What’s new in 3D projectors

3D projectors were the stars of the show at CEDIA 2010.

Multiple manufacturers, including Sharp and JVC to name a few, debuted their latest offerings for viewing the third dimension.

We’ve got the rundown.

3D projectors from Sharp

Sharp, already a leader in the 3D projectors for business and education realm, debuted a 3D-ready DLP projector at this year’s CEDIA. Hometheaterreviews.com reported the new Sharp XV-Z17000 projector has a rated contrast ratio of 30,000:1 and brightness of 1,600 lumens. It comes with two pairs of active-shutter 3D glasses and should be available in early 2011. Best guesses at an MSRP put the Sharp XV-Z17000 projector at about $5,000.

3D projectors from JVC

JVC announced 6 new 3D-ready projectors, ranging in price from $4,495 to $11,995, reported Hometheaterreviews.com. The JVC DLA-RS60, JVC DLA-RS50 and JVC DLA-RS40 are geared for professionals. 3D home theater enthusiasts get their pick from the JVC DLA-X9, JVC DLA-X7 and JVC DLA-X3. These are expected to hit the scene in late November.

3D projectors from Sony

The VPLVW90ES (MSRP $10,000), first announced at the IFA show in Berlin, is similar to the JVC units in many ways. Both use active glasses technology, reports CNET. The VPLVW90ES includes two pairs of glasses. They are the same $150 models used by Sony’s 3D LCD TVs. Unlike the JVC projectors, the required IR emitter is built into the unit.

3D projectors from Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi launched its latest home theater projector, the Diamond 3D 1080p, at CEDIA. The LCoS unit is capable of producing 100+ inch images at a 120,000:1 contrast. The Diamond 3D projector has an auto-iris function and a 120Hz refresh rate. Users can tweak the color, intensity and brightness, as well as individual red, green, cyan, magenta and yellow colors through the independent management function, reports Electronicista.com. No word on the 3D protocol used, pricing or availability.

Optoma and 3D projection

Optoma‘s new 3D-XL converter box enables 720p 3D projectors to play 3D Blu-ray discs through their HDMI inputs. This is big news. Before, 720p projectors were only able to receive content from a PC through a VGA or DVI cable, which could reduce the image quality to a lousy 480i.

Expect this to hit the shelves later this year. The price is a rumored $400.

“The 3D-XL is an important product for the market right now,” Jon Grodern, senior director of product and marketing for Optoma, told MaximumPC.com. “It gives a large installed base a way to embrace 3D life without having to make a new, expensive investment.”

Which innovations in 3D technology are you waiting for?

Image care of fashionablygeek.com

Projector Central: “What Does ‘3D Ready’ Mean? Dispelling the Myths about 3D Projection”

Our buddies at ProjectorCentral.com posted a great article about 3D and projectors last week. Check out our take on the article below. Then read “What Does ‘3D Ready’ Mean? Dispelling the Myths About 3D Projection” for yourself here » 3d glasses

Right now, there are more than 100 3D-ready projectors on the market. The majority are geared for educational and business use, accepting 3D content only through the PC input. Currently, only one 3D projector, the LG CF3D, is designed for home theaters and 3D Blu-ray or broadcast content. (And did we mention we’re the only resellers of this awesome 1080p 3D projector?)

But in the future, 3D will be the norm. According to Pacific Media Associates, the premiere info-gathering firm for projector market information, the worldwide market for 3D-enabled projectors will grow from about 1.0 million during 2010 to nearly 5.4 million by 2014. They predict DLP technology will dominate the market.

