WHY EYEWEAR-FREE 3DTVS ARE HARD TO BUILD

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ONE OF THE QUESTIONS THAT ALWAYS (ALWAYS) COMES UP IN DISCUSSIONS
about 3D television is this: “Will there ever be a 3D TV that doesn’t
require the glasses?”

Regardless of your stance on the matter of whether and why
people are put off by 3DTV eyewear, it’s a valid question. Dedicated
eyewear for television watching seems
destined to parallel the fate of the TV remote:
Something that gets sat on, chewed on,
spilled on and lost in the cushions. Sometimes
simultaneously.

Many of us have seen 3D televisions that
don’t require special eyewear. Visually, most of us have the same
reaction: Eh, maybe not; a little off; needs more work.

From a usability perspective, it’s worse: Forget about lying down
or tilting your head or even moving, in some cases. Today’s autostereoscopic
3DTVs require the viewer to stay in a fairly fixed position.

Ever wonder why? I did, and learned more about it during a
standing-room-only session at last week’s The Cable Show in Los
Angeles.

Here’s why doing 3D without the glasses is so hard: It needs
more (many more) than the two camera angles (one for each
eye). And, each extra camera “view” divides the resolution.

That’s not to say it can’t be done, but it’s going to make for a really,
really large video stream, relative to today’s high-definition TV streams.

Mark Schubin, a 3D expert and operator of SchubinCafe.com,
described an NHK display of glasses-free 3D he saw at the 2009 NAB
show: “It was spectacular. You could move your head in any direction;
you could look around objects — but the quality was less resolution
than YouTube.”

Plus, he said, the footage was shot using an 8K
camera — meaning 16 times the pixels of an HD
camera. So, to get to really good auto-stereoscopic
television, “you may need 100 times the picture information”
of HD, he explained. For mediocre quality,
it’s still a video stream that’s five or more times
larger than an HD stream.

That’s why glasses-free 3D may emerge first on smaller, personal
devices, noted David Broberg, vice president of consumer video
technology for CableLabs, who also spoke on the panel. With the
use of a method called “parallax barrier,” the sweet spot for 3D viewing
is technically and visually manageable on a smaller screen.

So, the answer to the question of whether there will ever be
glasses-free 3D TV is yes — and no. Surely, someday. But probably
not anytime soon, especially when it comes to big-screen TVs.

Until then, the 3D glasses become another thing to keep away
from the puppy, the beverage and the couch cushions.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at www.translation-please.com.

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