10 Reasons 3D Might Fail

10 Reasons 3D Might Fail

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10 Reasons 3D Might Fail
eCoustics.com's Brian Mitchell presents ten reasons why consumers might not buy into a 3D experience at home.

Will we all watch 3D TV in the future, or will it remain a niche product meant for science fiction movies, video games, or special sporting events?

As we've seen with the breakout success of "AVATAR," there is definitely consumer willingness to enjoy 3D at the movies. But it is still an open question whether consumers will buy a 3D experience for the home.

Here are ten reasons why in-home 3D TV may never achieve mass market appeal.

1. Glasses - Need I say more. Who wants to buy them, keep track of them, or even wear them? Are you eager to wear geeky 3D glasses and sit silently in front of a TV in a darkened room every night?

2. TV Watching is Social - Home TV watching is, in many ways, a social experience. You watch with your family or friends with the lights on. You may talk about the show or something else. Multitaskers may even be on the Internet, chatting, tweeting or texting from their phone. 3D viewing abruptly alters the social nature of TV watching.

3. Compatibility - Think the brand new flat-panel TV you bought recently will show 3D? Think again. You will need to upgrade just about everything, including the cables.

4. Lack of content - Even if you are fortunate enough to buy a 3D TV when they first come out, along with a 3D Blu-ray player, you won't have much to watch. Even if you could watch more, what do you really have to watch in 3D?

5. Confusion - 3D adds a new layer of complexity to the already complicated TV, satellite/cable, DVD player hook-up process. New technical 3D jargon will further confuse consumers. There are currently different ways to capture and display 3D, which can require different types of glasses and/or equipment. Confused yet? So am I.

6. Health risks - 3D viewing can induce headaches, disorientation, nausea, or eye-strain for some people. 3D tricks the brain and puts your eyes through a serious workout. Nobody knows yet, since there have been no major studies what, if any, long-term effects extensive 3D watching may cause.

7. Unwatchable 3D Footage - 3D video is unwatchable without special glasses. If you were told right now your TV would only work if you wore special glasses, how many of those TVs do you think would sell? It's the same question consumers will answer with their purse strings.

8. Just-Good-enough Syndrome - This is not a disease, but many people are quite happy with their new flat-panel TV purchase of recent years. At the same time, everything is not yet broadcast in full HD, and the majority are still happy with regular DVD quality. Even the Blu-ray market has yet to take off. Convincing consumers to adopt a new format may be a tough sell.

9. Discs are dying - No funerals please. With improved streaming capabilities and greater digital home storage, inevitably discs will be replaced with on-demand streaming. It may take another decade, but how we consume media will likely not include discs. This isn't necessarily bad for 3D, but it takes 2-4 times more storage and greater download speeds to stream 3D. Bandwidth limitations are likely to be an issue.

10. History Lessons - Bringing sweeping change to home TV watching takes time, a very long time. It took HDTV about 20 years to achieve market dominance with the help of a government mandate. For better or worse, I don't expect government involvement this time. The electronics and entertainment industries will have their work cut out for them.

(from January 31, 2010)

For a different opinion, read the following rebuttal:

—> 10 Reasons 3D Will Succeed (April 15)
Why 3D will find an important niche in the home theater experience — by Stephen Hopkins (followed by reader comments)
(bonus article #1 below)

Explaining 3D Formats
Due to the high speed of the 1920 x 1080 signal at 120Hz, extra care must be taken in cable bandwidth, connections, crimps and bending to introduce bit errors.

— by George Walter of cepro.com
(George Walter is vice president of home cinema at Digital Projection Inc., which offers 3-chip DLP systems)

Extraordinary 3D is all about creating the best environment and equipping it with powerful 3D displays capable of delivering a truly immersive experience.

In the world of 3D entertainment, the believability of the experience is everything.

Let's take a look at the more advanced levels of 3D display technology available for home use.

Low Tech: 3D via Anaglyph 3D:
Due to the limited number of true 3D TVs currently in homes, the delivery of television-based 3D content has had to rely on the anaglyph 3D process.

Viewed in 2D mode, the images look like "double vision" with one image having a cyan tint and the other image having a red tint. Anaglyph content is viewed using matching glasses, which have a cyan filter as the lens for the left eye, and a red filter as the lens for the right eye.

Through the anaglyph viewing process, the cyan content is only seen by the viewer's left eye and the red content is only seen by the viewer's right eye. This is the simplest and least expensive 3D delivery method and provides the least dynamic 3D experience.

The cyan and red filters tend to distort the color accuracy of the 3D content. Thus, while anaglyph 3D technology does allow 3D content to be delivered to any television in any home, it is generally considered to provide a 3D experience that is far from state of the art.

Mid Tech: 3D DLP for TVs:
The first 3D DLP consumer displays were introduced in 2007 as rear-screen single-chip TVs. Using the inherent speed of the DLP's micro mirrors technology, the displays transmit left and right eye imagery separately for stereoscopic imaging with high-quality 3D glasses.

Consumer-level 3D DLP TVs enlist a specific technology referred to as checkerboard imaging. For example, the red squares of the checkerboard represent the right eye, and the black square represents the left eye. In this fashion, full 1080p images can be displayed without the need for expanded bandwidth.

