Translation Please: A Quick 3-D Lingo Guide

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Status report from the Digital Cinema Summit, put on annually by the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers on the weekend preceding the National Association of Broadcasters show: Lots of excited activity in every link of the 3-D food chain.

Also: Tonnage of new lingo. Consider this week’s translation a decoder, aimed at making you quickly conversant on the major 3-D topics.

TVs first: For a fun, seven-syllable word which will make you feel smart, try “autostereoscopic.” People who say it usually mean a 3-D TV that doesn’t require eyeglasses. Speaking of glasses: Several different kinds are in play, but the big three are anaglyph (the SMPTE audience booed), polarized and “shutterglass.”

Anaglyphs are the color-coded paper jobs. 3-D purists find them puerile and damaging to the category. Concerns were raised, for instance, that any further anaglyph-based attempts at 3D on TV (think Super Bowl commercials) will “poison the well.”

Cinematic 3-D typically uses polarized glasses. Right now, they’re Blues Brothers-ish. Watch for branded versions, for people who regularly attend cinematic 3-D events.

Drawback: Polarized glasses only work with polarized light, which typically comes from projection-based systems. As in not TVs. Not yet.

Shutter glasses use battery power to alternatively shutter, then open, the left and right eyepieces.

By the numbers: Nearly 2,100 of 5,500 digital cinema screens in the U.S. are rigged to play 3-D titles right now. Twenty new titles will play over the next 20 months, from big-name directors. The majority will earn double or triple the ticket sales of the same title in 2-D.

All in, 3-D is a fun place to be — yet the volume of preconceived negative opinions is fierce. Try giving it five more viewings this year, at the movies, before locking in an opinion.

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