Introduction to 3D TV’s
In a nutshell, 3D TV is an emerging technology and generic title for the display functionality that allows you to experience TV programs, movies, games, and other video content stereoscopically. What this means is that your eye is given the illusion of depth, a third dimension, instead of the traditional 2D effect which only shows width and height.
Most of us have been to the cinema to watch a 3D movie, and the film Avatar made the experience immensely popular. While this has made electronics companies keener than ever before to bring 3D technology into the home, the fact is that it is still very young in the development stages and currently you will still have to wear glasses to experience the effect. The specific brand and model will determine which type of glasses you will be required for use with your 3D-enabled TV or video projector.
While several manufacturers of home cinema systems have released 3D TV’s, this technology is still years away from being standard in the average home. The main reason for this is that it will mean having to buy a new 3D compatible TV and Blu-ray player.
Another factor is that there’s currently not a great deal of 3D content available, although some experts say this will change within the next three years. The Blu-ray Disc Association has recently approved encoding standards for 3D content, meaning in the future 3D Blu-ray discs will be able to play on any manufacturer’s 3D TV.
How 3D TV’s work
A TV or video projector enabled to display 3D content will present two separate images of the same scene in stereo, meaning one for your right eye and one for your left. These two projections will each be full-screen and appear intermixed. Viewed without 3D specific glasses, objects in one image will appear slightly skewed or repeated over corresponding objects in the second image. It is the glasses that will enable you to perceive them as a single image. Because adult human eyes are generally 2.5 inches apart, each eye sees objects from slightly different angles. Bringing these two angles into a single view creates the illusion of depth. Should you wish to watch normal 2D video content, the 3D feature can be switched off.
The difference between 3D TV’s and older 3D technology
Unlike the traditional experience where you wear a pair of glasses with each lens tinted a different colour to create the 3D effect, the latest 3D TV’s use ‘active liquid crystal shutter glasses’ – these block each eye in sequence at lightning speeds to create the ultimate experience in full colour and high resolution 3 dimensional viewing. The glasses also use electronics to interact with your TV via a Bluetooth or infrared signal. They are currently battery operated, with a typical life span of 80-plus hours.
3D compatibility with the human eye
According to recent studies, approximately 5-10% of a general population suffer from stereo blindness. This means that while in normal circumstances they experience good depth perception, they are not able to perceive depth in 3D video images. These viewers can watch 3D material but will experience only 2D images, and in worst case scenarios a minor percentage will experience side-effects such as eye fatigue or headaches. The majority of people will simply have an orientation moment lasting a few seconds as the image focus snaps into place. For those who wear prescription glasses, the specialised glasses for 3D viewing are compatible as they’re able to be slotted over them. There is however the factor of manufacturers learning to account for children, whose eyes have less of a distance than 2.5 inches.
Currently, a 3D TV and Blue-ray player is only to be found at top end of manufacturers’ product lines, with prices to reflect this. As with the evolution of video cassettes to DVD’s however, this technology is progressing rapidly and looks set to become a must-have addition to your home cinema system in the relatively near future.
Barry Knightly owns a 3D TV and electronics repair business.