3D Needs Games And At Least A 60-in Screen

I'll be at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week and there will be a host of new HDTVs on display. Most of these will have support for 3D. I will be spending most of my time behind the scenes talking technology instead of looking at consumer products so I won't be checking out these new offerings.

On the other hand, 3D is something I don't have to check out in Las Vegas since I already have a 67-in Samsung DLP HDTV that supports 3D already and I have been playing with 3D since PC days when configuring 3Dfx Voodoo boards was the only way to get 3D games. The DLP display is the first and last LED DLP system Samsung sold and it requires an adapter to mate the new 3D standard to its older encoding scheme. Still, the operation and results from my set up are equivalent the 3D LCD HDTVs that now dominate the market. It uses the same 3D shutter glasses with infrared sync sensors.

First off, I will agree with those that hate the 3D glasses. They are expensive, heavy and bulky although they are getting cheaper, lighter and less invasive. There are 3D glasses that use RF4CE wireless connections coming so the you don't have to worry about where the LED synch source is placed.

Second, brightness is an issue that really needs to be addressed. The LCD glasses and half frame rate (because each eye sees only every other frame) mean the image needs to be brighter. I usually wind up using 3D with the lights off or very dim to make up the difference.

In any case, I think gaming is the only real option for 3D at this point. More on movies later. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, 3D provides depth cues important for first- and third-person shooters I like to play on Sony's Playstation 3 (PS3). I just finished up Killzone 3 and need to work on Resistance 3. They both have co-op games and my son has the same set up I have.

I played Killzone 3 with the Move controller plugged into the Sharp Shooter gun. I'll rant on this some other time but I will say that 3D made a pleasent difference when using the gun.

The 3D effect is pronounced and more easily created and adjusted with games versus movies. As noted, the effect is also useful especially when moving. 3D is more of a novelty for other types of games. It is not really necessary to have 3D for card games but very handy for golf games.

One thing you need to consider with 3D is viewing distance. I think that you need to be closer to the screen for 3D viewing than 2D viewing. That is less of an issue with a 67-in screen but I will say that the difference between watching a football game close up on my screen versus something like a 32-in HDTV is radical. One is a small picture. The other is like being there.

The PS3/DLP gaming combination is not perfect but I think this is more of a PS3 3D issue. Artifacts are common and it takes some adjustment to get the best results. This is the same kind of issue I had when using a PC ages ago. It is also something where better software and faster hardware makes a difference.

Another observation of 3D game play with the Move controller is that is is more physically demanding. That can be good or bad depending upon your perspective but I will say I plan on looking for 3D support in future games.

3D Movies

I have taken a look at my share of 3D movies. As with most people, I think 3D can add to the effectiveness of a movie but it is not a requirement for a good movie. 3D is also something that can make a movie really bad. 3D can also make a gamer bad as well.

I think the big issue with movies is the same with game development. The people creating the content don't use 3D enough. In the past, this was because real time playback was not easy. That is changing so there may be some hope fo 3D videos.

The other difference between games and movies is that ability to adjust the effect. This can be an issue if you have a game where two or more players can be active on screen at the same time but that is not the typical use case.

Right now the lack of movies available in 3D is the limiting factor for most viewers. I don't own any because I haven't wanted to fork out the extra money and there are only half a dozen I would get anyway. 3D are rarely available on rentals but this is also changing.

One place I think that 3D has it backwards is on cable. The 3D channel for football is a premium channel over and above even the cost of the NFL channel. It is definitely not a way to get people to watch 3D and using it on a regular basis is the only way it is going to be successful.

I've seen a similar premium approach back when Laserdiscs were the top technology. In fact, I have hundreds of Laserdiscs and a couple of players. It was pushed as a premium product and died as video rentals took over. DVDs and now Blu-ray are the equivelant technology although better, smaller and cheaper but these target the masses. 3D won't be successful until content and availability are going after the large market.

3D Changes

Autostereoscopic 3D displays that do not require glasses will be hawked at CES again this year. I check these out every year and there is always improvement but there are major challenges for a multiviewer 3D display. I think these kinds of displays will work and be popular for single user devices like smartphones and laptops but general HDTVs will not be useful with this type of display until holographic displays are possible. I could be wrong here but I don't think so.

Not much has really changed with 3D except frame rates and resolution. In fact, the LCD shutter glasses I used a decade ago still work. What has changed is the desire of HDTV vendors to come up with a way to sell more sets. Unfortunately, it does not look like 3D for the masses will be the ticket and the shine is coming off 3D for most buyers. On the plus side, for those that want 3D can now get it relatively cheaply and the quality is a great improvement over past platforms.

So have you used 3D for gaming or movies? If so, what do you think?

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