By now you should be well aware that a 3D computer monitor or a 3D television set that uses a glossy, instead of a matted screen, is prone to some possible issues that can make the user experience not so good. Of course that is going to happen if you do not know and/or follow the recommendations for use of a 3D-capable screen, one of which is to use the display in a dark room with no external lights. But what happens if we don’t follow the recommendations and try to use a 3D-capable display during the day with bright light coming through the windows from the sun outside? I did exactly that with a Panasonic Viera VT20E 3D HDTV with the light from the sun coming from the left side of the TV and falling on just a part of the right side of the screen. You can see how the Panasonic looks like in that situation when it is turned off on the photo above, but on it besides the light you can also see some reflections of the surrounding objects in the room. In the lower left and right corners the reflections are stronger, because the objects there are pretty much right next to the TV and the rest of the reflections are much less distracting…
After turning on the TV and watching a movie with a lot of dark scenes the situation is not much better than when the television set is off. Of course the light falling on the screen is still quite visible on dark background and the reflections are more or less quite easily noticeable, again because of the darker background.
Going for a game with brighter environment like in the case of Civilization 5 changes the results quite seriously as not the light falling on the right part of the screen is barely visible and only the reflections of the close objects in the lower left and right corners of the screen are somewhat visible. This was of course expected, as the having dark background or image on the screen and external light leads to having stronger reflections.
But what happens when you turn on the 3D mode and put on the active shutter glasses while trying to watch some stereoscopic 3D content on the screen in far from optimum conditions for best experience? Actually the results was quite surprising and I could barely see anything left form the light falling on the screen as well as the reflections on the screen, even at the lower corners you have to pay extra attention just to notice a bit of the reflections left. So the amount of light that gets blocked by the shutter glasses in 3D mode actually does help you get better results even when not watching in a room with optimum conditions.
Of course in the case of Panasonic, there is another issue that is related to the glasses and not the display itself and that problem is related to the design of the active shutter glasses that the company settled for. I’m talking about the first generation of glasses without a rechargeable battery (TY-EW3D10) and the fact that their frames are quire wide and on both the left and right side there is a wide opening that freely lets a lot of external light. And in the case with a bright light coming from the sun from either of the two sides you can expect to see flicker and that is quite annoying for the user, and although in the last case while watching in 3D mode there were no issues on the screen, I could easily see flicker around the screen due to the strong external light. In the newer TY-EW3D2 series that also come with a rechargeable battery Panasonic apparently has fixed that issue, and also has worked to improve the nose-piece that is not so comfortable for longer use for quite a lot of people. I still haven’t been able to try the new glasses, so I can’t say if they are indeed better, but from the photos I’ve seen they should be. Still Sony’s active shutter glasses are probably the best ones in terms of functionality and design I’ve tried so far and other brands should also work a bit more not only on the TV itself, but on the glasses that you will need to wear for as long as you want to watch something in 3D mode.
But let me get back to the findings of this short test I did with the Panasonic 3D HDTV and using it in non optimum conditions. It is always best to follow the recommendations and use the TV in a dark room with no external light for the best possible experience and that goes not only for the 3D mode, but also for the 2D. If you can’t always have the best conditions however, then you should try to avoid the possibility of direct sunlight falling on the screen, with artificial lights the situation is much better. You should not place any objects very close in front of the TV as their reflections can be quite strong and annoying, because with the increasing distance the strength of the reflections diminishes. For when using the active shutter glasses and in 3D mode you should not have any external light source in order to avoid the possibility of having flicker. These recommendations also apply 3D LCD screens with a glossy surface that are used on some laptops and LCD monitors, although the glossy surface used on the Panasonic is much better than on these. Another difference between a big 3D TV and a smaller 3D LCD monitor is that with a smaller screen you have things closer to it, including yourself as you cannot watch it from afar due to its size (especially on laptops) and that alone leads to having stronger reflections on the screen. So once again, don’t forget about the recommendations about the optimum conditions and the dark room not only when in stereo 3D mode, but also for better experience when using 2D mode too… ;)
Panasonic has made available a special page, dedicated to providing James Cameron’s Preferred Settings for watching Avatar in 3D on a Panasonic 3D HDTV and these settings take advantage of the “Advanced (isfccc)” mode that the television sets have. This initiative is due to the fact that the company is bundling their line of Viera 3D-capable Plasma HDTVs along with a Blu-ray 3D version of the movie Avatar, an exclusive deal that probably will delay further the availability of the movie as a standalone product. And I’m curious if these settings are recommended just for watching Avatar, or they will be good for watching movies in general… I will have to try them and compare to the default THX settings for example when I start testing my new Panasonic VT20E HDTV, although I do not have Avatar on Blu-ray 3D yet ;)
Here are the recommended settings from James Cameron for Avatar 3D (for European TVs)…
Switch “Advanced (isfccc)” to ON.