ProjectorCentral.com had some great advice for manufacturers in the growing 3D projector field, including:

  • Elaborate on “3D-ready” There are currently four popular 3D transmission formats in use – frame sequential, frame packing, side-by-side, and checkerboard. (ProjectorCentral explains the differences in their article.) But just because a projector is labeled “3D ready” doesn’t mean it supports all four formats. In fact, it probably only supports one. ProjectorCentral recommends manufacturers label their products as “3D Frame Packing Compatible”, for example, rather than “3D ready” so customers aren’t misled. (BTW, the LG CF3D supports all of the above 3D formats.)
  • Enough with the HDMI confusion The new HDMI 1.4 standard brags that it now supports 3D signal transmission. But in reality, previous versions of the HDMI connection also supported 3D. For example, Sony’s PS3 is an HDMI 1.3 device, yet it can play 3D games and Blu-ray discs. ProjectorCentral recommends you shop for features, not version numbers, when you buy an HDMI cable. That’s always been our stance too. (On a side note, the HDMI consortium is on the same page. They’ve banned manufacturers from displaying the standard (i.e. 1.4, 1.3 or 1.3b) on product packaging. Instead, manufacturers are encouraged to list the cables’ features.)

What would you tell or ask projector manufacturers about 3D projection? As an authorized reseller of the popular projector brands, we get a lot of face-time with manufacturers and those with the inside scoop. Post your questions and comments below.

In the meantime, check out our 3D and projectors guide to find out more about the third dimension and home theater.

Photo care of the Vlue

3D and Projectors: What the Future Holds

Update Sept. 09, 2010: LG has released the LG CF3D, the first 1080p 3D projector geared for home theater. LG solved many of the problems previously associated with 3D projection. LG’s CF3D – and a crop of new 1080p 3D projectors – can accept content over HDMI and play 3D in HD. Stay tuned to the Projector People blog to find out more about 3D projectors for home theater.

No doubt 3D has revolutionized the cinema experience. Avatar was the highest-grossing movie of all time. In the near future, Jack Black, Johnny Knoxville and even Sacha Baron Cohen will all pop out of a screen near you.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

But what does this mean for the future of 3D projectors and Home Theater?

We recently sat down with Chris Chinnock, a 3D analyst at Insight Media and board member on the 3D@Home consortium, an industry group dedicated to expediting 3D for Home Theater adoption.

Chris is an expert when it comes to 3D. In his talk with us, he used big words like “horizontal parallax”, “swept volume” and “spatial‐temporal multiplexed”. This guy lives and breathes 3D.

Basically, Chris told us the future of 3D at home is bright, but the present is a little muddy. There are currently no standards for nearly all components of 3D production and viewing. From mastering the content to syncing the glasses and display, multiple protocols exist.

Chris said “handshaking” issues are common.

The 3D@Home consortium expects 3D will revolutionize the projector scene, and we heartily agree. But for now and in the near future, 3D at home is for patient, early adopters.

“But My Neighbor Has a 3D Projector”

3D-ready projectors entered the market two years ago. They were designed mainly for educational purposes. Think of how cool 11th grade geometry would have been if you could have seen parallelograms and isosceles triangles rotated in the third dimension.

But these projectors are only 720p, and since they don’t have an HDMI input, can only receive content from a PC through a VGA or DVI cable. This can reduce the image quality to a lousy 480i. In a way, watching 3D at home today is like taking a giant technological step backward.

Chris predicts that 1080p 3D projectors will hit the market as early as this fall.

For now, you can view 1080p 3D images on a 3D-enabled LCD flat screen television (that is, if you have a 3D-ready Blu-ray and 3D content and the proper cables.) But again, the lack of standards is an issue. Panasonic 3D glasses won’t work on your buddy’s Samsung TV. And 3D Blu-rays won’t play on all manufacturer displays. That’s why you typically see 3D-ready TVs, Blu-ray players and Blu-ray discs sold as bundles.

Sony recently announced the release of its first 3D Blu-ray title, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. It’s the first 3D Blu-ray available as a standalone disc. It will also work on any 3D TV, Sony said.

Small step for Sony. Giant leap for 3D Home Theater.

“Content is king, especially when it comes to 3D, and right now there’s just not very much 3D video material out there, either live-broadcast or prerecorded.” – www.sfgate.com

How 3D Technology Works: It’s All In Your Head

To “see” in 3D, a slightly different image must be delivered to each eye. This is traditionally done with special glasses. To your brain, these ever-so-similar overlapping images create the illusion of depth.

Anaglyph images and glasses are the most basic way to deliver a 3D effect. Chances are everyone has seen the red and blue glasses made popular during earlier attempts at a 3D revival.

