Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting

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The View Through a Window Frame…

Most of us have accepted by now the reality that 3D television has not been the tremendous success that many in the display industry had hoped to see.   It has clearly not been the “great new technology” that would have an impact on television sales similar to the transition from CRTs to flat-panel displays together with the transition from analog NTSC to digital HDTV.  In fact, 3D seems pretty much dead as far as consumer enthusiasm to go out and buy a new TV just to have this capability.  Sure, if it comes at no additional cost, no one objects.  But, day by day, it’s getting harder to find anything on a showroom floor that demonstrates what a 3D television viewing experience might look like. 

This leaves a number of industry experts and “analysts” who were predicting how wonderful 3D would be for the future of the television industry with major egg on their cumulative faces.  So, of course, there is the desire to explain away why it didn’t work out the way they expected.  It appears that currently one favorite explanation is that there was insufficient content for people to watch -- If only the television networks had provided more 3D programming all would have gone as predicted.  Furthermore, if movies can succeed in 3D why can’t television?   Another explanation is that the failure of consumer acceptance was caused by the need to wear glasses (active or passive) to view 3D programs.  Once we get rid of those darn glasses then 3D television will succeed. 

In my opinion, there is a more fundamental reason why some movies do well in 3D and why this does not (and will not) translate to the typical television home viewing experience. 

Consider that for stereoscopic 3D, we as viewers have to suspend reality.  Otherwise, there are too many eye brain conflicts for us to accept the two disparate images our eyes see as “real”.  Stereoscopic 3D provides no eye focus depth cues and there is no change in the image when we move our heads.  There is also no eye convergence variation since the images are projected onto a screen at a fixed distance.  For that reason stereoscopic 3D always has an “artificial” look about it.  We do see depth but it never looks entirely real.  

So what can work best for this “not-quite-right” viewing experience?   Something that is already in the realm of fantasy and our brains can accept as being divorced from our everyday life as we experience it.  That is a good fit for animation, for science fiction, or any other story line that is based on situations that are inherently imaginary.  Then if we add a dark room (movie-theater) and a large screen that encompasses most of our field of view we can temporarily live in this fantasy cocoon and find it quite enjoyable.

However, the home viewing experience is not like a movie theater.  Rooms are typically not dark so we have a peripheral reality to deal with.  The TV does not fill our field of view nearly as well.  So what we end up seeing is the 3D image as something that compares to looking through a window frame into another space that is separated from us.  Thus, instead of becoming immersed in the viewing experience we end up with the opposite effect.  The television screen creates a boundary that causes us to feel more remote from the action on the screen than if we were watching without the addition of the artificial 3D effect.  This cannot be fixed with any contemplated technology improvements such as the elimination of polarizing and/or shutter glasses. 

What is interesting to observe is how, in spite of this knowledge, the research efforts are continuing to try to make improvements in conventional stereoscopic 3D displays.  It appears it will take a few more years of effort before there is common understanding of what can be expected from this technology and where the best applications may lie.  By continuing the work, we will also learn the challenges that lie ahead before we can expect to create a truly immersive and realistic viewing experience.  Unfortunately, those who are still clinging to the expectation that with just a few minor modifications 3D will become an accepted viewing mode for television are in for some serious disappointments.  

I would very much like to hear your thoughts about what we can expect to see on televisions in the years to come.   You may contact me directly from this site, by e-mail at silzars@attglobal.net, or by telephone at 425-898-9117.  
 

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19916 NE 30th Ct. Sammamish, WA 98074 Call 425.898.9117

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