3D TV Technology
Hi, my name is Martin, and I'm a film and home cinema enthusiast. I've been tinkering about with home cinema and audio equipment for over 15 years. I'm not a pro in the AV industry, but I have a background in Physics and I work in software development, so I have a good head for technical stuff.
After the first 5 minutes of Avatar 3D in the cinema I was completely sold on the 3D-movie experience. And I knew that I wanted to reproduce that experience in my home. I am confident that 3D technology will bring a revolution in UK home cinemas, and in the living rooms of the mass market. And I am excited!
But the technology is new, and it's pretty complex. There are multiple ways to make 3D work at home, and some technologies are better than others.
I set up this site to provide the information I think every consumer should know before they invest in 3D TV technology.
How does 3D work?
Before we get into the details of the different types of 3D TV technology, it's good to have an understanding of how 3D works... Understanding the basics makes it much easier to understand the fancy technologies that build on them.
3D vision is possible because we have two eyes that view the world from a slightly different perspective. Our brains take these two views and combine them together into a single 3D view.
3D TV and cinema technology works by providing slightly different images to the left and right eyes, simulating what the two eyes would see in the real world. The brain is essentially tricked into thinking that it's looking at a 3D object.
The 3 Main Types of 3D Technology
There's anaglyph 3D technology (pretty rubbish), polarized 3D technology (used in cinemas), active 3D technology (the one most commonly used for home 3D), and parallax-barrier 3D technology (maybe the 3D technology of the future). All are essentially just different ways to feed different images to each eye:
Anaglyph 3D technology with red & blue glasses - pretty rubbish really
Anaglyph technology has been around for a long time. The two images are coloured differently such that, when you wear glasses with different colour filters on each eye, one eye can only see one image, and the other can only see the other.
It works, even on standard colour TVs (provided you have the right glasses), but it doesn't work particularly well. The images you see don't have full colour (because of the colour filtering necessary to separate out the two images) and things tend to look a bit fuzzy.
Polarized 3D technology (sometimes called "passive 3D technology")
This is the technology that's typically used by cinemas to show modern 3D films like Avatar or Alice in Wonderland. It works well, and the required glasses are cheap and light.
Passive 3D isn't the mainstream technology for home 3D television, but it is a serious option that could become more and more important in the future.
Active 3D technology using shutter glasses
Active 3D is currently the mainstream technology for home 3D television. Most of the major television manufacturers have active 3D TV models either released or in the pipeline.
The technology works well, but it requires each viewer to wear "shutter glasses", which are heavier and more expensive than the polarized glasses required for passive 3D.
Parallax barrier technology - 3D without glasses - not as great as it sounds
Parallax barrier 3D technology is becoming fairly popular on personal devices like handheld gaming systems. The beauty of it is that you don't need glasses, but the problem with most implementations is that you have to look at the screen from exactly the right position to be able to see the 3D effects. Because of this limitation, it's not yet a practical option for home 3D television, but there are signs that this might change over the next few years as manufacturers work on clever ways to make the technology work from a wider range of viewing angles.
Practicalities - Which 3D Technology to Choose?
The practical choice is really just between passive technology (polarized) and active technology (shutter glasses). Both have their pros and cons.