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Cheat Sheet: Choosing the Right 3D Technology

January 13, 2010 | Chris Payatagool

Get ready. There's about to be a rush on video systems that display movies, images, and graphical information in three dimensions. Knowing the differences among 3D technologies is a key first step.

Publication date: December 7, 2009

3d_cheatsheet.jpgBEFORE YOU BEGIN: How it Works

Because there's a slight separation between human eyes, each eye sees the same object slightly differently. The difference, known as parallax, is processed by the brain to create depth.

Stereoscopic 3D works the same way. Two slightly different images are projected onto a screen and the 3D system synchronizes the images so the viewer's left eye sees only images meant for the left eye and the right eye sees only images for the right eye. The resultant effect is interpreted by the brain as 3D.


stereoscopic_3d.jpg* Passive 3D utilizes two projectors to display left- and right-eye information. Polarization filters go in front of each lens and left- and right-eye images are projected onto a screen specially designed to preserve the polarization. Viewers wear low-cost (often disposable) passive glasses.

* Active 3D includes a single projector, typically operating at twice the refresh rate (120 Hz) of dual-projector passive systems. Viewers must wear glasses that "actively" switch open and shut at the same rate to alternate left- and right-eye views.

* Active/passive 3D uses a single projector with a fast-switching, polarizing shutter in front of the lens. The system alternates left- and right-eye images at 120 Hz, while the shutter switches polarization in sync. Viewers use the cheaper passive glasses, but a polarization-preserving projection screen is also required.

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