Which 3DTV “Format” Will Win?

3dtv format-war

3dtv format-war

There’s a big battle brewing over which 3D TV technology consumers will adopt. This time last year Sky put LG’s passive 47-inch LD920 3DTV into some pubs to showcase their football in 3D, and Avatar exploded across cinemas in 3D, again using passive glasses.

So far, so good. But then TV manufacturer’s realised that people had already been sold “Full HD” (1080p) televisions as the best viewing experience… and 3DTV’s using passive glasses (which rely on polarised light to create a 3D effect) can’t do Full HD in 3D mode because half the pixels of each image are used for the left eye and half for the right eye.

Introducing Active Shutter 3D TV’s…

Most TV manufacturers (Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and LG too) produced 3DTV’s with “active shutter” glasses which rely on the rapid flashing of full-screen images sequentially for each eye. The active-shutter system could do Full HD, so it could be sold as a step forward, technologically. Almost immediately problems of ghosting (cross-talking) and flickering were reported when watching 3DTV, especially on LCD/LED TV’s (plasma sets seemed to have less of the 3D display issues). To compound the problem, the 3D glasses were heavy, expensive and needed batteries. Consumers naturally thought this wasn’t the 3D solution they’d enjoyed at the cinema.

What About Glasses-Free 3DTV’s?

At this point, people started asking when they could get “glasses-free” 3D TV. It was a reasonable question. After all, if Nintendo can make little games zing in 3D with their new 3DS, and Toshiba can do it with a laptop, can’t we get TV’s using the same tech? Well, yes, but “autostereoscopic” (the fancy name for “glasses-free”) 3D TV’s suffer from other problems. Firstly, they’re expensive (£900 for Toshiba’s Regza GL1 12-inch LCD 3DTV and £1,800 for the 20-inch LCD 3DTV). Secondly, you can only get the 3D effect in a few “sweet spot” viewing angles, which may be fine when you’re playing a DS game, or playing/working on a laptop, but not fine when you and your mates want to watch football in 3D from six different viewing angles and distances from the screen.

Stepping Into 2011…

So, until the cost and technological difficulties of autostereoscopic 3D TV’s are resolved, where does that leave us? Well, LG, the Korean TV manufacturer has gone back to its position of 12 months ago and is backing passive 3D TV’s again with their new LW6500 Cinema 3D TV… and this time, there’s a twist. Apparantly, using a bit of sneaky wizardry, they say they can get Full 3D HD into their future lineup of FPR passive 3D TV’s. Would that be the winning “format”? It would mean lightweight, cheap 3D glasses, full 3D HD resolution, a wide viewing angle, no crosstalk / ghosting / flickering and it could all be coming in 2011.

It seems like we’ve come full circle from when this blog was launched a year ago, back to passive technology being the format likely to drive up adoption rates for 3DTV as the active shutter glasses of current 3DTV’s are deemed too expensive and heavy.

About Guy Wilson

Guy Wilson started writing for the 3DTVReviewer blog in early 2010. Guy is passionate about all forms of 3D tech and can be contacted at guy@3dtvreviewer.co.uk
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23 Responses to Which 3DTV “Format” Will Win?

  1. joe says:

    I prefer autosterioscopic,however I fought hard and long for Betamax and we all know where that went.
    Happy New Year.

  2. Paul says:

    I have Panasonic vt25 58. There is no problum with goasting. By the way great tv. But if you set 14ft or more from tv you will loose sink with the glasses. not a lot. but it will happen. I did not get this tv to view 3d a lot so to me dosent matter to much. not much to see enyway. I oreded a new pair of xpand glasses to see if they work better . I will give update after I receve them Thanks Paul

