The Best Explanation of 3D Technology EVER! (imo)


A couple of days ago I made mention of nVidia’s 3D technology, called 3D Vision that’s been integrated into some of their higher-end video cards. 3D technology is popping up more and more and I believe it’s here to stay, I mean—its freakin’ 3D! That said, I think it’s worth our time to know a little bit more about current 3D technology and how it works! It can get a little complicated, so hold on to your butts.

How does 3D Technology work?

This may be simple, but before we jump into an explanation of 3D technology, we should hammer down a couple of basic principles.

  1. You already see in 3D – Your eyes are, and always have been, capable of broadcasting everything you look at directly to your brain, in full 3D. This is because we’re lucky enough to have two eyes. Each eye takes in same scene from a slightly different perspective and then the brain combines them to create a 3D image. If we were all Cyclops, with only one eye, we’d be perfectly capable of determining the color and shape of things, but it takes a second image, from a second eye, show us the distance between them.
  2. 3D technology tricks your brain – Our brain creates 3D by capturing and comparing two slightly different versions of the same image. 3D technology duplicates this effect by providing viewers with not one, but two images—one to one eye, one to the other. When done correctly your brain fills in the blanks and creates the illusion of a 3rd dimension.

How does 3D work in a Theater?

By now most of you have probably taken in a 3D movie or two, so you’ve likely noticed the glasses aren’t the good ol’ red-and-blue cardboard-clunkers of yesteryear. Old fashioned 3D technology provided each eye with a separate image by blocking your eye’s access to certain colors, i.e. you can’t read red writing when you’re wearing red glasses because everything is already red (say that ten-times fast). Since one eye couldn’t see one color, all the images in that color were only shown to the other eye, and vise-a-versa, so the 3D effect was achieved

Today’s 3D glasses technology uses the same idea except, rather than having two lenses of a different color each lens has a different polarization. Polarized lenses work by blocking out light that is oriented in a certain manner while allowing in light oriented in another. To keep it simple (rather than diving into quantum mechanics here), we’ll say one lens allows in squares, and the other circles. In a movie theater with 3D technology, two projectors display the same film, but with the slightly different images we talked about before; however, one projector projects light that is square-shaped and the other round (remember they’re not really square and round, it’s just for explanation’s sake. For a more advanced explanation of polarization check out this video from Youtube!) Thus each eye is only capable of seeing one of the two projected images. Your brain combines them and voila! 3D.

How does 3D work at Home?

3D TVs in the home are definitely the most technologically tricky of the bunch. This is because unlike movie theaters, smaller displays don’t have the luxury of two projectors. Instead 3D TVs and monitors alternate the two images quickly enough that the brain thinks they’re being shown at the same time. However, since both images are coming from the same source, TVs and monitors can’t pull off the same polarizing trick that the theater could.

Instead 3D TV uses specialized 3D glasses that alternately darken each lens in conjunction with the changing frames, delivering one frame to one eye and the next frame to the other. TV’s equipped for 3D video are able to display twice as many frames-per-second as are standard TVs. This is because each of your eyes will only see half of the images. So in order to achieve the 60-frames-per-second that is the industry standard. 3D TV technology must output 120-frames-per-second. Also, compatible TVs output a signal to their compatible glasses which keep the lightening and darkening of their lenses in sync with the show. Because of this glasses are not interchangeable between different brands of TV; each requires the signal putout through its related brand.

Of course there’s more to say about 3D, there’s always more to say about any technology, but I hope that’s given you a fair explanation of how 3D video works in your home and in the theater. Please post any questions in the comment below and please feed my children by ordering something cool from!

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