3D Technology: Seeing is Believing

3D TV could be in your home sooner than you think

Believe it or not, 3D technology will be widely available to the American public by years’ end. Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Samsung and Sony, among others, plan to put High-Def 3D televisions on the market this year.  3D movies have become more and more popular since their 21st century revival as well, thanks to the development of cheaper and more efficient technology.  These are all concepts that I covered on my last blog, though.

3D technology itself, and how it really works, will be the focus of this entry.  3D cameras, special screening devices, 3D TVs, and, of course, the 3D glasses all are part of this.  They’re all equally important when it comes to creating and viewing 3D films or television shows.  After all, there’s little harm in knowing at least a little about the inner workings of 3D, a technology that could potentially have an explosion of popularity within the next few years.

Capturing in 3D: The Camera

Filming in 3D is pretty much akin to how human eyesight works.  A person’s two eyes each capture the same image, but at slightly different angles.  These two perspectives come together to form a single, 3D image.  3D cameras consist of two separate lenses, which capture picture in roughly the same manner.  Each lens captures the same image at a different angle, and both are combined when the video is shown.  Viewers who are wearing 3D glasses will only see one angle of the action with one eye, and are thus their eyes are tricked into seeing the film in 3 dimensions.

Sony's 3D camera

That has basically been the case since the advent of 3D film.  Until recently, that is.  Back in October, Sony unveiled the prototype of a single lens 3D camera.  It only records one image, but that image is then split into two by mirrors.

According to Sony, this will make it so that, when the film is viewed, it will appear to be in 2D unless the viewer is wearing 3D glasses.

Sony also unveiled a new way of filming sporting events in 3D at the same time.  This method uses 3 cameras to capture the action, which are edited together to form a 3D image.

 

3D TV: From the camera to the home

Screening in 3D: Projection Methods and 3D TVs

Originally, 3D films could only be screened using the anaglyph method.  The film was shown on two different projectors with a layer of color thrown over each: red and blue, respectively.  The retro red and blue 3D glasses made it so one eye would only see the red and the other would only see the blue.  These two images would combine to form a single 3D image.  The reliance on colors to form the 3D image, though, meant that the colors that a viewer could see were limited, and details were hard to make out.  They also required theaters to show them on a silver screen to help keep the projected images separate.  Even worse, this method was known for inducing nausea in viewers.

The dominant 3D screening system in today’s theatres is RealD cinema.  This method requires only one projector, and uses circularly polarized light to produce a 3D image.  The projector shows alternates between 2 different sets of frames, with each set only meant to be seen by one eye.  A polarizing modulator called a ZScreen is then placed over the projector lens, and viewers wear oppositely polarized glasses that ensure that each eye only sees the frames meant for it.  This also makes it so viewers will see the 3D images regardless of their relative position.

Yet another 3D screening system is Dolby 3D, which works somewhat similarly to the anaglyph method.  This system only requires one projector and unlike the anaglyph method and RealD, doesn’t need a silver screen.  A filtration wheel is put in the projector for 3D presentations, which filters the projected image into three different light wavelengths: red, green and blue.  The glasses worn to view this type of 3D film only allow specific light waves to be seen at specific times, thus creating a 3D image.

Finally there are the 3D TVs being introduced this year, which are comparable to RealD cinema in their method of showing 3D content.  They are designed to show 2 different images, one for each eye, by rapidly alternating between the two.  Viewers have to wear shutter glasses to make sure that each eye sees the correct images.  The specifics of those glasses, though, will have to wait until the following section.

Seeing in 3D: The Glasses

First there are those red and blue glasses used to view films made with the anaglyph method.  They force each eye to see a different image, one red image and one blue one, which then come together to form a single image.  But as stated in the previous section, the anaglyph method’s reliance on these two colors means that viewers can only see limited colors and details.

Next there are the previously mentioned shutter glasses.  The “shutter” that each lens has over it is actually a layer of clear liquid crystal.  The TV gives out signals that effect these shutters, forcing the liquid crystal to darken at certain times.  This is synced to happen in time with the alternating images of the TV screen, so that the viewer will only be able to see what they need to see.

The third type of 3D glasses are polarized glasses, which are utilized by both RealD cinema and Dolby 3D.  The lenses of these glasses are polarized to only see specific light wavelengths, which may or may not have a color attached to them, at certain times.

The picture on the left shows an older method of screening 3D films that requires two projectors, a method that is still utilized at theme park venues.  It’s also worth mentioning that some companies such as LG and Sharp are working on 3D TVs that do not require glasses to view 3D content, but such technology is far from being available to consumers.

 

Capturing, Screening and Seeing: What Next?

3D has grown by leaps and bounds in a few short years, simply speaking in terms of efficiency.  3D film and television has become easier to shoot, show and see; much easier than the days of “House of Wax” and the anaglyph method.  The most recent advent of 3D film has the format seeing popularity it could have only dreamed of 15 years ago, and major TV developers have 3D TVs near ready to go in sale in the U.S.  By this time next year, seeing 3D films and television in the home might not be all that uncommon.  Like this one and my first blog post, my next entry will continue my series on 3D technology.

Sources: http://www.popsci.com/gadgets/article/2010-01/its-about-time-3-d-comes-home

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/10/3d-tv-explainer/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8285187.stm

http://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/News/Press/200910/09-117E/

http://science.howstuffworks.com/3-d-glasses2.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LCD_shutter_glasses

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RealD_Cinema

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~ by Bill Mahlock on May 11, 2010.

One Response to “3D Technology: Seeing is Believing”

  1. Very interesting article. I had no idea that 3D films were made in such a complex way. I figured it was just filmed with a normal camera and then that glasses did all of the work. I like the pictures you have on here a lot. They help explain the topic in a good visual way.

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