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TV Technology Roundup

TechReport (UK)


A few years ago, manufacturers started to add ‘3D’ processing as a feature to their higher-end (and later mid-range too) TVs.

Consumers had seen the benefits of 3D imaging in their local cinemas and, so the logic went, would all demand this within their own home too,

The problems with implementing realistic 3D processing in the home environment are, however, manifold.

In a cinema, the ideal dark environment with an all-enveloping giant screen bring the viewer right into the scene – the large-scale presentation with plenty of processing power in the projectors lends itself to the use of simple ‘passive’ glasses (above - one lens polarises light in the horizontal plane and other in the vertical plane – they could even double up as a perfectly serviceable pair of sunglasses!), which are cheap and do not ‘mess’ with the brain’s optical processing centre too much.

In the home environment, it is not possible to simulate these conditions, so 3D imaging tends to look somewhat artificial.

Although a number of manufacturers went down the ‘passive’ 3D route (as above), this effectively halved the resolution of the picture (and introduced some nasty jagged edge effects), not something that really matters with the ultra-high resolution of films in the cinema, but which is quite noticeable on the 1080p TVs of that time.

Others went for the ‘active shutter route’, whereby electronics in the glasses alternately ‘electronically shuttered’ (blocked light from reaching) each eye in synchronisation with alternate picture frames sent from the TV:

As picture processing allowed for quite high frame rates on TVs even at that time, the reduction in frame rate wasn’t noticeable to the viewer and this technique allowed full resolution to be maintained for 3D images, albeit at a much greater added cost for the TV and the (somewhat bulky) glasses. A lot of people also found that active 3D glasses gave them headaches after relatively short periods of viewing, so not so great.

So what happened to 3D TV?

To put it quite simply, the public didn’t really want it, so it soon became a standard (i.e. ‘throw-away’) feature on TVs (often with the manufacturers charging extra for the glasses, if you really wanted them).

Broadcasters who had played with 3D broadcasts, including Sky TV, who had launched several 3D channels to much fanfare, quietly dropped what they were doing and started investing in the next thing – 4K UHD resolution.

With the 2016 TV model year it would appear to have been quietly dropped from most of the major manufacturer’s models – why bother including it if nobody wants it and if there is little material available (apart from the rather expensive 3D Blu-Ray film releases)?

If you must have 3D capabilities on your TV, then go for some of the higher-end 2016 LG models (none of the lower-end or mid-range models have it), or ‘bag a bargain’ and buy one of the wider selection of 2015 models that have the necessary technology, but also make sure that you have a 3D capable Blu-Ray player through which to view the only format in which 3D source material is still available.

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