What are the current various 3DTV technologies?

The two main consumer 3D technologies today are passive polarized and active shutter.

Passive polarized displays have a thin film on the surface of the screen which causes the light for one eye’s image to rotate clockwise and the light for the other eye’s image to rotate counterclockwise. The glasses have paired circular-polarized lenses in them so that the left eye only gets the image intended for the left eye, and the same for the right eye.

Active shutter displays rapidly flip between the left eye and the right eye image on the screen; 120 times per second is currently common. Active shutter glasses have liquid crystal lenses and built-in electronics that synch up with the TV. When the TV is showing the image for the right eye, the electronics in the glasses makes the left eye go black so only the right eye sees the image. When the TV is showing the image for the left eye, the electronics in the glasses makes the right eye go black so only the left eye sees the image.

Passive polarized displays are currently more expensive to manufacture than active shutter displays, but passive polarized glasses are much cheaper to manufacture than active shutter glasses.

What specialized equipment is required to produced 3DTV? Will special glasses always be required to view 3DTV?

Auto stereoscopic displays produce a 3D image without glasses, but the viewer must be in a sweet spot to see the effect. Much progress has been made in creating displays with many sweet spots and narrowing the zone between the sweet spot. Many people do not expect auto stereo displays to be ready for the consumer market for at least 5-10 years. Until then, they work amazingly well for capturing people’s attention as marketing displays in public spaces. The one exception to this may be cell phones and laptops. They are normally used by a single person, and people tend to tilt the screen for the best view. So it is a natural first entry point for auto stereoscopic in the consumer market.

Can you elaborate on ETC’s Consumer 3D Experience Program?

The Consumer 3D Experience Lab at the Entertainment Technology Center @ USC is a neutral forum for learning about and discussing the latest resources available for delivering a 3D viewing experience to consumers in the home, on personal devices, and in public spaces. Three dimensional viewing technologies have come a long way since the blue and red paper glasses used to view 3D in the 1950’s. The recent increase in theatrical 3D releases has proven to be extremely popular among consumers, and so it only makes sense for the creative industries to team with product and service providers to develop ways to move that experience into other environments, enabling the consumer to enjoy 3D experiences anytime and anywhere.

Stewart Filmscreen The Consumer 3D Experience Lab showcases the wide range of 3D technical approaches and viewing experiences currently available to consumers. The Lab is a platform for bringing experts together to discuss the creative and technical issues that will define an enjoyable, long-duration 3D viewing experience. The goal of the Lab is to accelerate the convergence of ideas, so that consumers looking for 3D content, products, and services will have a consistent, enjoyable purchasing and viewing experience.

The facility consists of a 3D Living Room for focus groups and private meetings, a 3D Home Theatre containing a consumer-grade 3D projection system, and a 3D Sandbox where all the major consumer 3D content, encoding, and display options are demonstrated.

What is the ETC Consumer 3D Experience Lab used for? What are its benefits?

* educate executives from the member companies and invited guests about current issues and trends related to 3D
* allow members and their guests to test out the latest technologies
* produce events to educate and inform the creative, technical, and business communities, government representatives, and the press (see the Thursday, Jan 7th CES Partner Program; Entertainment Technology @ CES, which the ETC produced)
* research generic (as opposed to vendor-specific) issues related to creative, technical, and health/public policy aspects of 3D. (Note that the ETC does not rank or endorse any particular vendor, product, or technology.)
* bring technical and creative experts together with senior executives to discuss topics of mutual interest
* connect Studio executives with students for frank discussions related to the future of entertainment

Why is 3DTV so popular?

The conversion of the entire infrastructure from analog to digital is a major reason. Alignment of the left eye and right eye images is the key to the long-term enjoyment of 3D. Misalignment of the two images leads to eye strain and headaches. Unlike 3D film capture, 3D digital cameras that are conjoined never fall out of alignment. For widely spaced digital cameras, misalignment can be corrected in post production. Unlike film post production, misalignment, left eye / right eye color balance, and other issues can be easily corrected in the post production digital work flow. Unlike 3D film projectors, which can vibrate out of alignment, or single-strip 3D films, which can warp as they pass through the projector, digital 3D projects are always in alignment and distortion-free.

Also, the widespread adoption of game consoles and PC-based games has placed platforms in the home capable of rendering 3D on the fly. A game can create a 3D experience by rendering a second image of each position during game play. Over 400 videogames currently on the market have a menu option for 3D game play, but they require additional equipment to take advantage of the option.

So because the digital cameras are being used, and the error-correction software is in place, and the digital distribution infrastructure is deployed, and the in-home processing power is in place, it suddenly makes sense for a consumer 3D experience market to emerge.

How soon do you expect to see the consumer market develop for 3DTV?

It will begin rolling in 2010 — mostly early adopters, but since movies, games and now sports will become highly available — that triad makes a compelling consumer proposition. Our research showed that 24% of consumers thought that they would likely buy a 3D TV in the next 3 years. If it’s anywhere close to that, it will be a mass market.

3DTV received a lot of attention at CES this year. Is that the result of real product offerings or are most of them to be released in the future?

Movies, sports, games — it’s all growing dramatically. Avatar has expanded the perception of 3D movies beyond kids films and horror. I think you’ll see a reasonable amount of content in this first year, and 2011 will be a waterfall.

3D video games are highly compelling. The drivers from nVidia and DDD allow you to play current games on 3D TVs. But the new crop of games, starting with Invincible Tiger and then Avatar and beyond, are DESIGNED for 3D, and demonstrate how 3D can add a great deal to the experience.