If you are considering replacing your current TV with a newer model, then you will be faced with the choice of whether to buy 3D TV or not. For the average consumer this raises some really basic questions such as – What is 3D TV and Is 3D TV worth it? This 3D TV guide should help to answer any questions you about the subject of 3D television.
The Future of 3D TV
3D TV technology has been around for some time, but is only very recently that we have seen the popularity of 3D TV take off in a big way. Many consumers still have doubts about the future of 3D TV, and because of the significant investment required they find themselves asking is 3D TV worth it, or is will it just be a passing fad?
But don’t fear, 3D TV is set to be with us for the long term. More and more 3D content is becoming widely available with producers of 3D movies, 3D TV channels, 3D games as well as 3D TV manufacturers all being fully committed to the future of home 3D TV. It is predicted that 3D TVs will make up 40% of all TVs sold worldwide within the next 4 years as 3D TV is adopted worldwide.
However, relatively speaking 3D TV is still in its infancy. 3D TV technology has come a long way over the last couple of years and has improved massively. It is fast becoming a standard feature in the higher end models of televisions and will continue to develop at a fast pace.
What is 3D TV?
3D TV is the common term used to describe the 3D technology available to home users which enables the viewer to watch visual content with stereoscopic effects. Prior to the introduction of 3D television a couple of years ago, all TV content was only viewable in 2D – meaning that images were limited to two dimensions which are height and width. 3D technology adds a third dimension to this – depth.
How Does Home 3D TV Differ From 3D Cinema?
Most people have experienced a 3D cinema movie which uses passive 3D glasses. The obvious difference between home and cinema 3D experiences is the size of the screen. Even when compared to the largest 60 inch 3D TV models that are now available for home use, 3D cinema screens are so large that they occupy much more of the viewers’ field of vision which provides them with a more immersive viewing experience.
3D TV Disadvantages
Even when seated as close to a home 3D TV as is recommended, much less of the viewers’ vision is taken up by the 3D TV screen and the rest of the viewers’ peripheral vision is taken up by the TVs surroundings. In fact, it is advisable not to sit too close to a 3D television, doing so could cause the viewer to experience eyestrain and headaches and as is discussed later sitting too close to a 3D TV can change the viewing angle which in turn affects the quality of the 3D images produced (I will expand on this a bit later).
The recommended viewing distance for a 60 inch 3D TV is approximately 8 feet, at such a distance it would be difficult to accommodate a larger group of people at an acceptable viewing angle which doesn’t compromise the effectiveness of 3D viewing. It is inevitable that for larger groups of viewers that they will have to be seated further away from the TV which will mean that the 3D experience will not prove to be as immersive as in a big screen 3D cinema.
3D TV Advantages
However, one of the advantages of 3D TV compared to 3D cinema is the level of control that many of the high-end 3D TVs on the market have. The better 3D TVs on the market have features which enable the viewer to fine tune home 3D TV settings according to their preference, something which is obviously not possible in a 3D Cinema where a happy medium that satisfies all the viewers is the best that can be expected.
Other 3D TV Viewing Problems
Before deciding to buy a 3D TV there are some issues which could possibly affect your enjoyment of 3D TV which you should know about in advance.
The first of these problems is definitely something that you should be aware of before going out and buying a 3D TV. It has been medically recognised that a small percentage (estimated at about 5%) of the population are affected by something called ‘Stereo Blindness’ whereby the viewer cannot perceive the depth of stereopsis. To these viewers 3D TV images will appear flat, more like 2D than 3D. And also for some viewers who suffer from stereo blindness 3D TV images can cause headaches, nausea and eyestrain.
The level to which viewers are affected by these side effects differs from one person to the next in varying degrees. The symptoms described are more likely to occur when viewing for longer periods without breaks and where the 3D effects are more extreme. It is also more common for younger viewer to suffer from these symptoms than older viewers. It is not necessarily that 3D TV technology is directly to blame for the problems experienced by some viewers, it is more a case that excessive and badly produced 3D effects contained in 3D content is more likely to produce these adverse reactions especially when viewed for long periods of time.
Whatever the cause of these viewing problems, if you are considering buying a 3D TV it would be wise to experience viewing a 3D TV for yourself in a TV store, or even better than this would be if a friend or family member of yours already has a 3D TV, why not invite yourself round to watch a 3D movie to see if 3D TV is to your liking or if it is likely to cause you any of the ill effects described.
What Do I Need To Watch 3D TV?
To enable you to watch 3D TV you will need the following things –
• Obviously you will need a 3D compatible TV.
