3D is back and it’s bigger than ever before. This is not the first time the world has witnessed the wonders of 3D. In the earlier half of this decade, graphics card manufacturers started bundling 3d glasses to be used with their graphics cards and monitors. Things weren’t impressive and the hype quickly died out.
3D Cinema Zone at the LG Headquarters
Now, close to a decade later, things have been heating up again. Watching movies in 3D at cinemas is a common thing. At home however, things are somewhat different. TVs are still pretty expensive and the technology hasn’t matured as yet. LG invited us to their headquarters in the heart of Seoul, South Korea to get our hands on the technology itself. The demonstration at their Cinema 3D Experience Zone was to highlight the weaknesses of the shutter glass and the advantages of using passive glasses.
The scene so far
3D TVs are still expensive and the content isn’t available yet. Quite a lot of people seem to get headaches after watching 3D content for more than 15 minutes or so. There are a few issues with the current active shutter glasses that are used by most manufacturers other the obvious headache issues. The 3D glasses being used are somewhat heavy because of the batteries and the circuitry required in the glasses themselves. Wearing them for long periods of time can get a little tiring.
Active shutter glasses turning dark when placed sideways
There are some other issues as well. The polarized glasses also block out a lot of the light which means that the TV needs to be even brighter. There’s also the problem of flicker which causes the headaches. Crosstalk is another issue where the two images being rendered leak into one another, which causes a kind of blurring which can be really annoying as well.
LG's new 3D FPR Technology
LG has designed a new technology to counter the problems being faced by early adopters of 3D. It’s called FPR (Film-type Patterned Retarder). LG has chosen to go with a somewhat simpler approach where passive 3D glasses are used. There isn’t a need for batteries anymore and there are electronics in the glasses themselves. Most of the work is done by the display itself. Because of the way the FPR technology functions, brightness levels are a lot better than expected.
LG's FPR display with passive glasses still work when placed sideways
The TVs based on the new technology will be tagged as Cinema 3D TVs. There hasn’t been an official date for the launch of the TVs in India or any sort of pricing, but we can only hope to see it here within the next six months or so.
Before the actual display of the FPR technology itself, LG arranged a long tour for us which included a visit to the LCD manufacturing line at Paju, an hour’s drive from Seoul. As is the case with major product manufacturers, no photograph or video shooting was allowed in the building. The line we saw was of 42-inch and 47-inch displays being made. The machinery itself was close to two storeys high and completely automated. The only people allowed inside were maintenance personnel for the machinery.
Forza 3 in 3D on three displays, powered by three Xbox360s
The next stop was at the LG HQ in the city’s centre, where a short briefing of existing technologies and the LG FPR technology was given. We then headed down to the demonstration area. Most of the demonstration was emphasing the weight reduction of the glasses, the viewing angles and the cost reduction as far as glasses were concerned. Some of the 2D to 3D conversion features were also displayed.
In the middle of all the chaos
The day before, we were taken to a large gaming expo where professional gamers were battling it out in games of Starcraft 2, all being covered by large TV cameras in 3D. There were also Xbox 360 consoles setup all over the place with people experiencing 3D first hand.
What do we think of FPR?
The technology is definitely a big step up from existing 3D glass technology. There’s a noticeable improvement as far as reduction in the blurring and headaches are concerned. Viewing angles from what we noticed were excellent and there was no blurring or darkening while moving your head from one side to another. The glasses are lighter than the traditional glasses and that’s a good thing. The ultimate solution would be glassless televisions but they still have the problem of having to watch it from the centre as of now. Actual products aren't in the market as well.
One of the 3D notebooks from LG
LG hasn’t given us a clear statement on how much cheaper the newer technology will be, but there shouldn’t be any major increase in cost. The new technology will make the glasses much more affordable. LG stated that they would supply at least two sets of glasses with each TV set. Other 3D solutions require a pair of active shutter glasses that cost as much as Rs. 5,000. The investment required to buy a 3D setup for a family will definitely reduce. LG also showed us some 2D to 3D conversation features which doesn't look as impressive as natively 3D content, but still makes things a little more exciting.
The technology is also going to make its way into other devices such as monitors and laptops. Monitors should be out within the next two months. LG has already started selling these new FPR technology 3D TV sets in some countries. It’ll be interesting to see the pricing on those products in India and we're looking forward to reviewing them before giving a final verdict on it. As far as the technology is concerned and how effective it is, it's a big step up.