November 19, 2010 Update
Here are a few FAQs for 3D video as it applies to home theater (not just limited to video games and other computer graphics) that may help you understand the what's behind this new 3D technology that is being introduced in 2010 and the requirements that it places on a new generation of HDTVs, Blu-ray Disc players and other 3D sources.Question
- How is the 3D effect created?Answer -
Separate images are displayed intended for viewing by the right and left eyes. In a movie theater the right and left images typically are projected with different polarization of the light and the audience must wear glasses with polarized lens to allow the correct stream of images to reach the intended eyeQuestion
- What's different with this 3D technology as compared to previously consumer 3D solutions that used glasses with colored lens?Answer
- Anaglyph images viewed with glasses using colored lens first became popular to the 1950's and is an inexpensive method to display 3D content with existing TV and video sources (virtually all DVD, Blu-ray and broadcasts that are in 3D prior to 2010 have used the anaglyph technology for creating the 3D effect). However, it produces poor results when trying to view video in color and is subject to "crosstalk" between the images intended for the right an left eyes. The new 3D technology introduced for home theater in 2010 is able to provide results on a par with what you will see in your local digital cinema with feature films such as Avatar. Depending on the type of display used, there are two different technologies that may be used to separate the images intended for the right and left eyes. With either of the following alternative technologies, the full color content of the original video program remains unaltered, however the displayed image will appear to not be as bright as when viewing standard 2D television program on that same HDTV. Note these are alternative display technologies and do not
directly relate to how the 3D video source (i.e., Blu-ray 3D player, Directv receiver, cable TV box) will output the 3D video information.
- Sequential imaging will alternate the right and left images on the HDTV's screen with each the right and left image stream displaying as the minimum 48 images per seconds - 48 Hz (i.e., 96 images per second total are being displayed counting both the right and left image streams - while 120 images per second, ie., 60 per eye, is more typical). The viewer must wear special active LCD shutter glasses* that will allow only the images intended for the specific eye to the visible to that eye. The LCD shutter glasses accomplish this by alternating which LCD 'lens' of the glasses is clear vs. opaque. In order to reduce/prevent visible flicker in the displayed image, the image stream for each eye is typically displayed with a refresh rate of 60 Hz, with each LCD 'lens' of the glasses cycled between opaque (to block light) and clear (to pass light) 60 times per second. The vast majority* of consumer 3D HDTVs are expected to use the sequential imaging technique in combination with LCD shutter glasses.
- The light from the display (e.g., projector) will be polarized different for the right vs. left images and the viewer will wear simple passive glasses with polarized lens. Typically* both the right and left images are displayed at the same time.
1. Although not as common an approach, it is possible to also use sequential imaging with polarized light technology by having the display device switch the polarization for alternating video frames and thus allowing polarized lens glasses to be used by the viewer.
2. While LCD shutter glasses will be used with most consumer 3D displays, LG will be marketing a front projector and a LCD flat panel 3D HDTV that will use polarized glasses with both the right and left images displayed simultaneously. The projector will display full resolution 1080p for each eye while the LCD flat panel HDTV will display only one half of 1080p resolution when operated in the 3D mode.
- Can I use my current HDTV for displaying the new 3D movies?Answer
- Generally you will need a new generation of HDTV display that has additional features required to support 3D. The recently approved alternative formats for Blu-ray and broadcast 3D (as defined in the HDMI 1.4a specification) requires the 3D capable HDTV to decode the 3D video information then process this video to put it into a format appropriate for that specific display. No pre-2010 HDTV is compatible with any of the new 3D formats and only those 2010 models specifically listed as supporting 3D video will be compatible and even then until models appear that are listed as supporting HDMI 1.4a we cannot be certain the a given 3D HDTV does in fact support all of the 3D formats that may be used by various 3D sources over the next few years. At this point, the only pre-2010 HDTVs that have the potential of being truly "upgradeable" for use with the new 3D technology are recent models of "3D-Ready" DLP rear projection HDTVs manufactured by Mitsubishi and Samsung (the FAQ thread is HERE
. Even though these earlier DLP rear projection TVs was sold as being "3D ready" they supported only 3D from a properly equipped PC. As a result, a 3D adapter box is needed to take the 3D signal from the non-PC source device (e.g, Blu-ray 3D player, satellite receiver, cable TV box, etc.) and apply video processing to put the 3D video into a different format that is compatible with these earlier "3D ready" models. Mitsubishi has now released a 3D adapter (Model 3DA-1 at $99), and 3D Starter Pack (Model 3DC-1000 at $399), that will only directly work with their only brand of 3D ready DLP rear projection TVs. Samsung "3D ready" DLP rear projection TV owners cannot simply use the Mitsubishi adapter, but there is now a solution being offered by the small company True 3D
that includes the Mitsubishi 3D adapter plus a second box that makes the Samsung DLP appear to be a compatible Mitsubishi model. Another, more limited, option for a 3D source that works with either the Mitsubishi or Samsung 3D-ready DLP rear projection TVs is the Panasonic Blu-ray 3D disc players*
. These units offer a user setting to provide the 3D video output in the checkerboard format required by these DLP 3D-ready TVs.------ Even if you have computer display which will accept an input of 1080p at 120Hz, that is compatible with 3D video games and computer graphics, these displays will not be directly compatible with the new 3D video sources for Blu-ray 3D and 3D broadcast video. Most such displays work by either requiring the input to be in the format of alternating right and left image frames (or right and left fields in a 1080i mode). Each 3D source device is only required to support one of the allowed (by the HDMI 1.4a spec.) 3D formats (i.e., the one that is most appropriate for that source). These existing computer displays are simply not compatible with the 3D formats declared as "mandatory" by the HDMI 1.4a spec. for compatible 3D displays. Specifically, such displays would require an external video processor box to accept any of the mandatory 3D formats as the input and the convert these to a format compatible with the specific display device.
