Televisions: 3D Technology Explained

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October 15, 2012

In the hunt for ever more immersive entertainment experiences, the manufacturers have been slowly advancing technology in the direction of 3D. Many televisions are now being marketed as HD and 3D. But what exactly is 3D television and can it really make a significant difference to the viewing experience?

3D The Theory

3D TV  is also known as Stereoscopic TV which gives a small clue as to how it works. What is actually happening is that the TV is broadcasting two distinct versions of the display simultaneously. When the viewer puts on a pair of 3D glasses one eye is seeing one of the versions and the other is seeing the alternative. The idea is that when these two versions are processed by the brain they give the illusion of depth and immersion into the broadcast.

3D Content

A vital aspect of 3D is the 3D content. Without 3D content you can get no benefit from the glasses because they do not take HD content as such, and make you see it in a way that gives you a 3D effect. 3D content takes two forms: either 3D movies and programmes delivered via a device such as a Blu-ray player, or 3D broadcast TV from the providers, which is more about sports and general entertainment. Some of the big providers such as Sky, now have dedicated 3D channels available via the set-top box.

The distinction between the two is quite important because the type of TV you purchase to display 3D content differs according to what type of 3D content you will be watching.

For watching mainly 3D Blu-ray content you really need what is known as an Active Shutter 3D TV for the ultimate display of a 3D Full HD formatted film. The 3D enabled Samsung plasma televisions are the ideal television for this type of content. Alongside the TV you will also need a pair of bulky and rather expensive 3D glasses to get the best quality experience.

For watching broadcast TV programmes you are better off with passive 3D technology similar to that used in cinemas. Passive 3D technology has been developed  by LG without the emphasis on high-tech glasses. Passive 3D TV screens use a filter with alternating horizontal and vertical stripes, separated by a black, picture-blanking bars. You still need glasses to watch the content but they are less bulky than the active shutter version. They consist of polarising lenses that correspond with the broadcast so that alternate frames are presented to each eye to create a 3D image.Experts also agree that to get the best from the immersive 3D technology you should have at least a 50 inch TV

The Future of 3D

Of course 3D glasses are not only expensive, they are also inconvenient. The ultimate in 3D is to have the experience without the glasses. To this end, technology is being developed and actually already exists in Japan. Known as auto-stereoscopic, it involves building a lenticular lens into the glass panel of the TV instead of using glasses. At the moment there are some issues to be ironed out and the technology itself is cost-prohibitive. No doubt. In the future, the issues will be ironed out and the cost will come down, but for the foreseeable future, we are stuck with 3D glasses.

For the seeker of the ultimate in entertainment experiences, there are some decisions to be made about the type of 3D entertainment they are going for, as well as fairly substantial amounts of money to be laid out. But the technology and the experience is certainly there for the taking.

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