No doubt 3D has revolutionized the cinema experience. Avatar was the highest-grossing movie of all time. Every week, a new 3D movie hits the box office. What does all this mean for the future of 3D projectors and home theater?
3D Projectors, A Brief History
3D-ready projectors entered the market in 2008. They were designed mainly for educational purposes. Think of how cool 11th grade geometry would have been if you could have seen parallelograms and isosceles triangles rotated in the third dimension.
But these projectors were only 720p, and since they didn't have an HDMI input, could only receive content from a PC through a VGA or DVI cable, reducing the image quality to a lousy 480i.
Everything changed in 2010 with the release of the LG CF3D, the first 1080p 3D projector for home theater.
The LG CF3D was the first 1080p 3D projector with HDMI inputs (three total!), meaning it could process signals from 3D-ready Blu-rays and the PS3. The LG CF3D 3D projector can also handle multiple 3D formats, including frame sequential, side-by-side and checker board.
No more worrying about sweet spots, the CF3D's display is viewable from any angle.
At CES 2011, we here at Projector People saw a host of new 1080p 3D projectors, including projectors that can convert content from 2D to 3D. Read more about these 3D projectors.
See our full selection of 1080p 3D projectors for home theater »
How 3D Projector Technology Works: It's All In Your Head
To "see" in 3D, a slightly different image must be delivered to each eye. This is traditionally done with special glasses. To your brain, these ever-so-similar overlapping images create the illusion of depth.
Anaglyph images and glasses are the most basic way to deliver a 3D effect. Chances are everyone has seen the red and blue glasses made popular during earlier attempts at a 3D revival.
These work by filtering an image composed of two almost identical superimposed color layers. Anaglyph technology is still used today and will work with the correct content and any TV or projector. However, it provides the poorest 3D image quality.
Many of today's cinematic 3D experiences are delivered via polarizing systems. These send the projector's light through polarizing filters that force the light waves to oscillate in two different directions, one intended for the left eye, the other for the right. A special polarization preserving screen is required.
Filters on the glasses allow the lenses to passively pick up the light (read: image) meant for each eye. The brain combines the two images and tada! 3D.
Color is improved and cross-talk (when one eye picks up an image meant for the other) is virtually eliminated with the polarizing method compared to anaglyph. However, the image's brightness is greatly reduced since each eye only picks up half the light from the screen. Some theaters use two separately polarized projectors to compensate for this.
As of the release of this article, all the 3D-ready projectors available in the commercial and residential market use active shutter glasses to deliver the third dimension. This will likely remain the standard for all 3D DLP projectors in the future.
In this setup, the image on the screen alternates rapidly between scenes intended for each eye. The glasses respond by opening and closing the corresponding lens. (When the right-eye image is on the screen, the glasses shut the lens of the left eye.)
With active shutter glasses, cross-talk is nearly impossible. However, the image is significantly dimmer than its 2D counterpart.
So far, all 3D DLP projectors use the DLPLink protocol to sync the glasses and the screen. We predict this setup, in which a white light is beamed from the projector to the screen to the glasses, will become the standard for 3D projection.
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