  3. John Bamford says:

    As a TV repair engineer of many years standing I know it will be the public that will push the tecnology. Even though it will probably be wrong! Look what happened to VHS versus Beta. ….Beta WAS the superior system due to its comb filters and tape to head contact. The tape had a Two hundred and Thirty degree wrap! Did people want this????? NO . All they wanted at this time was the abundant supply of VHS rental films which at that time were more prevalent! So they suffered the bad pictures with more snow!! SAME WITH ANALOGE and DIGITAL…….We all know that ANALOG is best. You get to see ALL the picture WITH NOTHING TAKEN OUT! It’s the broadcasters fault. So now we have to endure big blocks of digital stopped video instead of a small amount of snow dots! All this due to the lack of bandwidth! I really do think it’s a bad show that when there is fast moving video content on more than Ninety per cent of all the transmissions you get this effect! These days I don’t get so excited and fired up about new technology. I almost bought an active samsung 3d just before Christmas. You only got one pair of glasses with them!! What does that person who has a family of Six do?? Of course the price of these glasses are astronomical! I am going to wait and see what PHILIPS and SONY come up with!

  4. Mr D.W.Keohane says:

    without glasses is the only way–at the moment to watch live tv (sky) you have to subscribe to their world package….not for me……

  5. John says:

    On the face of it the new LG passive appears to be the best option. I will be in the market soon for a large screen (50″) 3DTV some time in 2011. tHat is when my 46″ Sagem requires a new lamp. It’s already well past its shelf life – nearly 6 years old now.
    May I take this opportunity to thank you so much for your introduction to this new age of TV’s.

    Kind regards


  6. Ian Mildred says:

    I love 3D. I saw Avatar, Resident Evil, and A Christmas Carol amongst others at the cinema and the 3D effect was great, so I would be quite happy with passive 3D at home.

    I have a little money coming my way so I hope to invest in a Samsung Plasma, I also love the glasses and do not find them uncomfortable even with prescription glasses.

    The only thing that really annoys me are the exclusives, I would love Avatar, just have to wait another year or so.

    As long as I can get a reasonable to great effect then I am happy.

  7. dan says:

    I think that the future is going to be Passive 3D. Active 3D has too many unresolved issues and dosnt offer the versatlilty and value for money that you get from passive 3D. LG are right on the money with this one and have been for a long time. Last year they announced parnerships with Sky and Microsoft and now they have finally come up with the first “flicker-free” 3D TV, great news for customers and 3D fans!

  8. Ray Oshry says:

    That would certainly be the way forward. Personally I will wait until Panasonic/Sony bring out their own passive version, preferably on a LED TV.

  9. Allan says:

    I find the 3d reviewer excellent in bringing the up-to -date news and the advances in this tech. I’m waiting for a few more months before I purchase but this news from LG in encouraging.
    Thanks and keep up the excellent work

  10. Steve says:

    I have the Samsung 40″ LED and it does ghost a bit. On the Sky football the close-ups are ghost free but on a longer shot there is definite ghosting. Also the set has a 2d-3d effect. It was good when I first used it through my digiboxes scart connection but since I’ve upgraded to a Sky HD box through a HDMI cable the 2d-3d effect is less pronounced. Don’t know why.

  11. Robert Law says:

    autostereoscopic is the way for 3D TV John Logie Baird achieved this at 1000 lines all electronic system in the 1940s !

    the current system is still far to expensive with no content and off course Sky you have to subscribe to there top package to get 3D

    realview innovations have made “deepscreen” with a lens which placed on front of the TV converts everything to a 3D effect with out the need for glasses or Sky

    Robert Law

  12. 172 says:

    3D should be judged on cinema sales which is probably what the eletronics manufacturers are constantly asking for becuase if cinema sales of 3D films are right down whats the point in investing in it… obviously the Blu-ray sales would be checked as well.
    Next we have the technology itself …. was it introduced because the manufacturers had nothing else to give, no better picture in general … specially if they didn`t want to pay sharp … you end up with a string of lights around the side of the TV and because of that the only thing they can do is hype to death 3D and hope it pays off.

    It`s up to you folks just don`t watch at a 45 degree angle with one of the 3D techs (pathetic yes!)

    3D should be still be testing in a lab until it`s done 100% by the TV without any glasses
    without any of distortion,bleeding,tearing problems.