3D anaglyph glasses

These work by filtering an image composed of two almost identical superimposed color layers. Anaglyph technology is still used today and will work with any TV or projector. However, it provides the poorest 3D image quality.

Many of today’s cinematic 3D experiences are delivered via polarizing systems. These send the projector’s light through polarizing filters that force the light waves to oscillate in two different directions, one intended for the left eye, the other for the right. A special polarization preserving screen is required.

Filters on the glasses allow the lenses to passively pick up the light (read: image) meant for each eye. The brain combines the two images and tada! 3D.

Color is improved and cross-talk (when one eye picks up an image meant for the other) is virtually eliminated with the polarizing method compared to anaglyph. However, the image’s brightness is greatly reduced since each eye only picks up half the light from the screen. Some theaters use two separately polarized projectors to compensate for this.

All the 3D-ready projectors available in the commercial and residential market today use active shutter glasses to deliver the third dimension. Chris expects this will be the standard for all 3D DLP projectors in the future.

In this setup, the image on the screen alternates rapidly between scenes intended for each eye. The glasses respond by opening and closing the corresponding lens. (When the right-eye image is on the screen, the glasses shut the lens of the left eye.)

Active shutter glasses are more expensive than those required for the other technologies. Currently, they run at about $99 and may not work on all manufacturers’ displays. However, Xpand recently released universal shutter glasses. As more competitors enter the market, we expect the cost of active shutter glasses to drop soon.

With active shutter glasses, cross-talk is nearly impossible. However, the image is significantly dimmer than its 2D counterpart.

So far, all 3D DLP projectors use the DLPLink protocol to sync the glasses and the screen. We predict this setup, in which a white light is beamed from the projector to the screen to the glasses, will become the standard for 3D projection.

Preparing Your Home Theater for 3D

The 3D@Home consortium predicts that 100% of DLP projectors will be 3D-ready by 2014. We’re positive that by that time, standards will have been developed and the kinks associated with current 3D technology will be worked out.

What can you do to ready your Home Theater setup in the meantime? Since the active shutter technology seems the most likely to stick, we highly recommend investing in a high-quality screen, like the Black Diamond series. It’s also wise to stock up on high-quality HDMI cables and invest in HDMI-enabled devices like Blu-ray players.

3D FAQ

We’ve received several inquiries about 3D recently (and we hope you’ll continue sending your questions in!) Here are some common 3D FAQs:

Do I need a 3D TV to play 3D content on my PS3?

Yes. Sony recently released a 3D firmware upgrade for the PS3. To watch 3D playback, you will need a 3D TV, as well as 3D content and HDMI cables.

What’s all this about HDMI 1.4 and 3D, will my HDMI 1.3 cables work?

That depends. The latest HDMI cable release, version 1.4, includes the capability to transmit a 3D signal. However, some higher quality HDMI 1.3 cables will also work if they support a firmware upgrade. The HDMI consortium has banned manufacturers from specifying the standard (ie. 1.3, 1.4, etc.) on their cables. Rather, manufacturers should display the cable’s features (3D ready, High Speed, etc.) All Projector People’s Comprehensive HDMI cables are capable of transmitting a 3D signal.

Can I watch 3D on my current 120 or 240 hz television?

Again, maybe. If you bought a high-end TV within the past few years, there is a very small chance it is 3D-ready. Jot down your model number and call the manufacturer.

Can I watch 2D DVDs and Blu-rays on a 3D display?

Yes, all 3D displays on the market today are backward compatible. They provide excellent 2D images.

When will we get more 3D content?

ESPN 3D launched in June on various carriers including AT&T U-verse, Comcast, and DirectTV. DirectTV also plans to air at least 85 live 3D sporting events in 2010. DirectTV 3D pay-per-view and on-demand channels should be available Summer 2010. Discovery, IMAX and Sony plan to launch entertainment, sports and nature content in 2011.

We Want Feedback

Have you had success with 3D in your Home Theater? If so, we want to hear your stories. Tell us what works, what doesn’t.

Do you have questions about 3D? We’re here to help. Send us your questions and we’ll do our best to answer them.