The "3D at Home" experience has been greatly hyped for the past few years, and sadly, many consumers have experienced generally disappointing results. We have heard countless end-users comment that 3D "just wasn't for them" and that the experience "was terrible." After asking more questions, it became obvious that the reason many people have a negative impression of 3D video, is that their initial experience was poorly designed. In most cases, the biggest culprit was the size of the image.
Currently, the most popular 3D display for home use is a 46" flat panel. Simply put -- this is not the kind of display anyone should be relying on to cast judgment on a major new technology. Especially considering that this is a technology that, at its core, is intended to immerse viewers in a 3D environment. Immersion is simply not possible with a 46" screen.
So what are the key elements in making 3D a great entertainment experience?
• Size of image
• Brightness of image
• Venue dynamics
• Comfort of 3D glasses
Before we start detailing the key elements, we'd like to remind our readers that the principle behind 3D viewing is to trick the human mind into looking at a flat 2D image, then convincing the mind that it's a 3D image by sending different left and right eye images. This is not a natural process and the brain will resist this "trick" unless it's done properly. When the brain is not convinced, the experience is uncomfortable at best.
Now, on to the details:
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! Without a doubt, projectors are the best way to achieve this objective. 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.
The second critical element is that the image has to be bright. 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. 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% of the available illumination, the display must be at least 2.5-3X+ brighter than a display intended to only present 2D material.
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. 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. In the above situation, mental fatigue and less than optimal integration of the 3D image are the best case scenarios. Therefore, make sure to minimize or eliminate activity within the viewers vision, and make the backdrop and room as dark as possible to increase the 3D effect.
Finally, the issue of 3D glasses comes into play. This is often an area of concern. The glasses act as "shutters," sending 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 your eye will not be able to see "outside" of the lenses. If you are able to see outside of the lens, then the switching aspects of the glasses will be much more evident and your 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 worth noting, the glasses that are often included with flat panel 3D displays are not suited to produce a good 3D experience. Their switching speed is often slow, producing significant ghosting, and the glass area is often too small – leaving much of the viewer's field of view uncovered. Furthermore, less expensive 3D glasses allow less light to transmit to the viewer's eye, sacrificing dynamic range and maximum brightness. Any 3D display will look better if the highest quality compatible glasses are employed.
The next time you have a client or potential client show interest in 3D, make sure to follow these simple steps, both in the demonstration and in the system design:
• Maximize the size of the image and seat them in a location that allows that image to nearly fill their field of view.
• Assure the projector you are employing is bright enough to deliver suitable lumens through the 3D hardware. Remember, the technology that makes 3D video consumes up to 70% of the light being reflected from the screen.
• Venue dynamics – Dark backdrops behind the screen and dark or even theatrically dark rooms help assure no real world distractions, plus produce optimum 3D entertainment environments.
• Quality and comfort of 3D glasses – Show your customers the benefit of purchasing the highest quality 3D glasses that are compatible with their system. Fast switching time, large lenses and high light transmission are key factors.
Select great content while following the four golden rules above, and you will execute spectacular 3D demonstrations. Even more importantly, you will design successful 3D systems for your customers, revealing big, bright and immersive 3D entertainment.