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Clearing the 3D Confusion: What You Need to Know

Clearing the 3D Confusion: What You Need to Know

Today, just about everyone has gotten used to the idea of big-screen 3D viewing. The newest movies in the traditional theaters, in fact, are introduced first in a 3D version putting a set of 3D glasses into the hands of many viewers and opening the immersive experience of 3D viewing to just about everyone.

Now, these same users want that experience at home—and the good news is that it is possible and affordable for many. However, to be successful, a 3D system needs to support 3D output end to end. With a little careful planning, users can unlock 3D games, movie and other content on a big screen right at home.

The 3D Source

For users, 3D content options are exploding, with new types of content evolving as well as a huge burst in availability. In addition, the list of potential output sources is evolving as well—providing an increasing number of options for users.

Some users choose to buy a Blu-ray 3D player to unlock the increasing number of movies being released in that format. Others choose to access newly-available 3D channels on cable or satellite networks. In addition, end-users are creating and sharing 3D videos on YouTube.com and creating their own 3D home movies using high-end digital video cameras which integrate support for 3D.

When both the output and input devices support HDMI 1.4a, 3D content can be delivered seamlessly. Blu-ray 3D players, as well as newer cable or satellite set top boxes, 3D cameras, 3D video recorders and 3D PCs, commonly integrate the newest HDMI 1.4a.

However, older devices (such as older cable or satellite set top boxes and gaming consoles), which do not integrate HDMI 1.4a, can still deliver 3D content with the help of a converter box. For example, users can bring content from any of these output sources through an Optoma 3D-XL converter box to a 3D-capable DLP projector. The 3D-XL box processes 3D signals from HDMI 1.4a sources and coverts the signal so it can be received by the HDMI 1.3 input on a 3D-capable DLP projector.

Projectors Deliver Ideal 3D

Perhaps as important as the input source is the right output source for viewing 3D content. 3D content in particular benefits from being viewed as a big screen image, so the largest image possible ensures the best possible viewing experience. A projected 3D image allows viewers to experience an immersive, theater-like viewing experience. By increasing the distance between viewer and image, as with a projected image, the user experience is enhanced.

In addition, a large-screen 3D image ensures that viewers experience less eye strain. Whenever users try to view a 3D image at close distance, their eyes automatically try to re-focus on parts of the image that appear to be near and in the distance.

Since the eye’s distance from the image is fixed, the eye repeatedly tries to refocus, possibly resulting in eye strain. Further, a projector delivers image sizes that are much larger than many televisions so that a cinema-like experience, and an opportunity for more people to share the viewing experience, is created whether content is being viewed in 2D or 3D. This reality encourages TV owners to consider adding a 3D-capable projector to their setup.

In addition, a projector offers a number of significant advantages in terms of cost, flexibility and performance over a television. Unlike projectors, televisions are completely fixed in terms of screen size and largely fixed in terms of placement.

Bringing It All Together

The key to successful 3D projection lies in consistency and compliance. Simply put, the content and its source must both support 3D operation (such as a Blu-ray 3D disc on a Blu-ray 3D player or 3D television content played through a cable/satellite television set top box).

In addition, the projector presenting the content must be capable of 3D operation and a 3D converter box (such as the Optoma 3D-XL converter box) may be necessary to translate the signal between output source and projector. 3D glasses complete the 3D projection system.Including a projector in a 3D system delivers content on an even larger screen than is available from plasma or LCD televisions at a substantially lower cost.

Optoma’s 3D-capable projectors can, in conjunction with the right 3D content and accessories, produce two virtually simultaneous images needed to create a 3D image viewing model. Meanwhile, active 3D glasses (either DLP or RF) deliver those dual image streams (called stereoscopic 3D), one to each eye, to create the 3D viewing experience.

Optoma also offers several models of Full-3D 1080p and 720p projectors which can be connected directly to any 3D-capable source that integrates HDMI 1.4a (no converter box needed). These projectors integrate a VESA 3D port that supports plugging in an RF emitter so that users can directly view 3D content using 3D sources and RF 3D glasses.