    Another thing most 3D films are the non real world titles as in animation and mostly CGI films only because they are eaiser to convert… and probably the younger audience are more likely to go wow.

    It`s a pity Plasma will die out due to power restrictions soon, it`s possible we`ll never get to know what black is on a TV screen but we won`t notice as we`ll be watching a doubled frame coloured mess that will hide that.

    Your choice.

  13. Scott says:

    Passive 3D will definately win this format war, With the price of the active glasses combined with the new quality of passive 3d there can only be one winner! Have a look how cool the passive 3d glasses are.

  14. I bought into 3D on my Pc with active glasses and a Samsung monitor – as I use a Fuji 3D camera too. Great effects but the synch is sometimes lost and flickering occurs. Still not a bad picture. I am going to but a 3D tv and was pondering the 50″ Panasonic plasma – but stopped in my tracks when I saw the news of the passive LG screen. Will wait and see what happens as the Jan trade shows and if it can handle Full HD 3D from blu-ray. I have 7 titles in 3d waiting on the shelf……

  15. Rich says:

    I currently have a Toshibe 3D laptop which has the nVidia 3D vision system (active glasses) and have to confess that although the overall effect is beyond expectation the active glasses are a bit of a pain.

    I nearly bought a Samsung 7000 series in November but decided to wait and see how the technology and prices panned out over the next 6 months or so.

    I will be very interested to see the new LG passive TVs when the hit my local shops but I feel the technology will really become popular when the TV manufacturers have perfected the no glasses system.

    Whatever system I end up with in the future it will definately need to have the 2D to 3D conversion.

  16. D1rty.. says:

    think its looking like the passive tech is gonna be the real future of 3d tech, which personally, i thnk its the way to go. really cheesed off now, spent a few months of researching into all this 3d tech and was gonna go get the 50 inch panasonic, ( this mornin ) but now i dont know if i should, should i wait for the passive way to really kick off???? but my copy of gt5 is screaming for a 3d tv lol…… how long is it really gonna be before passive becomes mainstream???? anyway thanks for all the info giz, its been one of the best sources of impartial data i use..

  17. Stewart says:

    I am waiting a while, never realy been an early adopter. Currently run a DPL projector onto a 7ft screen and a 42″ 720LCD which is good enough without even stepping up to HD. Unfortunatly this has to go so will be looking to change to a TV screen. I am excited by the idea of 3D, passive would be my choice as it stands as I have enjoyed the current crop coming through cinema, but keeping my eye on what is happening. Passive at non HD would be preferable to active with the other issues that seem to be haunting it(£). The big factor at present is the lack of choice, however don’t think watching everyday TV offerings in 3D would interest me so I would be looking for a system I would be comfortable with for about 10hrs per week.