• You need a pair of 3D glasses for each member of your audience. Most of the current models of active 3D TVs on the market today come with 1 or 2 pairs of active shutter 3D glasses. As active shutter glasses cost anywhere from $50 to $150 this is something that needs to be taken in to consideration. If you have a potentially large audience of either family or friends, then equipping them all with their own pair of 3D specs is going to be an expensive job.
• A 3D TV and glasses on their own is no use without any 3D content and so you are going to need a device capable of outputting 3D content, such as a 3D Blu-ray player, a satellite or cable receiver with a subscription to a 3D TV channel or a 3D games console such as a Sony Playstation.
• In addition to all this 3D hardware, you are going to need the 3D content itself. This is 3D content that is material that is specifically produced for use on 3D TVs. It can take the form of 3D content broadcast over satellite or cable TV. All of the specialist 3D TV channels that are currently available (other than a small amount of free demo material) are subscription services that will cost you and extra premium on top of what you are paying for normal 2D channels. The most common form of 3D content available at this moment is 3D Blu-ray movies. However there are currently less than 100 3D Blu-ray titles available for purchase. Some of these are blockbuster movies that you may already be familiar with, others are 3D documentaries and animated film titles. All of these 3D TV compatible titles can be identified by the 3D Blu-ray logos which they carry.
3D TV Without Glasses
The biggest issue that consumers have with 3D TV is the requirement having to wear 3D glasses. Currently all production 3D TVs require the viewer to wear 3D glasses to achieve the 3D effects. Common complaints with this is that they are an inconvenience and uncomfortable to wear, and in some cases cause headaches and eye-strain. What consumers ultimately want is 3D TV without the glasses.
So before we get stuck in to how 3D TV works there is a question on everyone’s lips that needs addressing – is 3D TV without glasses possible?
The simple to this is -no! 3D TV manufacturers are putting great effort in to developing 3D without glasses TV models. We have seen prototype Philip, Toshiba and Samsung 3D TV without glasses being demonstrated at recent TV industry shows and events. However, there are many problems to overcome before this becomes a commercially viable reality and you will be able to buy 3D TV without glasses in retail stores.
So, as a consumer, if you are concerned that any investment you make today in buying a current 3D TV model that requires 3D glasses will be surpassed by a new 3D TV without glasses in the near future, then don’t worry because this is quite some way off, probably at least a few years from happening.
How Does 3D TV Work
There are currently two types of 3D television technology – Passive 3D and Active 3D (for a full explanation see this Active 3D TV Vs Passive 3D TV Review). Both types of 3D technology require the use of 3D TV glasses.
The choice between buying an active 3D Vs passive 3D television is the fundamental choice that you face as a consumer.
Active 3D TV
Active 3D televisions were the first type to appear on the market and are characterized by the heavier and bulkier type of active shutter 3D spectacles. Active 3D TVs achieve the depth of images using a method called ‘alternate frame sequencing’. This involves producing two separate sets of images (one for the viewer’s left eye and one for the right eye). In simple terms this method involves filming the subject with two cameras from slightly different angles, in the same way as human eyes view an object from two slightly different angles.
Then, as the term ‘alternate frame sequencing’ would suggest, these images are displayed in an alternate sequence by the TV. The active shutters built in to the glasses ‘open and close’ so that the viewer only sees the corresponding image for either the left or right eyes. To be able to do this the active shutter 3D glasses must be synchronized through the transmission of a signal either using infrared or Bluetooth.
Passive 3D TV
Passive 3D TV (also referred to as polarisation 3D), has only become commercially available more recently with LG being the only major manufacturer currently pushing Passive 3D TV technology. Passive 3D TV achieves 3D images differently, rather than displaying the two sets of images intended for the left and right eyes in an alternate sequence, they display both images on the screen at the same time. Through the use of the polarised lenses of the glasses, half of the image is filtered out for each of the left and right eyes.
Both methods have the same end result – the viewer’s left and right eyes sees a slightly different image which are filmed (or created) from a slightly different perspective. The viewers’ brain combines and interprets these images as one single 3D image containing depth.
Active Vs Passive 3D TV Comparisson
3D TV Resolutions – Active 3D TVs are frquently marketed Full HD 3D TV, because each eyes view a separate image, each eye views the full resolution that the television is capable of. If this max resolution is 1080p then the viewer will receive full HD 3D TV (1080p). Because passive 3D TV uses a single frame which is ‘split’ between the left and right eyes, the resolution is in effect reduced by approximately 40%.
3D TV Refresh Rates – Because active 3D TVs display two sets of sequential frames for the left and right sides, the refresh rate is effectively halved for each eye. Eg for a 240 Hz 3D TV each eye would receive 120 frames per second. The negative impact this has is that motion can become blurred. For passive 3D TVs the viewer receives the full refresh rate of the TV for both eyes and so motions blur is less likely.