Playing Games

A comprehensive 3D setup should match the end use. For example, gamers will want to include a gaming system such as an Xbox 360® or a PlayStation 3™ and invest in games that provide 3D play. 3D enhances computer games, particularly those that involve driving, action and sports, since the improved depth perception provides the experience of being able to judge distances and time actions involved in the game (steering into a hairpin turn or hitting a ball, for example).

These gaming systems generally display in 720p resolution, and may be used with a 3D-capable projector. By investing in an NVIDIA® 3D Vision™ kit, users can ensure that their PC gaming system can display 3D even without HDMI 1.4a. The kit combines a Graphics Processor Units (GPU), specialized 3D glasses and software that deliver a 3D experience from a PC or workstation. Then these 3D-ready PCs, when connected to a 3D-capable projector that is NVIDIA® 3D Vision certified (such as the Optoma GT720, HD66 or GT360), are ready to deliver big-screen gaming.

Enjoying 3D Entertainment

Users who want to view movies have a number of choices. By investing in a 3D-capable HDTV tuner from cable or satellite-based television providers such as DirecTV®, Comcast® or Time Warner®, users can access increasingly available television content. Today, the majority of cable/satellite television broadcast content is documentaries and sporting events.

Meanwhile, Blu-ray 3D players can be used to play Blu-ray 3D discs for movie viewing. All Blu-ray content is encoded in 1080p resolution so that, a projector that supports 1080p provides best results. You’ll also need HDMI 1.4a connectivity. In addition, 3D content can be played on some gaming systems and 3D PCs.

How Optoma’s 3D-XL Box Works

To close the gap between a 3D-capable projector and 3D output source, Optoma has created a multi-standard converter box. The 3D-XL adapter upgrades any 3D-capable DLP projector from Optoma (or any 3D-capable DLP projector) to project 3D content from Blu-ray 3D disks, 3D cable/satellite television content and 3D games from PCs and game consoles.

The 3D-XL box supports a variety of setup options. The most common setup is a 3D-XL box connected to a 3D-capable DLP projector and a 3D source, with users wearing 3D DLP Link® glasses. However, the converter box is designed for flexibility and also works with RF glasses.

In addition, the 3D-XL box integrates an SBS (Side by Side) button that instantly translates 3D content to support older hardware. Projecting resolutions of up to 720p, the box supports two separate 3D inputs and is compatible with HDMI 1.4a.


In order to experience 3D content, users usually need to wear 3D glasses to view 3D images. Depending on the connectivity offered by the projector, users can choose between active glasses (including DLP Link 3D glasses and RF glasses) or passive glasses (which use the same technology used in movie theater glasses).

Active glasses integrate wireless technology so that the viewers are not tethered to the output source. Both are powered by batteries. Using a 120 Hz refresh rate (or 60 frames per second per eye), both allow the human eye to see the images have depth for an immersive 3D experience.

Active glasses use DLP Link technology to communicate with the projector so that there is no need for emitters or other technology. Optoma ZD101 DLP® Link™ 3D glasses, for example, are easily and quickly set up and do not require an emitter. In addition, the glasses are designed for lower power consumption to maximize the life of the batteries. The technology automatically synchronizes the glasses with a signal imbedded in the projected image. When wearing these glasses, users need to be within 10 to 15 feet of the screen and the DLP Link sensor must be pointed in the direction of the screen.

Another option is glasses that integrate radio frequency (RF) technology. These glasses synch to an emitter and use rechargeable batteries. RF glasses operate well at long distances (up to 100 feet) making this technology a good choice in a large venue. Some of Optoma’s projectors (such as the HD33) are bundled with an RF emitter to allow users to choose to use either DLP or RF 3D glasses.

The main advantage of passive glasses: cost. This is the most affordable option, especially for large group viewing. In addition, distance from the screen is not an issue. However, passive technology provides a less compelling 3D experience than active or RF technologies.