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Preparing Your Customers for 3D (3/9/2010)

By Nicholas Routhier, SENSIO Technologies

It is now quite obvious that 3D is the next big thing in consumer electronics. The introduction of 3D-enabled DLP rear-projection systems in 2009 created early momentum, and at the start of 2010, the introduction of a Blu-ray standard for 3D and the release of HDMI 1.4 specifications determining how 3D information is shared among home entertainment products, added further impetus to a 3D segment that is growing slowly, but surely becoming more stable.

3D is obviously the next big thing in consumer electronics.

In a surprisingly early advance, the delivery of live sports in 3D signalled the first real burst of activity and commitment to 3D by content producers and providers. In 2009 and 2010, major networks such as BSkyB and ESPN promised to offer 3D channels, and aired high-profile sports events in 3D, in turn triggering copycat efforts around the world in a race to be first in 3D. Until a great deal more broadcast content is available in 3D however, the model of full-time 3D broadcasting will not be sustainable. What is more, the relatively slow pace of 3D Blu-ray releases and video games will not fill the gap. As a result, the next year will be a time of experimentation in which the ultimate path for 3D to the home is determined.


The adoption of 3D hinges on production of 3D content and its availability to home viewers, and its ultimate value depends on the quality of that content and the quality of the viewing experience. Already, the industry has reached a high standard of quality in creating, encoding and decoding 3D content, but home viewers will also need easy access to that content to justify their investment in 3D-capable electronics.

The SENSIO 3D video processor is designed to work with conventional DVD players as well as CRT, LCD, DLP and D-ILA projectors. It is MPEG-2 compliant, offering full-screen high-resolution and full-colour 3D format, compatible with future distribution channels such as pay per view, video on demand, DTV and HDTV broadcast.

Be prepared

Despite the fact that the 3D segment is still growing, A/V integrators need to prepare their customers to watch 3D at home. It is not a question of whether or not 3D will happen on a massive scale, rather a question of when. Home theatre and entertainment systems being installed now must be compliant with 3D signal distribution from end to end, or be replaced when the client chooses to purchase a 3DTV. The integrator that offers future-proof installation now, possibly at a premium, can respond quickly when customers decide they want 3D. In another couple of years, when clients are demanding full 3D systems just prior to a 3D broadcast of the 2012 Summer Games, the well-prepared integrator can build on the client's existing systems and profit from the sale of accessories such as 3D glasses.

3D in action

Right now, a typical 3D home installation would include a 3D-capable projector or flatpanel display, a 3D-enabled player or game console, and an A/V receiver that is compliant with the HDMI 1.4 specification. Glasses are necessary, too, for viewers to experience the stereoscopic effect of 3D, which results when two different views of the same scene - the left-eye and right-eye views - cause the convergence point to be in front of or beyond the actual screen. This trick of the eyes creates the impression of depth.

To watch 3D, passive polarised or active shutter glasses are required.

Shutter glasses are used when the left- and right-eye images that make up the 3D picture are being displayed alternately on screen at high speeds. Synced to the 3DTV through an emitter, shutter glasses alternately block the opposite eye view at a rate of about 120 times per second. Passive glasses are required for 3DTVs that show the left- and right-eye views on alternate lines. A surface coating on the screen very rapidly alternates the polarity of the picture from line to line. Because each lens in the glasses is polarized differently, the viewer sees the left view with the left eye and the right view with the right.

Installation considerations

In installing these systems, the integrator should be aware that the infrared emitter for shutter glasses can interfere with the performance of an infrared television remote. In a larger home theatre space, the emitter also must be positioned to reach all seats or viewing perspectives. When shutter glasses are used, the integrator also should limit use of fluorescent and LED lighting, which can cause viewers to see some flickering on other lighted items in the room.


As the technology behind 3D continues to evolve, the buzz in the consumer market will continue to grow. Increasing numbers of high-profile sports and entertainment events will be available in 3D, pushing customer interest in 3D-capable home theatres. While the integrator doesn't need to be a 3D expert, he or she should be better educated than the customer - and be ready to help the customer invest in systems, now and going forward, that will enable a fast 3D upgrade in time for the big event.

The availability of popular content will not only drive greater adoption of 3D, but also dictate the delivery model for the short term. Without sufficient content for 24/7 channels, the industry is likely to offer 3D programming as part of video-on-demand (VOD) or pay-per view (PPV) services. In the coming year, as advances in 3D display technology bring to market simpler, yet more sophisticated, solutions that enable a rich, immersive viewing experience, integrators will have more and better options for giving customers access to this content.

Nicholas Routhier is President and CEO of SENSIO Technologies. Recognised as the worldwide 3D home video standard in the industry, SENSIO develops and markets avant-garde stereoscopic technologies designed to offer the most advanced and immersive cinematographic experience available.


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