Set the “Viewing Mode” to “Professional 1”.
Set the “Contrast” to “48”.
Set the “Colour” to “33”.
Set “White Balance” to the following values:
– Move the scale of “R-Gain” 10 times to the right.
– Move the scale of “G-Gain” 8 times to the left.
– Move the scale of “R-Cutoff” 2 times to the right.
– Move the scale of “B-Cutoff” 1 time to the right.
Set “Colour Management” to the following values:
– Move the scale of “R-Hue” 3 times to the right.
– Move the scale of “G-Hue” 4 times to the left.
– Move the scale of “R-Saturation” 3 times to the right.
– Move the scale of “G-Saturation” 11 times to the right.
– Move the scale of “B-Saturation” 8 times to the right.
Set “Gamma” to “2.4”.
Switch “24p Smooth Film” to OFF.
Switch “3D 24p Film Display” to OFF.
After finally managing to get the AMD HD3D Technology working with the Panasonic 3D HDTV I’ve moved to testing the 3DTV Play functionality from Nvidia, which did not have any trouble working with the 3D TV and making it work was just a simple matter of plugging in the TV to the PC… hopefully AMD will work that out too in the near future to make things work as simple as that and resolve all the issues they have, including providing support for Crossfire configuration with multiple GPUs. And since I did not have trouble making things work with 3DTV Play, I’ve moved to testing with games and as expected I’ve seen a few mostly minor issues that need to be fixed by Nvidia in order for the 3D HDTV support to be further improved. The test system I’ve used is with two GeForce GTX 480 video cards running in SLI (no problems with dual GPUs here), under Window 7 Pro 64-bit and with the latest drivers version 260.99 in order to ensure most up to date functionality and the best possible performance. All of the 20 recent games I’ve tried were set to maximum details with no AA by default, although I’ve also tried them with anti-aliasing if they had available in the game options, just to be sure, but the fps results mentioned below are with no AA. My goal was to find if the games work in the 1080p 24Hz 3D mode, so I’ve started with that, before also trying them out in 720p 60Hz 3D mode. And another thing I was interested in was if they worked in the 1080p 24Hz 3D mode were they comfortably playable in that mode that is originally designed for 3D movies and not for games. So below you can see what were my findings…
Here on the video you can see how the difference looks when playing a game in the 1080p 24Hz 3D mode with vsync enabled and disabled with Bioshock 2 used as an example. In the video it might not be that noticeable, but with vsync enabled the game is pretty much unplayable and disabling the vsync makes with more comfortable to be played at that mode, provided that you can get high enough average fps. You can also see some of the other minor issues I’ve encountered with pretty much only the problem with Darksiders being more serious and thus preventing the game to be played in stereo 3D mode. Another thing that needs to be worked on a bit is the optimization for 3DTV Play to utilize the graphic processors with their full potential, especially in multi-GPU configurations as stereo 3D at high resolution can be quite demanding and getting a good average framerate ensures the good experience. But now lets take a look at each of the twenty games I’ve tested with and see some of the specifics for each title, I do plan to try out some more games, but as it is a quite time consuming task it will take some time.
