3D: Tips to Reignite Consumer Interest

Digital Projection offers for tips installers can follow to once again wow clients with 3D video.

An under-publicized fact about conducting a good 3D video demo is the choice of content. Disney is a benchmark Hollywood movie house, and its releases such as "Tangled" set the standard in the home video market.
Robert Archer · May 18, 2012

A couple of years ago, 3D video was riding a wave of popularity fueled by “Avatar” and several other notable films that demonstrated the technology’s potential.

Now after enduring a series of flops, Hollywood isn’t so over-the-top in its promotion of 3D. But studios are still producing 3D content, despite the damage caused by Hollywood before a majority of consumers were able to experience 3D in a proper setting.

In many respects, the consumer electronics industry has been left to pick up the pieces after collectively making a sizable investment into 3D and its use in the home. Unfortunately for manufacturers, they don’t have much control over the biggest component in the home video entertainment chain: the content.

Nevertheless, companies like Atlanta-based Digital Projection (DP) are helping professional installers make the most out of a less-than-ideal situation by providing guidelines to help them present 3D video.

DP says that if installers address these four critical points, they can improve the quality of 3D to make the technology perform to the expectations of consumers.

Bigger is Better
A flat-panel television was once the ticket for awesome home entertainment. In today’s commoditized video world, screen sizes need to be larger than what most flat panels offer. DP recommends that installers use large screens for 3D systems to ensure homeowners are completely immersed in the presentation.

“The first and most important factor in creating a good 3D image is that the image size must be large. More specifically, it needs to nearly encompass the viewer’s field of view. To achieve this, the viewing distance must either be unreasonably close, or the picture has to be big,” the company states. “When the viewer is immersed in the 3D image, everything coming through the glasses and into the eyes is from the display. Thus, the brain focuses primarily on the video content being sent to each eye and integrates it much more efficiently. This way, there are no real-world, physical 3D distractions within the viewers field of view.”

Brighter is Better
One of the biggest complaints consumers voice after seeing 3D movies in the theater is they generally look terrible. The reason why the content doesn’t look great is that many theaters do not take the steps to tune their projection systems to show 3D content. In addition, when someone watches these movies through a set of glasses and filters, these elements can significantly diminish the brightness of a 3D movie.

DP points out that in many cases what consumers see is a dim image that loses a lot of low-light detail.

“The human eye and brain will strain even in instances where a 2D image is not bright enough. Low brightness imagery destroys dynamic range, color depth, color saturation and our ability to perceive detail,” explains the DP. “Additionally, the human iris will open completely to allow as much light in as possible to compensate and become much more sensitive to fatigue.

“While low image brightness is an unacceptable problem with 2D content, it becomes a complete show stopper when viewing 3D material. Since typical 3D frame rates and 3D glasses may consume as much as 70 percent of the available illumination, the display must be at least 2.5-3X times brighter than a display intended to only present 2D material.”

Minimize Environmental Distractions
The current trend of great/media rooms has, for the most part, really benefited the projection video market. But an all-purpose room may not be the best environment for a 3D system. DP advises installers to reduce the potential for eye strain and fatigue by minimizing the interaction of a video system’s surroundings.

“Another element that affects the way the brain integrates 3D images has to do with the lighting level of the viewing environment, as well as the intensity of the wall or façade behind the 3D image,” DP says. “Dark backgrounds and dark venues are best, as they completely eliminate real-world 3D distractions from the viewer’s perspective. If the viewer’s eyes are seeing activity or real-world objects while they are trying to watch 3D video, their eyes and brain are attempting to see both artificially manipulated 3D content, as well as natural 3D objects all at once. This is the equivalent of sending ‘mixed signals’ to the brain, resulting in a failure of the eye-mind trick that makes 3D video possible.”

Glasses Are More than Fashion Statements
People often complain about having to use eyewear to watch 3D, but given the reality of the market, glasses-free 3D is most likely five to 10 years away from mainstream release. DP says having to wear glasses shouldn’t be a barrier that impedes the enjoyment of 3D. As long as dealers follow a few 3D glasses rules of thumb, DP says, consumers can enjoy 3D at home without the discomfort of poorly chosen eyewear.

“Glasses act as shutters that send different images to the left and right eye so that the brain can integrate the two as a single 3D image. If the glasses are not properly synchronized or do not switch quickly enough, the viewer will see ‘ghosts’ around the content. It’s also important that the glasses do not create reflections that are seen by the eye when wearing them as this will cause added fatigue and distraction.”

“Additionally, the glasses must be large enough that a viewer’s eye will not be able to see ‘outside’ of the lenses. If viewers are able to see outside of the lens, then the switching aspects of the glasses will be much more evident and their ability to focus and integrate the 3D image will be greatly reduced. Small, chic glasses may look better in the mirror, but they will detract from the overall 3D experience. It is also worth noting, the glasses that are often included with flat-panel 3D displays ... their switching speed is often slow, which means they produce significant ghosting, and their glass area is often too small, which leaves much of the viewer’s field of view uncovered. Any 3D display will look better if the highest quality compatible glasses are employed.”

DP also suggests looking for movies that were natively produced with 3D in mind. Past failures, like the remake “Clash of the Titans,” show that movies produced from the outset with 3D in mind typically look better than those that receive the 3D treatment in post-production.

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  About the Author

Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at

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  Article Topics

News · 3D · Avatar · Digital Projection · Home Theater · All Topics
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