cover various aspects of 3D for the home and some 3D tips based on my own personal experience as well.  Yes I've done 3D and it really is worth having, more on my own experience later.  This article is more of a grand overview, with a sprinkling of specifics. 

How 3D Works

Lets begin by discussing how your eyes work.  Because, after all, we see in 3D.  Our eyes work in this manner:  Your left and right eye see 2 different images, then they are processed by the brain for depth, resulting in a 3D (three-dimensional) image.

Example:  Hold your index finger in front of you, as you are looking at your finger, close one eye at a time.  Your left eye sees a different image than right eye.  Your brain is using something called Stereopsis to translate these two into depth perception and 3D.

3D Viewing Technology

With a 3D TV or computer monitor, stereoscopy is used to do the 3D rendering.  Two separate images, one for your left eye and the other for your right are shown on the flat surface.  So now we need a way to view these two images and turn them into 3d, the first option that we are all familiar with is Anaglyph glasses.

Anaglyph (color filtering) is the old-school red and blue glasses.  That is where you have two lenses with different colors, usually red and cyan, and the images have two color layers, superimposed, one for the left and one for the right.  Using the Anaglyph glasses you then see a stereoscopic image.  Theaters and many newer home TV's use Passive 3D glasses.

Passive glasses use polarization to generate 3D images.  These polarized glasses block the left and right eye images like polarized sunglasses block out glare.  Polarization uses left and right images on a polarized screen and the glasses separate the images.  The glasses use lenses that filter out light waves only at certain angles (each lens is polarized differently). 

As outlined below in "3D Viewing Technology", most of the passive technology in newer TV's that use Passive glasses result in reduced resolution for the final 3D image, though it is possible with other types of polarization to not loose resolution.  The general rule of thumb is that for a better 3D experience, go with Active Shutter Glasses.

Active shutter glasses are the more common type of glasses used with home 3D TVs.  The 3D source, such as a Blu-ray player or your gaming console will display left and right images on the 3D TV.  Each eye's lens in the glasses becomes dark as voltage is applied, but is largely transparent.  The glasses can be controlled via infared, radio, DLP-Link or a Bluetooth transmitter.  The transmitter will send the signal that allows the glasses to darken over each eye, alternating back and forth which do so in sync with the refresh rate of the display screen, often 120 Hz or 120 frames per second, 60 to each eye.  At the same time, the display shows different perspectives for each eye consequently generating the desired effect of each eye seeing only the image it was intended to see. 

Below is an outline of the types of 3D viewing technology, ranging from shutter glasses to glass-less (autostereoscopic) variety.  I've included the autostereoscopic/glass-less technology for completeness in the table below.  Our primary focus here is on the glasses variety, however, as the glasses free technology hasn't quite penetrated the market enough for common use yet.


We continue the discussion in Part 2 (3D Televisions and HDMI)

 Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Sources:  Wikipedia, AdvancedTelevision

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