All entries for Sunday 28 February 2010

February 28, 2010

3D TV at the Bristol Sound & Vision Show

I don’t know how many people have been following the hype about 3D television going on in the home cinema world recently, but curious myself I decided to check out the Bristol Sound and Vision Show to see the available demos for myself. Usefully, both polarised (LG) and shutter glass (Samsung) sets were available to try.

From what I can gather, the format agreed sends both the left and right image from the source to the TV at the same time, and the display then does whatever it needs to with the data to make the image 3D. In the case of the polarised LG, the left and right images are interlaced and simultaneously projected through a polarised layer; the glasses then have the corresponding polarisation over each eye to filter out either the left or right image only. In shutter glass screens, the screen alternately displays left and right images 120 times a second, and liquid crystal shutter glasses alternately shut out the left and right eye in synchronisation with the TV refresh rate to give the 3D image. The glasses for the shutter-type displays are much more expensive (about £100 a pair), which is one of the reasons why if you’ve been to the cinema recently you’ll have been watching 3D generated using the polarised effect.

The demos were sadly limited, with the special demo room giving only about 3-4 mins worth of 3D imagery on the LG TV’s, and the Samsung displaying some animated 3D content on a stand outside. As the conditions were completely different (as well as the content) and the viewing experience so small, forming an authoritive and detailed opinion would be nigh-on impossible. In general, however, I felt that the improvements given by 3D over standard HD were nowhere near as great as the flaws introduced into the viewing experience.

The LG image I generally found to be exceptionally distorted, suffering from serious ghosting of the image around the 3D objects. I noticed this to a much lesser extent when watching Avatar at the cinema, so I don’t know how much of this flaw is due to the particular hardware and how much is down to the limitations of the technique. The ghosting was bad enough to make the image very uncomfortable to watch. There was also generally significantly less resolution to the image, as a result of both the left and right images being interlaced at once. I was sat in the front row of the demo room, maybe 7 feet away from a 47” screen, so maybe viewing from further back may have alleviated some of these issues, or perhaps it was related to the content. As I said, I can’t be sure because of the limited exposure to the hardware.

The Samsung shutter glass screen I generally found to be a much more positive viewing. I’ve always had a hunch that the shutter glass approach is a superior technology to polarisation, and generally I felt that the demo experience bore this out. The content showing was very different, but was very watchable without glasses, with only a noticeable lack of definition to edges to give the 3D of the image away – but certainly nothing to make it unwatchable. With the glasses on, the refresh rate of the screen was quite visible – I believe currently the standard is to refresh at 120Hz, and the experience was similar to viewing with an old CRT screen with a refresh rate set too low – it was quite strenuous on the eyes. The image was much sharper than the LG however, and had good levels of brightness – although lower than without the glasses on. I’m not sure how much higher the refresh rate can go on the LC glasses, or even if this would solve the issue of image flicker. Overall though, I much preferred the Samsung as a viewing experience, although I still think that the negatives outweigh watching content in normal HD.

Perhaps with Panasonic’s products later this year (with all the ex-Kuro engineers assisting), the image quality will begin to accelerate a notch or two. My advice for the time being though is for would-be early adopters to hold fire with their cash.

On a related note, the demonstration of the 9.2 Onkyo receiver, also at the What Hifi stand, demonstrated what a difference extra surround speakers make. In particular, the addition of front at-height speakers really added to the viewing of a scene from 2012. I’m not sure as to all the ins and outs of this; what extra information is required on disc, and if other manufacturers are planning to bring similar products to market soon. Definitely worth a demo in the meantime though, even if it means having to have an over-lively Onkyo in your system!

February 2010

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