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Anaglyph, Shutter, Polarized Glasses or Autostereoscopic 3D Solution

December 29th, 2010 · 8 Comments · Other S3D Tech

You are new to stereo 3D and you wonder where to start from? There is the very cheap and widely available (meaning easy to get) anaglyph red-cyan glasses that can be used with pretty much everything – printed on paper images, normal displays of all sizes, traditional projectors etc. On the other hand there are other solutions like autostereoscopic displays that do not require glasses, and solutions using passive polarized glasses or active shutter glasses, but all these are expensive and have some specific requirements and may not work well with each other if you try to combine things that are not originally intended to be used together. So what should you start with and what should you expect from each of these? I’ll try to give some ideas and of course my personal point of view on these, so that if you are new to stereo 3D you will be able to get some ideas. And the reason for that is that I get a lot of questions on topics like that…

Anaglyph Red-Cyan Glasses
The anaglyph output with red-cyan being the most common and widely used, but also available with other color filters is usually the starter solution for people that want to test the 3D effect for free. Yes, I do really mean for free as all you need is a pair of Red-Cyan anaglyph glasses and you will be ready to try it out on your computer and the chances that you have these glasses already are quite high. These come bundled with some products, magazines, newspapers, even some video cards etc., but even if you don’t have them already, you can get a pair of paper anaglyph glasses very cheap from eBay or any other online store around you that sells some sort of 3D-related products. The good thing here is that you can use a normal 60Hz display for showing anaglyph content in 3D, as this method relies on overlaying the 3D information – two different colored layers over each other and the color filters of the glasses you are wearing separate them to create the illusion of depth. The side effect of having color filters on your glasses is that you loose some of the color information from the original image, also it is more tiring for the eyes and not suitable for longer usage.

On the question if I’d recommend to try first in 3D anaglyph and then going to something that requires a significant amount of money to buy I’d say yes, do try it first in anaglyph as you can do it for free or pretty much free. However you should be prepared to not expect to be overwhelmed by the result you get from anaglyph and you should be aware of the fact that there are numerous other solutions that will produce much better results and will offer you better experience. So do not judge for stereo 3D in overall if you get a bit disappointed from anaglyph when you try it, just know that “the real thing” is much better. And even though I use polarized and shutter-based 3D solutions much more, there are times when I get back to using anaglyph as it is simple, easy and most of all very convenient for some tasks like when aligning the left and right view from a 3D video you’ve captured. As for software, you can go for 3D Vision and the free 3D Vision Discover mode or iZ3D and their free anaglyph mode as well to try games in stereo 3D mode. Just remember, if somebody asks you to buy hardware for anaglyph 3D, then say no, it is good only if it is free or you just payed a very small sum for the glasses, there is no point in purchasing hardware or software just to watch stereo 3D content in anaglyph mode!

Passive Polarized Solutions
These were more popular up to a few years ago and mostly among professional users that needed stereo 3D in their line of work. With passive polarized monitors you usually have a special filter applied on the monitor that can polarize differently the even and odd lines of the screen so when wearing a special pair of glasses with two differently polarized filters for the left and right eye you will see two different images that will be fused into a 3D one. The obvious drawback here is that you get just half the horizontal resolution per eye, because you use a single display/panel. And the obvious plus is the fact that the passive polarized glasses do come quite cheap for a pair and you can easily have more users able to see the 3D effect on a single displays without a lot of additional cost. Some of the other possible issues concerning the monitors include lower viewing angles, some crosstalk still present, etc. When talking about projectors and passive polarized glasses, the solution here usually relies on dual projectors with different polarization, so unlike with monitors you get the full resolution, but these solutions are more expensive, because you also need to get a special type of reflective silver-screen in order to keep the light polarization. But here there are also multiple technologies, especially when talking about usage in 3D cinemas both for the type of polarization of the glasses as well as the projector(s)/screen(s) combination, so I’ll not go too much into details about these.

Solutions with Active Shutter Glasses
These were quite popular in the era of CRT displays, but lately they are seeing their rebirth as a preffered solution with the appearance of LCD/Plasma screens that offer the high refresh rates that are required by the technology. Here you have the screen showing a fast sequence of images, both for the left and the right eye and the glasses that you are wearing actively switch between the left and right eye showing only the frame that is intended for each of them. However the prices of displays that can use a higher refresh rates are higher than the price of a similar size for a normal monitor and even a single pair of glasses is quite expensive, especially compared to the passive polarized ones, as here you have some electronics and not just a few “pieces of plastic”. With the shutter glasses you get the full resolution of the display in stereo 3D mode, however there is still some crosstalk/ghosting. And then again purchasing more than a single pair of shutter glasses can prove to be quite expensive, but still this combination is considered as the best solution for the moment.

Autostereoscopic 3D Displays
Now, there is a lot of talk going on about this type of solutions that do not require the user to wear glasses in order to be able to see the 3D image. It certainly sounds nice and more convenient than having to wear some sort of glasses like with the other solutions, however don’t think we are ready for going to autostereoscopic 3D displays for now. This technology is still quite new and not developed well enough to satisfy general demand and requirements, including in therms of price. The autostereoscopic displays have a number of issues that need to be corrected, before they can become the mainstream technogoly for 3D and that will probably require at least 5 more years. I’m talking about the limited number of viewing positions they offer (the place where you have to be to be able to see the depth of the image being displayed), the lower resolution (this is associated with the number of views you get) and most of all the price has to become much more affordable than it is at the moment. Sure, there are number of small portable multimedia devices that do have an autostereoscopic 3D display and they are not much more expensive than the rest of the non-3D supporting equivalents. However these displays are with a small size, small resolution, usually a single viewing position and due to their quite small size they do not come that expensive. But for a multiuser solution in the form of a big 3D HDTV the price even with what the current technology offers will be at least a few times more expensive than a good 3D-capable LCD or Plasma HDTV with shutter glasses. So there is some more time for that technology to catch up and if you want to experience stereo 3D now, then you should not be waiting for the time of autostereoscopic 3D solutions to come. You’ll quickly get used to wearing the glasses and stop considering that as an inconvenience.

