Active Shutter >>> Polarized Lense


I just saw a 3D Panasonic Plasma with the active shutter glasses at a Best Buy today: Wow! I’m used to the disposable polarized lense glasses you get at movie theaters. Those are nice, but this is much better.

With polarized lense 3D (or even worse, the old anaglyph red/blue 3D), you can really feel the rare scenes that have some dramatic depth effect, but for regular scenes, the effect is subtle. With this active shutter tech, the effect wasn’t subtle at all. The demo reel playing on the TV showed a woman in a forest; a fairly normal scene with no unusual depth effect and nothing popping out of the screen. It felt like looking into a 3D box. I could just see full depth detail throughout the whole scene and it really made it pop to life.

I haven’t had a chance to play games in active shutter 3D yet, but the mere thought of playing something like Wipeout or better yet, something like Uncharted or Red Dead Redemption with this active shutter 3D effect is extremely attractive. Seeing such immersive environments with full 3D depth effects sounds amazing, and I may invest in some PC hardware until the consoles catch up.

The big downside for games, of course, is that that stereo 3D requires significant processing resources: approximately double the pixel rendering power of 2D. Pretty much every graphic effect or feature requires processing resources, so there are always trade offs involved. Dynamic shadows, HD resolution, high frame rates, destructible environments, online networking, split-screen play, anti-aliasing, etc: they all require processing resources and it’s up the the developers and ultimately the players which trade offs are worth it and which features are worth including.

Eventually, if there is another generation of console hardware, I’d imagine that pixel pushing power will increase dramatically and this trade off will be much less of an issue, but for now, the trade off is significant. but still, I can’t wait to play this stuff in person.


Written by: Darrin - Contributing Editor


  1. #1 by Emrah on May 13th, 2010 [ 7319 Points ]

    I think the presentation has more to do with the depth perception, than the polarized lense or shutter.

  2. #2 by Darrin on May 13th, 2010 [ 17143 Points ]

    Have you tried the active shutter glasses? I’ve seen many movies with the polarized lenses and the effect was never this good.

  3. #3 by Jay on May 13th, 2010 [ 83111 Points ]

    did you try the Grand Canyon demo? It may have been from the same demo they had at the one I went to. It was crazy ridiculous. One of the coolest moments was when they had a first person view going down some of the colorado’s rapids and water splashed the camera.

    It’s definitely a promising tech, but I do have a couple problems with it.

    1. It’s very uncomfortable wearing the glasses over my own, and I need my glasses because my astigmatism causes too much shadow/double vision.

    2. Current shutter glasses have about a 30% loss in color and brightness due to their shade. Hopefully they will get true clear lenses in the future so you won’t have to sacrifice brightness and vibrancy for 3D

    Other than that, I’m looking forward to seeing what they can improve on in the next couple years, maybe work on a unified 3D system so you can use the 3D glasses on any 3D capable TV.

  4. #4 by Darrin on May 13th, 2010 [ 17143 Points ]

    No, I didn’t see the Grand Canyon demo, but I’ll look for it. I’m already convinced though. I’m still waiting for playable 3D PS3 games before I drop $2K+ on a TV.

    I didn’t notice a significant loss of color/brightness. The plasma picture looked amazing through the glasses, even without the 3D.

    Yes, if you have to wear regular glasses, these would be a problem. You can always wear contacts, but I know some people don’t want to do that.

    The cross manufacturer incompatability with glasses is unfortunate, but it will sort itself out like the remote controls did.

  5. #5 by bad company on May 13th, 2010

    black Friday best buy sony 3d tv

  6. #6 by Segitz on May 13th, 2010 [ 1470 Points ]

    I don’t agree either. It depends MORE on content than anything else. Or else, Avatar’d suck in cinemas too (99% of those are using polarized glasses).

    Plus, tech for your home is still in its infancy. Most polarized glass TVs have only half the resolution, whereas shutterglasses only give you one tenth (tested by german computer magazine c’t) of the light of the original picture, since the shutter glasses take time to shift from open to closed.

    Plus, as Jay, I also “suffer” from astigmatism (and short sightedness too). I need glasses to enjoy viewing television. Shutter glasses usually don’t fit on top of my glasses (at least I haven’t seen any that do). Polarized glasses have “clip ons” available. These cost nearly nothing (usually 5€ or something), so tv parties are easier to set up too.

    Anyways… for this console cycle, 3D gaming will stay a gimmick anyway… the consoles are already breaking a sweat rendering games in 2D, and now doubling that load simply won’t work without some serious concessions. Films, however, can take advantage of it… but that’ll take time, since the technology to make movies in 3D (in a more mainstream fashion) only just takes off too. And retrofitting movies with a 3D effect usually sucks.

