3DTV Desktop is a new tool developed by the Taiwanese company Radiant Star, the one that made the 3Dfier 2D-to-3D DirectShow filter that I’ve already written about here in the blog. Their new tool has nothing to do with autoconversion to 3D however, instead it is targeted to help 3D HDTV users that manually switch to Side by Side 3D mode in order to watch some 3D content from their PC that does not support automatic activation of the 3D mode on the TV set. For example if you open a Side by Side 3D video using a normal video player and want to be able to watch it in 3D on the 3D HDTV that is connected to your computer you need to manually activate the Side by Side 3D mode on the TV, but after the video finishes and you are back on your desktop you will again have to switch to normal mode and then again the next time you wan to watch another 3D video or a 3D photo, or even a game that supports Side by Side output. In order to save you from the need of that constant switching of the TV from the remote control the 3DTV Desktop tool can instead reconfigure your desktop and 2D work environment in a way that it won’t be unusable when you have the TV set in Side by Side mode and it does not display such content. To do that when activated the tool will turn your normal work window into a Side by Side one (squashed) where the actual desktop will be shown in the left side and the right side of the display will be all in white color. This way you will be actually sending Side by Side content to the TV, so your desktop (although it will be shown in 2D) will be visible through the 3D glasses (this will not work well on autostereoscopic 3D displays) and thus saving you from constant switching of the display mode of the 3D HDTV.
Now this may sound as really useful tool for some people and it actually can help quite a lot, but there is some more work needed to be done on it in order to have it even better and more functional, especially considering the fact that it is a commercial product and not a free one. There are also some important requirements that you have to meet in order to have the 3DTV Desktop tool working properly on your computer and doing exactly what it was meant to. There is already an evaluation version available that you can download and test on your computer, it is time limited to 10 minutes of use and to remove the time limit you will have to spend
$25 USD for a license, a bit high if you ask me $10 USD for it (the $25 USD price was set there initially by mistake). Be sure that you have the Windows 7 with the Aero interface active as it is required for 3DTV Desktop to work properly, not sure if it will work with Aero on Vista, but it may as well. Another important thing that you should be well aware of is that when at 3DTV Display tool is active there would be 2 cursors on the screen. The thinner one is the one you should look at, and as this is the limitation of the product there are no plans for fixing it. A good thing is that the 3DTV Desktop tool does not need installation, you can just run the executable and it will appear in your system tray, from there you can enable and disable it and you can switch to the Side by Side output “CTRL + 3” and hitting “CTRL + 2” will bring you back in normal output of the display, so there is no need to actually stop the program. When active the 3DTV Desktop tool will monitor the top Window in focus and when it becomes in fullscreen it will automatically switch to normal mode so that you can watch the full screen video in 3D automatically. This is especially useful when you play Side by Side 3D videos from a video player or from a website such as YouTube for example.
I did play a bit with the tool and have to mention a few things that I’ve noticed that you should know about. First of all having the right part of the picture sent to the 3D HDTV all in white will make the image from the left part of the Side by Side output seem brighter, but it may also make what is displayed there look distorted. A better solution for that would be to just have the left and right parts (frames) of the Side by Side output show exactly the same image, so you will still see a slightly darker 2D version of your desktop for example. That however can be done at the cost of some extra performance loss, but some things better be done with some performance loss and retaining the best possible quality than not. And talking about quality another thing comes to mind, the halving of the actual resolution of the display and then stretching it again when displayed on the 3D HDTV means some loss in image quality and detail due to the use of image resizing (Side by Side squashed image). And here apparently not very high quality resize algorithm is being used, again probably due to concerns of requiring more resources, however here it is totally justified to sacrifice some performance for better quality. The resize algorithm being used does produce bad quality and loss of more detail in my opinion and after replicating the effect using Bicubic resizing produces better results and retains higher image quality. The algorithm currently being used for resizing currently leads to loss of detail, so that some text with small font size can easily become unreadable while it may still remain readable with Bicubic resize. The two photos above show the original output of the 3DTV Dekstop tool in Side by Side format as well as a simulation of how it will look on a 3D HDTV by resizing the already squashed left frame to full resolution.
The two photos above show a simulation of the same thing that the 3DTV Desktop tool does but using Bicubic resize method. On the left you see the Side by Side squashed output, retaining higher quality than what the tool’s resize method does as well as the simulation of how it will look like on a 3D HDTV after being stretched again to full screen. There is huge difference in the readability and usability of text with small font size such as the browser’s menu, the URLs of websites, even the names under the icons of programs on the Desktop for example. The authors of the tool recommend to just scale the font size, a solution that may help, but can also be not so comfortable to the way you are used to working on your computer. So using a better resize algorithm and producing better quality is a must here in order not to hurt the usability for the sake of not sacrificing some performance. And finally the dual cursors, that can be quite annoying, but it seems that the issue cannot be avoided according to the authors of the software. But if you happen to know a way how to do it, then you might as well give them a tip to fix it. Still you are welcome to try the 3DTV Desktop tool, you might find it useful in your way of using your computer with a 3D HDTV as a display instead of a 3D monitor.