1. Avatar the Game
The game Avatar works without problems in 1080p 24Hz 3D mode and can be played pretty comfortable even with Vsync enabled, although you better disable it for a bit better experience. The problem however turned out to be the average framerate I was getting from the game which was around 30 fps (per eye) at 1080p mode with maximum details with both GPUs loaded to just about 48%. So definitely some performance optimizations can help get the user better experience from the game.
2. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
The 1080p 24Hz 3D mode worked just fine here too, but the game is playable only with vsync disabled. Bad Company 2 is quite a demanding game even when not played in stereo 3D mode, so with maximum details and no AA and HBAO disabled I’ve managed to get just an average of 35 fps with about 55% load on both GPUs.
3. BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger
This is one of the games that I could not make the 1080p 24Hz 3D mode work as the game tries to force 60Hz refresh rate by default, however there were no problems to play it in 720p 60Hz 3D mode. The game itself is not so demanding anyway, so the GPU load was quite low here.
4. Bioshock 2
Here the 1080p 24Hz 3D mode works just fine, but the game is unplayable with vsync enabled, disabling it however improves the situation a lot and as you can see from the video above with over 100 fps average the game is using both GPUs at maximum with them being loaded at over 95%.
The 1080p 24Hz 3D mode works just fine here too, however the performance the game can provide in that mode is a bit low as at times the framerate drops below 20 fps at some moments. There is no vsync control option in the game and the sync is off by default, but in order to get better experience higher performance is required, so you might need to compromise a bit with the level of details. Both GTX 480 GPUs in SLI were loaded to just about 50%, so some optimizations can definitely be done to improve the situation.
6. Civilization 5
In Civilization V the 1080p 24Hz 3d mode works just fine and with vsync enabled the game is quite playable, although scrolling the map can be a bit choppy, so disabling the vsync can also help here. An interesting issue I’ve noticed here was that the in-game cursor is flashing in the right eye, but only in the menus and not while you play the game. Similar issue with the cursor blinking in just one of the lenses and thus creating a bit uncomfortable feeling I’ve also noticed in a few more games I’ve also tried. And although it is not a serious issue, this needs to be addressed, you can get an idea of what I’m talking about from the video above where I’ve demonstrated the problem.
Here the game switches on in the 1080p 24Hz 3D mode, but there is some issue that is preventing it to be played, also present in the 720p 3D mode and even disabling the stereo 3D mode by pressing CTRL + T does not help. There are some strange gray lines passing over the screen and in order to play the game normally in non-3D mode you have to go to the control panel and completely disable the Stereoscopic 3D mode. It is important to note the fact that I’ve also tried Darksiders with a 120HZ 3D LCD and there it works just fine without the problem with the gray lines, I’ve included a short demonstration of the issue int he video above. I’ve also noticed the same issue with the blinking cursor as in CIV V here too, but the other issue is dfar more serious and needs to be addressed first.
8. Dead Rising 2
In that game the 1080p 24Hz 3D mode also works and the game is not very comfortable when playing with vsync enabled, so you better disable it if you want to play it in the higher resolution mode. The GPU utilization is over 60% for both video cards and most of the time the provided framerate is quite high (over 70-80 fps), but there are some moments when entering big open spaces with a lot of zombies when it drops down to less than 20 fps and surprisingly enough the GPU utilization is also drops to less than 20% at these times. The issue with the flickering mouse cursor in the right lens is also present in this game.
9. Fallout: New Vegas
In this game the 1080p 24Hz 3D mode also works, and with vsync enabled from the game it is kind of playable, but you get a feeling of inertia of your crosshair when panning around, so disabling the vsync again can improve things. You get about 35 fps average framerate per eye which can be a bit on the edge and both GPUs are loaded to just about 45%, so some performance optimizations can help here too.