  7. #7 by Emrah on May 13th, 2010 [ 7319 Points ]

    @darrin: Actually I have, but it is not comparable to your experience, I had a tnt2 card waaay back in around the late 90’s, it had shutter 3d glasses, but it operated at 60 hz instead of 120hz, very much head ache inducing. But I think I have an idea why you felt it was better:

    The better effect that you mention may be attributed to better contrast on the plasma compared to that you are accustomed to in theatres. The better contrast might result in more vivid scenes leading to better perception. However, content plays the most important part in that perception, how much the pseudo-eye seperation should be in a scene plays an important role.

    Some more semi-random info:
    We actually perceive depth not only because we have two eyes, but becasue there’s perspective and color processing in our brain.. The seperation of the eye provides depth information for the 10 or so meters, the rest is handled with perspective and atmospheric perspective. Giant objects like mountains and such normally don’t rely on us having two eyes, they are too far away to be “fed” differently to each eye, but the content provider may exaggarate the pseudo-eye seperation for us to look at things as if they are a small replica in a box. If you are wowed by the 3d effect in a vista scene, it is probably because they are faking it (many scenes in Avatar probably rely on that exaggaration), otherwise, most of the scenes streching far away wouldn’t have any effect or it would be very subtle.

  8. #8 by Darrin on May 13th, 2010 [ 17143 Points ]

    @Emrah: A distant vista doesn’t give you any left eye/right eye depth perspective. The demo scene I saw was at near distance (10-40 feet) inside a forest with a bunch of children circling a singing lady (pretty corny content, but the 3D was awesome). It could have been an indoor setting as well.

    I watched Avatar in 3D. It was nice, but this active shutter plasma demo reel was easily more impressive. My experience was far from scientific and it’s possible that my bias and expectations could be coloring my impressions… We will see.

    Also, I suspect you need to try more recent active shutter technology. I am not an authority but it’s a safe bet that the current stuff has improved since the TNT2 stuff you used in the ’90s.

    @segitz: “shutterglasses only give you one tenth (tested by german computer magazine c’t) of the light of the original picture” The picture I saw was awesome, and I just can’t believe that only had a tenth of the light that I would get without the glasses. I didn’t have any quantitative test gear, but the numbers you are quoting seem far out of reason.

  9. #9 by Darrin on May 13th, 2010 [ 17143 Points ]

    @segitz: “for this console cycle, 3D gaming will stay a gimmick anyway… the consoles are already breaking a sweat rendering games in 2D, and now doubling that load simply won’t work without some serious concessions.”

    I’d agree that the concessions for stereo 3D are very significant.

    1080p has 2.25 times as many pixels as 720p, so going from 720p->1080p is roughly on par with adding stereo 3D to 720p video.

    And obviously 1080p is only used on a small subset of today’s games that can afford the processing resources. But I wouldn’t say that 1080p is a gimmick, just a high end niche feature.

  10. #10 by Segitz on May 13th, 2010 [ 1470 Points ]

    Keep in mind, that the perception of light is not linear, but rather logarithmic. And come time, shutterglasses will be able to switch on and off faster than they do now… so it’ll only get better. The tests in question didn’t even have to test how much light passes through, but measure the time it takes for them to switch. And the results were, that each eye has, instead of 8.3 ms (60fps per eye), the glasses only opened for about 3 ms.

    And… as far as I can tell, both technologies are still very young in consumer space. So, it should only get better… I mean, CRT tvs have like 60 years of technology in them, yet they constantly advanced. LCDs and Plasmas are only just now coming to fruition, just as 3D televisions do, no matter what kind they are.

  11. #11 by EdEN on May 13th, 2010 [ 142716 Points ]

    True 1080p 3D will have to wait for a generation since the processing power needed for it is not available at the moment… let alone the 3D TV penetration needed.

  12. #12 by Jay on May 13th, 2010 [ 83111 Points ]

    not only that, but TVs would also have to be able to output 4147200 pixels, which, at minimum, would have to be like 1620P (which is 2880×1620; 4665600 pixels)

  13. #13 by Darrin on May 13th, 2010 [ 17143 Points ]

    1080p stereo 3D games will have to wait for newer console hardware (except for maybe super simple graphics), but 1080p stereo 3D blu-ray movies are happening this year.

  14. #14 by cliffster1134 on May 13th, 2010 [ 235 Points ]

    I’m gonna have to go to best buy on my next day off and check this out. I havent been impressed yet by one movie in 3D so far. But in fairness i missed avatar 3d. so i cant say anything on that matter till i see it first hand. i’ve been skeptical so far.

  15. #15 by Emrah on May 14th, 2010 [ 7319 Points ]

    @darrin, we’re on the same page, that’s why I said my experience was not comparable. As for the random info, it was random info, I didn’t speculate you saw a vista scene :)


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