3D: How does it work?

3D: How does it work?
The third dimension has been explored by 3D enthusiasts way back in the early 20th century when the first stereoscopic films appeared, but it wasn't until recently that 3D took the spotlight with an array of TV sets, portable game consoles and most recently phones. The 3D hype is still in its early days, but more and more people are considering the option. But honestly – always watching TV with the glasses? If you are not 15, chances are you tried watching a 3D movie at home for half an hour, shrugged your shoulders and took off the damn glasses to never try it again. There should be a better way! And mobile technology has it, but just how does it work?

Currently, there areonly a few gadgets featuring glasses-free (also calledautostereoscopic) 3D displays. The LG Optimus 3D and theNintendo 3DS are probably the most popular ones and both use aspecial screen technology called parallax barrier. The 3DS evenallows for gradual control of just how much of a 3D effect you want.In addition, both of them (and a slew of recently announcedcamcorders) support recording in 3D via a dual-camera setup.



Why do we see in 3D?

To understand the whole mechanism wehave to go back to the basics of human vision. We see theworld in 3D mostly because of our vision, which is similar to that 3Dcamera setup. Our left eye sees one thing and our right eye sees aslightly different picture. The eyes are spaced apart and each one ofthem takes a different stream of information from its own viewpoint.The brain mashes it all up in one beautifully deep 3D picture. That,of course, is aided by cues about depth from the shades and motion ofobjects. Similarly, the two camera sensors are placed at an inch orso of a distance and both simultaneously capture content, just likeyour eyes. The left camera records information for the left eye,while the right camera records its stream for the right eye. That'sexactly how the dual camera setup on the upcoming LG Optimus 3D andT-Mobile G-Slate works. From here on, the brain does its thing andvoila - you have 3D! But how do we then give each of the eye therespective video?



Stereoscopic imaging - gotta wear shades!

That's the magic of 3D. In the stone age of the 20th century it was simple – just get a pair of red/blue (cyan to be exact) glasses that say “geek” better than if you had it tattooed on your forehead. Those are called anaglyph and have the advantage of being the cheapest ones you can easily make from cellophane at home. The trickery relies on the two video streams edited to show one in red and the other in cyan. The glasses then act as filters – the red lens allows the “reds” stream and blocks the cyan one, while the cyan feeds only the cyans to the respective eye. The rest as you might have already guessed is brain work.

But then in the movie theaters, you watch something completely different. While we still have two streams of video, this time they are superimposed onto the screen using different filters. What you wear is polarized glasses, the reason is that they have differently polarized lenses. Usually, we have a vertical polarization on the one, allowing only the vertically polarized content to pass through, and a horizontal polarization on the other lens, which in turn gives you the horizontally polarized stream. Hence, each of the eyes sees a different picture and we're back to the brain doing the rest. In this case, though, you have a much better quality since no color information is lost as is the case with anaglyph (red/cyan) glasses. While polarized glasses themselves arerelatively cheap, your TV will need a screen with polarized coatingallowing each eye to see every other line, which comes at a highercost. The first TVs with the technology have already hit the market,but the price tag is pretty steep – prepare nearly $3500 for thefirst 65-inch Vizio Razor LED passive 3D TV.

- Anaglyph glasses pros and cons
Pros: Cheap, can be made at home, don't require special equipment
Cons: Some of the colors are lost, the effect is not that submersive

- Polarized glasses pros and cons
Pros: Better 3D effect, colors are represented more accurately, relatively affordable
Cons: Moving your head distorts the 3D effect with linear polarization, require special setup
 


And finally, some of you have (or mostprobably will have) 3D TVs at home, which require the fancy andrather expensive shutter glasses. The previous two types ofglasses are known as passive since they don't need a power source(and that much of an investment as the shutter glasses!), but theshutter glasses come with a battery. The shutter lenses are actuallysmall LCD screens that alternate the picture for each of the eye atrapid speed. To achieve this they simply dim and turn back on inthe blink of an eye. At the same time, your 3D TV first shows thestream for the left eye while the right lens dims the picture for theright eye, then the stream for the right eye appears, while the leftlens is dimmed. This alternation happens at a rate of about 120 timesper second. The shutter glasses on theirpart are usually synchronized with the TV via infrared or RF. Thisallows each of the eyes to get the corresponding picture and pass itto the brain for achieving the effect of depth. You might wonder whathappens to the frame rate and rightfully so. The consecutiveswitching between two streams cuts it in half and this is why youmight sometimes see jittery video on your 3D TV.



- Shutter glasses pros and cons
Pros: Unmatched quality
Cons: Frame rate drops, Full HD support limited to TV sets with higher processing speeds (like Plasma TVs)

Glasses-free (autostereoscopic) 3D - "very nice, how much?"

But with all this said, how does the filtering of the two recorded video streams happen without the glasses? Here's when you need something way out of the ordinary. The LG Optimus 3D (and the Nintendo 3DS for that matter) uses the parallax barrier technology. Parallax might sound scary, but simply put it is the effect of seeing closer objects bigger and more distant ones – smaller. What matters most is the barrier however. It is just what you would imagine – a vertical slit plate on top of the traditional screen that blocks part of the image for each eye. The technology is somewhat limited to smaller screens, but yields good results without the geekines of wearing glasses. Check out our first hands-on encounter with the LG Optimus 3D to learn more about it and get your glasses ready for some 3D samples shot with the Optimus 3D here. Looks pretty neat doesn't it?

- Parallax barrier glasses-free 3D pros and cons
Pros: No glasses required!
Cons: 3D effect strongly dependent on angle, distance

Finally, we can certainly think of a couple of ways to use 3D, but the sky is the limit in the future. And IBM's researchers are hypothesizing about holographic video calls by 2015, so we can see the future coming even faster than we ever expected. At least - with so many options - we can't complain about not having the choice, right?

Related phones

Optimus 3D
  • Display 4.3 inches
    800 x 480 pixels
  • Camera 5 MP (Dual-lens (3D))
    0.3 MP VGA front
  • Hardware TI OMAP 4430, 0.5GB RAM
  • Storage 8GB, microSDHC
  • Battery 1500 mAh
  • OS Android 2.3
G-Slate
  • Display 8.9 inches
    768 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 5 MP (Dual-lens (3D))
    2 MP front
  • Hardware NVIDIA Tegra 2, RAM
  • Storage 32GB,
  • Battery 6400 mAh
  • OS Android 3.0

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4 Comments

4. displayed name unregistered

A mention of the evo 3dwould have been nice

3. OldTimer unregistered

And another con that it cuts the resolution in half

2. clevername

Posts: 1436; Member since: Jul 11, 2008

Another pro for parallax barrier that you neglected to mention is the ability to change the degree to which the 3d effect is shown.

1. MechaFatigue

Posts: 7; Member since: Jan 13, 2011

nice features from LG... LG brings 3D movie, Samsung brings Plasma TV effect while SonyEricsson brings Playstation into mobile phones. Those 3 should get credit for that.

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