According to industry estimates, there are already some two million television sets in homes that are ready to show 3-D video. The only problem is that there aren’t a lot of 3-D broadcasts ready to roll. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, however, electronics and 3-D production companies are showing off the potential of 3-D content with the hope that in-home 3-D television will be mainstream within a couple of years.
The experience of watching a movie in 3-D has changed significantly over the past few decades. Gone are the red and blue cardboard glasses that meld two different images together and often distort on-screen colors. Directors and cinematographers have also learned to avoid gimmicks, like a pie in the audience’s face, and are trying to use the extra dimension to tell the story better. Many new televisions are already shipping with software and hardware that supports 3-D, and some early adopters are taking advantage of the technology with video games.
Mitsubishi, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, and JVC will all be showing off 3-D products at CES. Companies including RealD and Dolby have developed technology that provides the correct visual information to the left and right eye using polarizing lenses that filter two differently polarized versions of video footage to their respective eyes. By contrast, old 3-D movies used a method called anaglyph in which the film for one eye is dyed red and the other blue, while red-and-blue-tinted lenses filtered the appropriate version for each eye.
Mitsubishi and Samsung, for instance, have developed televisions that synchronize with another type of glasses that use shutters synchronized with the timing of the film’s frames and an infrared cue from the display source. For this to work, television must operate at a frequency of at least 120 hertz so that the left-eye and right-eye information can each receive 60-hertz signals.
Philips has offered a display that bypassing the glasses altogether. Its 3-D television plays specially created videos that contain two frames for each scene, one with color information, and the other with grayscale depth information. Lenses on the screen itself project these slightly different images to the left and right eyes, creating the illusion of depth.