Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting

DISPLAY CONSULTING

 

Better than 3D?...

The push to get consumers to accept 3D television continues. Market surveys tout the increasing sales and market penetration of TVs with 3D capability. But are consumers really on the cusp of universal acceptance -- or are we just kidding ourselves? When 3D is included as a feature at essentially no extra cost is that a meaningful measure of consumer acceptance and usage? Does the market data mean that the interest is really there or are we pushing something that has only marginal value at best? Perhaps it is time to admit that the need for polarizing glasses (active or passive) along with the greater than 2X reduction in image brightness, and the not-quite-right appearance of the images is something that consumers are not clamoring to have. One suggested solution has been to use some form of glassless technology but that too has major limitations. And no matter how well done, 3D images will still look strangely artificial.

I recently paid a visit to our local Best Buy store to check out the latest in 3D displays and how they were being promoted. The one aisle with 3D demonstration displays had pairs of glasses mounted on stands in front of each display. One could look through these glasses to see the 3D images. In the brightly lit store, the images looked dull and the 3D effect added little to the viewing experience -- somewhat like looking through dark glasses and a window frame into an artificial world. It was hard to imagine that having to view these dim images through glasses mounted on posts would cause buyers to enthusiastically embrace these products.

Perhaps there is something better that the display industry can offer as an alternative for the next “must-have” products. Given that consumers have shown strong interest in really large displays, how can we make those images even more spectacular? I recently took a good look at the 80+ inch displays that are becoming more common. For the first time, I could see that HD resolution was no longer as good as we can typically appreciate. At viewing distances that one may encounter in a home environment, the pixel structure was becoming noticeable. Still almost good enough – but no longer excellent.

Well, I think we may have an answer. Recently there has been more interest and early product demonstrations of displays with four times HDTV resolution. Some are calling them 4K displays, others are calling them Ultra-High Definition or UHDTV displays. This higher resolution produces spectacular results at the larger screen sizes. And for consumers there is no downside. No glasses are needed, the images retain their brightness, and there is no special requirement for program material. Whether the program material is provided in the UHD format, or any lesser format, it is still viewable. And as was done earlier with NTSC images, the current HD formats can be up-converted to UHD using line-doubling and interpolation technology to achieve an effect nearly as good.

Perhaps the display industry can learn from the digital camera industry. The “horsepower” race for ever higher pixel count imagers in digital cameras has continued for many years and still has not fully run its course. For typical family and travel photos an imager with 2 Megapixel resolution would, in fact, be entirely satisfactory. But the digital camera manufacturers have learned that higher pixel counts give their products a perceived competitive edge. So the race has continued and now high-end cameras have imagers approaching and even exceeding 20 Megapixels. Even though these very large pixel-count images create storage challenges and lenses are not always good enough to match this resolution capability such considerations are not perceived as counterbalancing the imager pixel capability in selling these cameras. And perhaps that is as it should be. The higher resolution imagers do not introduce any new problems – other than perhaps a higher price.

As we have also recently experienced, Apple has been able to create major product demand with high-resolution displays for its phones and tablets. Would 3D displays have done the same? In my opinion no – given the technology approaches currently known to us.

Personally, I have high enthusiasm and a desire to acquire a large-screen UHD display as soon as they become available at prices that are not too exorbitant. That’s a display that I will be able to appreciate and on which I will enjoy all my viewing experiences. Would you make the same choice or would you prefer a 3D display? I would be interested to hear your opinions. You may contact me directly from this site, by telephone at 425-898-9117, or by email at silzars@attglobal.net.

 

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