3D TV Cost – Passive 3D TVs are typically cheaper than equivalent active 3D TV models. Also active shutter 3D TV glasses cost between $50 and $150, where as passive 3D TV glasses cost less than $20 (and for this reason passive 3D TV models frequently include more pairs of 3D glasses with the TV).
There is a trade off between the two technologies because of the specific qualities that each type of technologies produce, the major points can be summarized as follows –
Advantages of Active 3D TV
• Are capable of producing Full HD 3D TV picture (when used with a suitable 1080p 3D input source such as a 3D Blu-ray player).
Disadvantages of Active 3D TV
• More vulnerable to flicker and ghosting due to the active shutter 3D glasses.
• Reduces the brightness of the images.
• Active shutter 3D glasses are typically manufacturer specific, more expensive, require a power source and are heavier and therefore more uncomfortable to wear.
Advantages of Passive 3D TV
• Passive 3D glasses are very cheap, don’t require a power source and are lighter and therefore more comfortable.
• Passive 3D TVs are not as vulnerable to flicker or ghosting of images.
• Does not reduce the brightness of 3D images as much as active 3D TVs.
Disadvantages of Passive 3D TV
• Cannot produce Full HD 3D TV images (the resolution is half that of active 3D).
Also both passive 3D and active 3D TVs are affected by viewing angles. The effectiveness of an active 3D TV is adversely affected the wider the horizontal angle that the viewer is seated in relation to the TV. Passive 3D TVs effectiveness is reduced when viewed from a greater vertical angle. The passive 3D TVs currently seem to have a fairly narrow vertical viewing angle which only becomes a problem if seated in a position where the TV is not close to being at eye level.
As you can see the decision between the two types of 3D TVs available is not an easy one. The 3D TV pros and the cons between active or passive 3D TV varies between manufacturers and models and how well the technology is implemented, so there is no definitive answer as to which is the best 3D TV. Another factor is that preference for either passive or active 3D TV is subjective, meaning that some of the benefits or disadvantages which are associated with one type may not be as relevant for the next person.
For instance if you are going to be watching a lot of 3D Blu Ray movies then an active 3D TV might be the way to go for you. However if you aren’t, and your favourite sports channel is not broadcast in Full HD 3D then a passive 3D TV might be the choice for you. Another issue is cost, if your budget won’t stretch to buying an active 3D TV with multiple pairs of expensive active 3D glasses, then a more affordable passive 3D TV with the cheaper 3D specs might be the option that suits you.
Other 3D TV Problems
3D crosstalk or ghosting as it is also commonly known is one of the most common problems with 3D TV. It is caused when the left and right sided images are not separated correctly causing them to overlap thus creating a double image. The seriousness of the problem varies between models, technologies and is affected by the quality of the 3D content.
A common opinion on this matter is that generally speaking LCD / LED 3D TVs are more prone to this problem than plasma 3D TV models. A contributing factor for this could be that because LED TVs produce brighter images than plasmas, and ghosting effects are more noticeable when bright objects are displayed adjacent to dark objects, the brighter displays of LCD and LED TV amplify the problem.
Judder is another problem which has long existed with 2D TVs. It happens when the scenes displayed contain horizontal movement. This problem can appear more severe with 3D TVs but depending on the quality of the TV it can be eliminated or reduced by video processing techniques.
The final issue to be aware of is that as well as reducing the brightness of 3D content compared to normal 2D viewing, 3D glasses can also add a slight tint of unnatural color to 3D pictures. In well implemented 3D TVs this can be corrected by the TV adjusting the colors accordingly to compensate for any color bias whilst in 3D mode.
3D TV Conclusions…
After reading much of this article which points out many of the issues to be aware of with 3D TVs it may be enough to put you off buying a 3D TV. However don’t be deterred, all of the problems mentioned are generally not an issue with the best 3D TV models available on the market today which will wow you.
So if you are looking to buy a 3D TV, you should sample as many 3D TV models as you can in order to establish your own preference between both active and passive 3D TVs as well as between LED 3D TV Vs Plasma 3D TVs.
However the best plasma 3D TVs aren’t in a price-range that is within everyone’s reach so choosing an LED 3D TV might be a better way to utilize your budget. Either way, do your research thoroughly and you will be blown away by what 3D TV has to offer.If you were to take a poll of what 3D TV is best from all of the reviews available, Plasma active 3D TV would probably win the contest based on the quality of the 3D pictures that they produce. One of the current 3D plasma TVs which is consistently regarded as the best 3D TV is the Panasonic VT30.