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8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gene Ween // Dec 29, 2010 at 22:07


  • 2 Thomas Kumlehn // Dec 30, 2010 at 00:49

    There’s a proven solution inbetween Anaglyph and EXPENSIVE AND GHOST HAUNTED.
    Since 1983 color loving stereographers use prism viewers. For true color preview either side-by-side or over/under.
    I just recently started to use the less known undistorted version of Over/Under technique on vimeo. Right view is above Left.

    Why vimeo ? Because it’s not bound to FLASH so you can even bring 3D clips to millions of iPhones (with My3D $30) and iPads (with KMQ from $10)
    See more on http://vimeo.com/channels/trueColor3D and http://vimeo.com/channels/my3d

  • 3 Thomas Kumlehn // Dec 30, 2010 at 00:55

    BTW: The future of TV (2D and 3-D) is web based.

  • 4 josh // Dec 30, 2010 at 04:16

    Here is my take on 3D from my experience so far. So before all you haters go “fuck 3d, 3d is bullshit, 3d is a gimmick, 3d is old like the virtual boy, etc….” please read a little. and before i start i want to mention that i love this website

    Red and Blue 3d glasses barely do anything and make colors look weird. This is based on color books I viewed as a child and movie.

    Movie theater 3d glasses (i believe they are polarized glasses) are bullshit. i saw avatar with those 3d glasses and besides maybe 2 scenes that sort of looked 3d it was basically just a way to make my movie ticket more expensive and give me a mild head ache ofter about an hour. it might not cause head aches for everyone however it sucks overall.

    3d tvs with 3d blu rays. i have only seen a 3dtv , i think it was a samung, and Monsters verse Aliens in 3d set up in a best buy for a few minutes. that movie in 3d looked excellent with the glasses i was provided.

    nintendo 3ds, i saw a youtube video of it in action, looks amazing

    sony ps3 3d with a 3d tv. i never tried it however i heard it scales down the graphics and lowers the frame rate, although i have been told on a gametrailers forum that sly cooper collection on ps3 runs great in 3d. (maybe due to it’s cartoon graphics.

    i think ATI has 3d software/ hardware however i am not sure

    nvidia 3d vision. i was skeptical about 3d in general , however after waiting a long time i decided to buy a 3d vision monitor (alienware aw 2310) and the nvidia 3d vision kit. i am truly impressed. after all my shitty experiences with other 3d formats this blew me away, literally. in batman arkahm asylum it adds so much more to an already great game. that is what i show to people and out or 20 people i have showed it to they are all amazed, with there jaws dropping and some even grab at the screen a little. one person said it worked well but it gave him a head ache (this is something you might want to try on yourself before you invest.) there was one part where poison ivy’s hand pops out of the screen right in your face, it was crazy. it also helped me gain a better sense of how far bad guys were from me when i would be perched up high on the walls. i have also tried Resident evil 5 and Trine in 3d and they worked great. in the game FEAR i found myself moving my head to dodge slow motion bullets that appeared to be coming out of the screen. (note: some games have ghosting, i have not tried 3d blu rays on my pc as i currently do not have a blu ray drive)

    also this summer nvidia will release software to let you use your pc (with a 3d capable video card) with a 3d tv.

    to have a good enough video card, the nvidia 3d vision kit, a 3d monitor or 3d projector, 3d tv, and a 3d bluray player will cost you a decent amount of money however in regards to PC gaming in 3d, it is well worth the money.

  • 5 Craylon // Dec 30, 2010 at 07:13

    My Personal opinion:
    As a beginnet do bother with anaglyph unless you are a gamer wanting to see if you favorite game works in3d for you.
    If you are into movies, visit a 3d cinema. Then if you decided that’s something you want at home, invest in a real 3d solution.
    My recommendation for people with a pc and some room is to go with the nvida 3d vision system and the acer h5630 dlp projector.
    A solution with a projector gives you next to zero ghosting and I personally feel that the visual quality of a 3d bluray is even better the watching the movie in a cinema even tough the resolution is only 720p. I also think it’s quite affordable. If you already have a pc, you should land at 700-1000$ depending if you also own components like a blurry drive in your pc, a nvida card and so on.

  • 6 WiredEarp // Jan 2, 2011 at 17:44

    The DLP projection / active glasses IS the best 3D for the money so far. 720P is also fine for watching movies etc.

    3D Vision is the best current system IMHO for those who wish to play games in 3D stereo, and have Nvidia cards – it just seems to run faster (probably cos its baked into the drivers) and supports more games.

  • 7 JOSE // Jan 13, 2011 at 11:50

    I have many 3d dvd films with anaglyph red and blue glass. but i can’t watch real 3d in 3d lcd sutter glasses. I have purchased a new 3d laptop with nvidia 3d vision. how i can watch old analgyph 3d film with my new streoscopic LCD 3d glasses. and what are the conversion software 3d anaglyp to 3D LCD monitors for NVIDIA 3d vision.

    please help

  • 8 Bloody // Jan 13, 2011 at 14:22

    Jose, you cannot watch anaglyph videos with the 3D Vision shutter glasses, you will still have to use anaglyph glasses. There are some methods available for rebuilding Side by Side 3D content from anaglyph videos, but they are not always very accurate and the resulting quality isn’t usually great either.

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