A regular question we get asked on The Stereoscopic 3D Channel regards the various 3D glasses and stereoscopic viewing systems that are available to view 3d videos on YouTube and elsewhere. So grab your glasses and join us for a quick trip through the world of 3D glasses 2011. (NOTE: A video version of this article exists. Scroll to foot of page for more details.)
Generally speaking there are three main types of 3D glasses all of which aim to achieve the same effect by using a specific blocking and exposing method to deliver a separate left and right image to the left and right eyes.
Anaglyph 3D Glasses
Firstly the old school anaglyph glasses that use two different coloured lenses to separate out the images. These are available in the red and cyan (blue), red and green or the amber and purple lens (Colorcode) variants. Personally I find each of these styles of anaglyph glasses deliver similar results with relatively poor quality and pronounced problems with ghosting or double images. The reason they are still prevalent is due to the fact that they are inexpensive to produce and supply, plus you don’t need any specialist equipment beyond a basic colour screen to view 3d content. Prior to the latest resurgence of 3D and the amazing leaps forward in the display technologies, anaglyph was pretty much the de facto standard for delivering 3D imagery.
Passive Polarized 3D Glasses
Secondly we have passive polarised glasses. These glasses are the type you’ll see in many theme park 3d shows, in your local cinema under the RealD brand and in a variety of 3d computer monitors and TV screens from the likes of LG. I find passive 3D glasses really comfortable for viewing 3d materials although the downside of them is reduced resolution as it effectively halves the resolution of the display screen with each alternate line showing a left or right image. I find this particularly noticeable on 3d computer monitors as text become less clear to read, however for general movie usage these deliver great results.
Check out the excellent Polaroid 3D Glasses on Amazon
Active Shutter Glasses
Finally we have active shutter glasses. Active Shutter glasses use a battery powered LCD mechanism that closes and opens very quickly to expose your left and right eyes to the appropriate image in synchronisation with the screen you are watching. This is the technology used by Nvidia in their 3D Vision hardware as well as most of the current 3D TV’s from the likes of Panasonic, Sony and Samsung. This format is also used in cinemas under the XPAND brand that seems to be popular across parts of Europe. The benefit of Active glasses is that they deliver a full resolution image to each eye so in theory you are getting the optimal quality possible. While it is true that the image quality is fantastic I sometimes notice the slight flickering that is caused by the shutter glasses and also I must say so far all the shutter glasses I’ve tried on have been relatively uncomfortable. I don’t know if this is imagined or not but I also personally find wearing active glasses a little more tiring for watching a feature length film.
Alternative 3D Viewing Technologies
Cross Eyed Viewing
There are other ways of watching 3d videos that include cross eyed viewing that I find quite uncomfortable but some people swear by it. The technique for this is best covered elsewhere, but in essence you focus your view on a central 3D image that appears between a left & right side by side image when looking at it cross eyed.
Pulfrich 3D Glasses
There is another odd 3D variant that has one dark lens and one clear lens that works on the Pulfrich effect to create an illusion of stereoscopic 3d when the camera or items on screen move horizontally.
These rather unusual glasses are great in that they deliver a full colour 3D picture from a stacked 3D above below image. These glasses are made up of two prisms that as before deliver the appropriate image to each eye. You can find out more about these glasses and check out some sample videos over at Thomas Kumlehn’s openKMQ blog.
Binocular 3D Devices
Another couple of interesting 3D viewing options come in the form of binocular devices. For several years manufacturers such as Vuzix have sold dual screen headsets that in some cases can decode and display stereoscopic material usually in the outmoded field sequential format. The downside of these glasses has been their low resolution coupled with the halved resolution on the field sequential video deliver a really limited 3D effect. However Sony last year demonstrated a hi-resolution 3D visor that might actually be able to deliver better results. Although the Sony device is not yet available the Vuzix Wrap 920 Widescreen 3D Video Eyewear is available on Amazon for those interested.
Hasbro also launched a fun little 3D binocular viewer the My3D aimed at kids that looks a little like the classic stereoscopic Viewmaster. This attaches to an iPhone or iPod to play back appropriately formatted videos or specially created stereoscopic games.
Glasses Free 3D
There’s also an entire new range of glasses-free auto stereoscopic screens like the one used on the Nintendo 3DS Handheld Console, Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D Camera and 3D laptopdisplays. These are generally based on lenticular prism screen overlays to deliver the individual views to each eye. Several manufacturers are currently demonstrating prototypes and Toshiba has recently announced the availability of its first commercially available glasses free 3d TV. I’ve not seen any of the new prototypes but in general the limited viewing angles have been a major problem that the manufacturers have struggled to crack and I’m not sure we’ll be seeing really great results anytime soon.
For existing devices manufacturers like SpatialView also offer a glasses free 3D lenticular overlay, the 3DeeSlide for iPhones & iPods and have similar products in development for other display devices.
Phone manufacturers are also moving in on 3D displays for the mobile market with the likes of the new HTC Evo 3D smartphone and the LG Optimus 3D Tablet. This is obviously an area of growth to keep a keen eye (or two) on.
I hope this little guide has been helpful and remember when you’re watching Enhanced Dimensions’ videos on Stereoscopic 3D Channel in YouTube 3D you can simply click the 3D popup menu to choose whatever glasses and display system you have and you’ll get the appropriate and optimal 3D viewing experience.
Article Video Version
If you can’t be bothered reading all this why not take 5 minutes out and watch our video version of this article – in 3D on YouTube. It’s available now on The Stereoscopic 3D Channel on YouTube – The Definitive Guide to 3D Glasses and Stereoscopic Viewing Systems