How It Works: 3D TV

How It Works: 3D TV

The technology behind bringing the screen to life

Early 3D cinema (and DVDs, books and posters) worked by using glasses with different coloured lenses, usually red and green or red and blue. The system blocks out the opposing colour in the image your mind perceives, giving a simple, if multicoloured, 3D effect. Films like The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) right through to Friday the 13th Part III (1982) and Nightmare on Elm Street 6 (1991) used this technique. It works but isn’t particularly pleasant for long periods.

The current system has been utilised in theme parks such as Disney World and Universal Studios for years and uses polarising glasses that help direct the corresponding full colour image to the correct eye. As each eye receives different information the brain is tricked into perceiving the image as three-dimensional.

This of course requires two slightly different images to be captured during the filming process to provide the correct information for the left eye and right eye to decode. The most common method is to film in high definition with two cameras sitting next to each other with the lenses at 6cm apart (the distance between each of our own eyes). These two images are then overlaid and the glasses do the rest.

The first wave of 3D Ready TVs should have an entry-level price roughly equivalent to the first wave of LCD and plasma flatscreen models (and hopefully prices will also drop as the new format becomes more popular). Sony have committed to manufacturing compatible TVs, laptops, PlayStation3 consoles and Blu-ray disc players and aim to be selling 3D TVs across the world by late 2010. Hyundai is currently producing sets for the Japanese market which retail at over £2500.

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