Optoma has announced plans to release in early 2011 a 3D converter box for use with their 720p/120Hz DLP projectors. It is expected to carry a $399 retail price. It has two HDMI 1.4a inputs for connection to a Blu-ray 3D player, satellite receiver/DVR, cable TV set-top-box, or other 3D capable sources, and a single HDMI 1.3 output for connnection to a 720p "3D ready" DLP projector, such as the Optoma HD66.*Note: The Panasonic Blu-ray 3D disc players offer the setup option to provide a 3D video output via HDMI in a 1080p "checkerboard" format that is compatible with the 1080p Mitsubishi and Samsung DLP 3D-ready rear projection TVs. However, these Blu-ray 3D players will not work (for 3D video) with 720p 3D-ready displays, such as the Samsung 3D-ready plasma HDTVs or 720p DLP front projectors being sold as 3D-ready.
- Do I need HDMI version 1.4 cables or can I use my exiting HDMI cables to connect my new 3D video sources, AV receiver and 3DTV?Answer
- As a result of a recent change in how HDMI cables are now to be labeled, officially there is no such thing as a HDMI 1.4 cable. HDMI cables are either "standard speed" or "high speed" and if your existing HDMI cables were sold as HDMI 1.3 Category 2 then they are "high speed" and will probably work with your 3D video components. If your existing cables were sold as Category 1 they are low speed and most likely will not work with your new 3D components.Question
- Do I need a new AV Receiver (AVR) with HDMI version 1.4a inputs and output if I connect the new 3D sources thru the AVR to my 3DTV display or will my old AVR with HDMI inputs work.Answer
- With only a few exceptions if your existing AVR's HDMI inputs and output support HDMI 1.3a, or an earlier version, then it cannot be used for switching among the connected 3D video sources. The exception is AVRs with HDMI 1.3 inputs that offer a simple HDMI pass-thru mode where the AVR acts as if it were a simple switch that connects the selected HDMI input to the HDMI output. Most pre-2010 AVRs do not offer such an operating mode for their HDMI switching function and as a result are not generally compatible with 3D video. There are cases where a given HDMI 1.3 equipped AVR may be compatible with a specific 3D device (e.g., cable TV box) connected to a specific model of 3DTV, but most such AVRs will not be able to support the HDMI 1.4a "Frame Packing" signal format (see below) used by Blu-ray 3D disc players.Question
- Will the same 3D glasses work with different brands of 3D Displays?Answer
- There is no "standard" for the 3D glasses and there will be manufacturer specific variations in the LCD shutter glasses offered by the various manufacturers for use with their 3D displays. Some of the 3D glasses may work with another manufacturer's 3D display but even if it does you may not be getting the optimum performance. There is now at least two 3rd party manufacturers that have announced "universal" 3D shutter glasses that can be configured to work well with the 3D displays from the various display manufacturers. HERE
is the link for the first such universal LCD shutter glasses (i.e., Xpand model X103 is now available). Monster has also announced plans to release universal 3D LCD shutter glasses in mid-December 2010). For those few consumer 3D displays that will require polarized lens glasses. there are only a very few configurations possible and while one manufacturer's polarized 3D glasses may not work with another specific manufacturer's 3D display, compatible models from 3rd party manufacturers will be available (some already are - HERE
is one example).Question
- Can I use my current Blu-ray Disc (BD) player to play future 3D movies released on Blu-ray?Answer
- The only pre-2010 Blu-ray Disc player upgradeable to support 3D is the Sony Playstation 3 (thru a planned September 2010 upgrade to the PS3's firmware). Existing stand-alone BD players will play back the new 3D discs as standard 2D titles. Thus movies released as 3D titles on Blu-ray will be backward compatible with existing players, but a new player will be required to output the video in 3D. Such movies are identified by the "Blu-ray 3D" trademark on the disc's packaging.Question
- What 3D enabled HDTV displays and 3D video sources are available"Answer
- The final specification of the 3D version for Blu-ray Discs was just completed in December 2009 and the HDMI 1.4a specification was just released (March 2010). The new generation of 3D enabled Blu-ray Disc players and compatible HDTVs (flat panel and projectors) from many of the major consumer electronics manufacturers are expected to be making their way to dealers during 2010.
