The Spectacle of 3DTV (Part 1) – Let’s start with the glasses

Jeffrey Colwell
Multimedia Specialist

Many of us probably remember those cyan-red cardboard 3D glasses, right? Hopefully by now you’ve heard of or experienced first hand the latest innovations of the film and television industry in the realm of 3D. From the inflated fees at the box office to the battle of brand loyalty at home, 3D has proven to be a major catalyst for both industry revenues and, more importantly, user experience. But how is today’s three-dimensional world different than Wilhelm Rollman’s attempts back in 1853 (that’s right, this all started mid-19th century!)? Seeing is definitely believing.

2010 was a breakout year for 3D in theaters and in our homes. But even with such success (estimated sales of more than 4 million 3D televisions in 2010 alone), the platform is still in its infancy stage. Today’s technological advancements are rapidly changing and creating fierce competition in the way viewer’s experience 3D landscapes.

To get our minds primed and our feet wet with what today’s 3D marketplace has to offer, it’s best to start with what many people first associate with 3D movie-watching…the glasses. There are two types of 3D glasses you’ll encounter at the theater and/or in your home; active and passive. Active shutter glasses, although effective, pose several challenges to the viewer, both in comfort and use. Active glasses tend to be bulky and cumbersome, similar to ski goggles or a diver’s mask. To operate, they require a power source, typically running off of batteries. Another drawback is that active shutter glasses communicate via IR (infrared), meaning the viewer must keep the glasses in line-of-site of the transmitter on their TV set. Most home television 3D sets rely on this technology, although 2011 promises to move towards the alternative format; passive glasses.

You’ll typically find passive glasses in movie theaters or amusement parks such as Disneyland (Captain EO, A Bug’s Life It’s Tough to Be a Bug, MuppetVision 4D), SeaWorld (Sesame Street’s Lights, Camera, Imagination 4D) and Universal Studios (Shrek 4D, Terminator 2: Battle Across Time 3D); they’re lightweight, do not require a power source or transmitter, and they’re inexpensive to manufacture. Another great advantage passive glasses have over active shutter frames is portability; you can take your glasses over to a friend’s house (that is, if they have a 3D television set that supports passive frame technology).

Within the realm of active and passive glasses lies a labyrinth of nuances and slight manufacturer differences. Check back for the second part of my three-part blog on 3DTV where I’ll be discussing various advancements in home 3DTV sets, including recommendations and reviews. And yes, glasses free 3D is on the horizon.

For more information on 3DTV, check out the link below.

3DTV buyer’s guide

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