10. F1 2010
In Formula 1 2010 the 1080p 24Hz 3D mode worked just fine and surprisingly enough the game is quite playable with vsync enabled, although you might want to disable it for better experience. Something interesting I’ve noticed is that with no AA enabled the game behaves weirdly, the performance when the 3D mode is activated drops significantly to just about 0-1-2 fps and the game becomes unplayable, disabling the 3D mode brings things back to normal framerate and enabling 4xAA resolves the issue.
11. Just Cause 2
Here the 1080p 24Hz 3D mode works, with vsync enabled there is again the issue when panning with the feeling of acceleration for the crosshair movement. With vsync disabled the performance is just around 35 fps per eye and the GPU load is 99% for the first and just 20% for the second GPU which makes it better, but for more comfort a higher fps is needed with vsync disabled. And some performance optimizations would help as well in getting better experience.
12. Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days
The 1080p 24Hz 3D mode works, with vsync disabled the game it is quite comfortable to be played. Over 50 fps average with around 55% load on both GPUs.
13. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
The 1080p 24Hz 3D mode works just fine, the game is played better with vsync disabled, although you can still play with it enabled at 24Hz. This title is not very demanding, so there are no issues with the performance of the SLI setup.
14. Metro 2033
Quite a demanding game as you should know, the 1080p 24Hz 3D mode works, vsync is disabled by default, no in-game option for controlling it. With DX11 mode, very high details, no AA gets you just 20 fps average (per eye), around 53% load on the GPUs, not very playable in that situation, so had to lower the details to get around 40 fps average which makes it playable.
15. Need for Speed: SHIFT
This is another game that I could not make the 1080p 24Hz 3D mode work, although there is an option for selecting the right resolution and refresh rate int he game options.However the game runs at 60Hz no matter that you’ve set it at 24Hz from the in-game options, after restarting it to apply the change it is reverting to 1080p 60Hz automatically. Running it at 720p 60Hz 3D mode and with 8xAA gives out an interesting warning window that the AA will be downgraded to 4xAA to ensure good performance in the game (recorded it in the video above), did not have trouble with other titles where AA was set to 8x or even 16x like the message in NFS. The average fps in this situation is around 37 with both GPUs loaded to around 53%.
The 1080p 24Hz 3D mode does not work here, when switching to 1080p resolution from within the game it goes to 50Hz, no matter if the desktop is set to 24Hz 3D mode or not. 720p mode works just fine, but again at 50Hz only. At 720p 50Hz, 4xAA the game runs with an average of about 40 fps and both GPUs are loaded to just around 30%.
The 1080p 24Hz 3D mode works, and at 24Hz vsynced the game is playable, but looking around creates a kind of strange feeling, like there is some kind of inertia when you are moving your crosshair. Disabling vsync from the in-game menu makes it much more comfortable to play at 1080p 24Hz 3D mode. Around 60% load with vsync off for both GPUs and fps of over 100, with vsync enabled the load on both GPUs gets to just about 10%.
18. StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty
In that quite popular title the 1080p 24Hz 3D mode works just fine and with vsync enabled the scrolling of the map is not so good, but with vsync disabled is it much better and the game is quite playable. Over 60 fps average with both GPUs loaded to around 50%.
19. Transformers: War for Cybertron
Here the 1080p 24Hz 3D mode works as well and the the game is playable with vsync enabled, when vsync is disabled it rises just to 30 fps, because the game is capped at 30 max fps.
The 1080p 24Hz 3D mode works, vsync is off by default and there is no option to enable it. The game works very well with over 140 fps average framerate.
So out of 20 tested games, just a single one is unplayable due to some weird behavior, two games are completely playable, but have some issues when using AA, some others have minor issues. The 1080p 24Hz 3D mode did not work in only three games out of 20 and the reason for that is something within the games that forcing higher refresh rate. If you want to play at 1080p 24Hz 3D mode you should disable the vsync and be sure to have a high average fps in order to make the experience better. And finally some performance optimizations would also help a lot, especially with more demanding games and for multi-GPU configurations.