  18. Rob Munday says:

    Firstly, I am forever reading that active systems give full HD images however, as far as I can see, this simply isn’t true because the source images are only half the resolution to start with i.e. ‘side -side’ or ‘up -down’ format. They might be stretched to fill the HD screen but that doesn’t mean that they are HD resolution. As far as image resolution is concerned therefore there is no difference between Active and Passive systems as both display half resolution images for each eye.
    Regarding which technology, I have both Passive (Hyundai) and Active (LG) systems. The biggest problem with Passive is the almost nonexistent vertical angle of view caused by the distance between the LCD pixels and the polarising filter. Move up and down a fraction and the whole 3D image becomes scrambled due to the fact that the polarising filter and the horizontal rows of pixels become mismatched. This will be solved in time by applying the polarising filter directly to the LC cells. There are also polarisation artefacts such as banding etc. from different angles. By comparison the Active system gives much better images with a bigger viewing angle. Depending on the brand, the glasses are hardly any heavier or bigger than passive glasses.
    The technology that will ultimately win through will depend entirely upon the 3D application. My own feeling, having been in the business for 30 years, is that general TV as we know it will not be 3D at all. The shooting angles and editing styles simply don’t work in 3D. We will have different screens for different applications. For example for watching 3D films, sports events and gaming in the home, on aeroplanes etc. then the future may well be just with glasses i.e. advanced versions of virtual reality headsets using miniature (and safe) lasers that scan images directly into the eye. The advantage of this technology, which was proven 15-20 years ago, is that both the size and resolution of the apparent virtual screen is unlimited i.e. you can be sitting in economy class looking at a cinema sized super hi-def 3D screen. This can never be possible using flat panel 3D TV technology of any kind. Even current LCD based headsets give astounding 3D images.
    For 3D internet, internet shopping, holo-phones, there will be the new Sony type 360 deg. cylindrical auto stereoscopic displays, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAS55_RngoQ . Using such a display it will be possible to see exactly the product you wish to buy or the person you are talking to on the holo-phone from any angle. This technology exists now, although not for sale quite yet.
    Glasses free, auto stereoscopic flat TV’s have been around for 10-15 years. I bought one myself 8 or so years ago and Chinese shopping centres are full of them, running 3D adverts for Chinese products. These screens however suffer from limited depth and limited viewing angle and generally require up to nine different images rather than just two. Both the depth and viewing angle however will greatly improve in the near future by the use of higher resolution LCD screens and better quality lenticular screens or even holographic screens. It is difficult to see however how such technology could ever give as good an image as a glasses system due to the limitations of the optics involved.
    Last but not least the ultimate 3D display will be a real time electronic ‘true’ hologram. Such systems have already been built and demonstrated in various scientific labs however currently cost a million dollars each and so you won’t find one in PC world for a while!

  19. andrew chamberlain says:

    Dont know which format will “win” , all we know is that our new 50″ panasonic 3D plasma is fantastic. 3d is superb , no issues at all , amazing quality. So glad we didnt get LED tv.
    We got 2 pairs of glasses with TV , and paid extra £80 for third set. This does seem to be the biggest problem , especially for those with big families. Maybe manufacturers will work harder to bring cost of glasses down , then things will get interesting.

  20. Victor says:

    I’m really leaning toward the 65″ 600 Hz plasma by Samsung and am probably a couple of weeks away from taking the plunge. 3D or not the picture on the 7000 and 8000 series are gorgeous and since the bulk of my viewing is probably going to be regular 2D high def, that’s worthy mention. Also the cost is very attractive compared to the LED’s approaching that size. The LG offering has still peaked my curiosity but the somewhat odd 200 Hz refresh rate has me scratching my head, does that limitation have something to do with the glasses? I won’t make my mind up until I can see and compare the sets myself, but for now it’s still the Samsung. Worst case, by the time I’m ready to replace it, the glasses free units should be well established.

  21. Patrick Lenehan says:

    Time will tell…….for me,Im just after uprading my pj to an Optoma HD 67 and am waiting for the Optoma 3d-xl in feb…..a much cheaper option for what I believe is an events only experience and still in its infancy……Keep up the good work

  22. robert mason says:

    I . bought a samsung 3d 7000 plasma 50″ series when they first came out, also i bought 2 pair of active shutter glasses with rechargeable batteries, so batteries are not a problem, the glasses are a little heavy but they fit over my prescription glasses very well. i have watched 3d films with red and blue lens and paper frames and found they addled my brain somewhat. When using active glasses they dont feel like ive had my head screwed off. i noticed some flickering when i first used active glasses but found that if i closed the curtains the flickering stopped. what i do enjoy is being able to convert 2d to 3d and the samsung handles this very well overall i like my new tele and what it does. before the samsung i had a 50″lg plasma and all that did was suffer from terrible screen burn, so i would never buy another lg tv active or passive 3d

  23. Carl says:

    I have just bought the Samsung 55 inch LED 3D TV with active glasses. There is a little bit of ghosting on the edges of Shrek. However i still think it’s a fantastic picture and TV. I would never watch everything in 3D even if i could as i wouldn’t want to, so i am very happy with my choice. My only complaint would be the restriction of the films available due to tie ins and the price of the glasses needs to drop enormously.

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