- 3DTVs (Displays)- The first models from Samsung (LCD flat panel and later plasma) and Panasonic (plasma) appeared in March 2010. LCD models from Sony and LG were available by June 2010 and many more are expected to become available later in 2010. Mitsubishi and Samsung have sold DLP rear projection HDTVs going back to 2007 that were "3D ready" and with the additional of an external 3D adapter box (see information above) can be made compatible with the new HDMI 1.4a 3D signal formats (see below). See the Buyer's Guide thread for information on currently available 3DTVs (displays) and 3D glasses.
- Blu-ray 3D - Several consumer electronics manufacturers have introduced 3D enabled Blu-ray Disc players with more coming soon. Samsung and Panasonic were the first to offer Blu-ray 3D players, i.e., starting in March 2010. Sony began selling new 2010 models that included "3D ready" Blu-ray players back in Feb. 2010, but these required a later firmware update (released by Sony in June 2010) that enabled their 3D capabilities. A firmware update (version 3.50) for the Sony PlayStation 3 that added support for Blu-ray 3D playback was released in Sept. 2010.
- Satellite and Cable TV 3D - Directv and some cable TV companies now offer one or more 3D TV channels. Currently these are offered in a "half resolution" mode due to limitations of existing HDTV satellite or cable set-top-boxes.
- 3D Games - Sony released a firmware update for the Playstation 3 in June 2010 that added support for 3D games. Also 3D versions of several popular video game titles for the PS3 have been released.
- What are the mandatory 3D formats that are defined by the HDMI 1.4a specification and what devices must support them?Answer
- The HDMI version 1.4a specification was released on March 4, 2010 and includes a section on "Extraction of 3D Signaling" that defines the 3D formats that are mandatory for 3D displays. Any 3D display that claims to be certified to HDMI 1.4a must support all of the mandatory 3D signal formats at their HDMI input then internally apply video processing to put the 3D video into a format appropriate for that specific display. The input HDMI format is independent of how the specific display decides to actually display the information. Therefore, the 3D video source (e.g., Blu-ray 3D disc player) is not
expected to adapt its output signal format to the capabilities the connected 3D display nor is the 3D source device required to support more than just one of the approved 3D signal formats. Note that the rules for what formats are required to be supported applies only to those sources and displays that claims to be compliant with the HDMI 1.4a specification. The Blu-ray 3D specification (released in December 2009) specifically requires support for the Frame Packing 1080p/24 and 720p/60 formats as defined by the HDMI 1.4 spec. While to be HDMI 1.4a compliant, 3D sources need only support one of the "mandatory" 3D formats, 3D capable displays that claims to be HDMI 1.4a compliant are expected to accept the 3D video in any of the mandatory 3D signal formats allowed by the HDMI 1.4a specification. Below is a brief summary of the mandatory 3D video formats that are defined by the HDMI 1.4a specification. There are 3 basic formats defined (in table 8-15 and associated figures and text of the HDMI 1.4a spec.) and then there are specific resolution and frame rate variations allowed under each.Frame Packing (Blu-ray 3D required full resolution formats)
- full 1080p resolution for each right/left images with refresh rates of 23.98/24 Hz
- full 720p resolution for each right/left images with a refresh rate of 50Hz* or 60Hz.
Note: Frame Packing is capable of placing two full resolution HD images into one "super sized" frame for transmission across HDMI. Frame Packing provides full resolution 3D and when used for 1080p 3D video, the right and left images are placed one above the other into a "super sized" frame that is 2205 pixels vertical by 1920 pixels horizontal with a 45 x 1920 pixel active blanking area separating the two images. More information is HERE)
- (example use - satellite or cable 3D broadcast)
- half horizontal resolution 1080i (i.e., 960h x 1080v pixels) for each right/left image with refresh rates of 59.94/60 Hz or 50 Hz*.
- (example use - satellite or cable 3D broadcast)
- half vertical resolution 1080p (1920h x 540v pixels) for each right/left images with refresh rates of 23.98/24 Hz.
* NOTE: All 3D displays conforming to the HDMI 1.4a spec. must accept 3D signals with a 23.98/24 Hz refresh rates as well as 50Hz (e.g., Europe) or 60Hz. (e.g., North America) refresh rates for all of the mandatory 3D signal types as listed above. However, the actual resolution and refresh rate the 3DTV uses to display the 3D images to the viewers is entirely up to the specific 3DTV design.
WEB LINKS for 3D Related Products and Services3D HDTV Display InfoSatellite 3D Broadcasters and Programming ProvidersBlu-ray 3D Players
- half vertical resolution 720p (1280h x 360v pixels) for each right/left image with refresh rates of 59.94/60 Hz or 50 Hz*.
3D GlassesBlu-ray 3D Movies