The images are displayed 60Hz right eye and 60Hz left eye (equivalent to 120Hz). Since every other pixel is dedicated to either the left or the right eye, the resolution of each single eye image is only half the native resolution of the 3D television. While this does sacrifice image quality, no additional system bandwidth is required to support signal distribution.

The high-speed LCD shutter glasses allow the appropriate left eye information to transmit to the left eye and right eye information to transmit to the right eye. Thus, total left and right eye signal can equal full 1920 x 1080, if that is the native resolution of the 3D TV.

High Tech: Active 3D Projectors:
The latest 3-chip 3D projectors use a more advanced technology capable of supporting full Active 3D whereby a 120Hz signal is fed to the projector (full 1920 x 1080 60Hz, left; full 1920 x 1080 60Hz, right), and the right eye and left eye are displayed sequentially. Once again, high-speed LCD shutter glasses are used and synchronized with the projector via an IR emitter, blocking the right eye when left eye content is displayed, and vice versa.

The signal requirement is that you either need a high-speed dual link DVI cable to transmit 120Hz full HD signals to the projector from the source or two standard DVI/HDMI cables - one for the right eye content, one for the left eye content.

HDMI 1.4 looks to reduce this to a single cable. Due to the high speed of the 1920 x 1080 signal at 120Hz, extra care must be taken in cable bandwidth, connections, crimps and bending so as not to introduce bit errors.

There are several DLP two-piece consumer projection systems and flat-panel displays that advertise 3D capability, but they do so only at reduced resolutions. By reducing the resolution, the electronics and response times are greatly simplified. Most gaming flat panels are maximum 1680 x 1050, and many of the single-chip 3D projectors present a maximum of 1024 x 768 resolution.

There are a number of ways to create 3D with DLP systems. There are also numerous ways of generating 3D material, so the possible outcomes are limitless!

(from March 18, 2010)
(bonus article #2 below)

3D Glasses 101
A closer look at 3D eye wear.

— by Stephen Hopkins of EH Publishing
(Stephen Hopkins is chief technology editor for EH Publishing. He writes product reviews, features, and focuses heavily on 3D TV, iPhone and iPad apps, and digital content.)

Let's dive a little deeper in to 3D glasses and how they work.

Just like any emerging technology, there are a plethora of specifications and systems, few of which are directly compatible. The 3D Blu-ray spec and HDMI 1.4 are going a long way to unify, as are displays supporting multiple specs. But there's still a lot to learn.

The bulk of modern home 3D technologies will rely on active shutter glasses. The glasses themselves all basically work the same way, using liquid crystal shutters to allow only one eye to see what's on the screen at any given time.

While they work the same, what they are allowing each eye to see can differ greatly. Here are some examples.

Interlacing - Alternating lines of resolution are drawn in sequence. Lines 1, 3, 5 ... are drawn while the right eye is exposed, then lines 2, 4, 6 ... are drawn as the left eye is exposed. Interlacing is one of the easiest methods in terms of hardware requirements, but limits resolution to half the display's capability (since only half the image is displayed to each eye). Popular in older 3D gaming, it requires interlaced capable display such as a CRT monitor.

Page Flipping - Page flipping alternates the frame, left and right, in sync with the shutter of the glasses. This overcomes the resolution deficiencies of the interlacing method, but requires high refresh rates to minimize flicker and motion artifacts. The new 3D Blu-ray spec is based on a modified version of page flipping called frame stacking.

Checkerboard - Similar to interlacing, a checkerboard pattern is displayed in sync with the shutter of the glasses. The same resolution limits exist, but scan lines and other interlacing artifacts are minimized. This is the method used in "3D-Ready" DLP TVs offered by Mitsubishi and Samsung. An external adapter is required for use with 3D Blu-ray spec devices.

Since active shutter glasses require the shutter and display be in sync, they also require some sort of signal be sent to the glasses to keep them in sync. Current displays and gaming technologies use one of two methods:

Bluetooth - The active shutter glasses are paired with the display via Bluetooth RF frequency, similar to a wireless ear piece with your cellphone, but the only signals present are sent from the display to the glasses for sync of the shutters. Range can be limited, but in practice the range usually exceeds the likely viewing distance by a safe margin.

IR Emitter - Instead of radio frequencies, an IR emitter on or connected to the display emits an infrared signal that is detected by the glasses and syncs the shutter with the display. Range is greater than Bluetooth, but in rare instances, certain lighting conditions can interfere with the IR signal.

While most direct-view displays (plasma, LCD, Laser) coming out will rely on active shutter glasses, front projection systems are able to more easily incorporate passive glasses using light polarization. The active shutter is moved from in front of the eye to in front of the lens.

Since there's only one lens, an extra mechanism is required to block one eye at a time. Instead of completely blocking one frame at a time, the polarizing lens polarizes the light (and in turn the image) in alternating angles.

The passive glasses then use polarized filters at different angles for each eye, so that the combined polarized effect is each eye seeing the proper image in sync and creating the 3D effect. This method is far less practical for direct-view displays since the entire screen would need to be polarized in alternating sequence.

(from March 18, 2010)