The Art of Home Theater Projectors

3D Projectors – Where are we going?

Damn good question if you ask me.  I primarily attended NAB (national association of broadcasters) last week, to learn what I can about 3D, relating to our home theaters.

I am pleased to say, I probably increased my practical knowledge at the show, by 2x.  Unfortunately,that catapulted me into the “know enough to be dangerous” category.

On the downside, I’m now probably 4x as confused.

But, guys, I’m working on it.   3D is my next project after the big Home Projector report, and the K-12 projector report publishing around May 9th.

I’ve got 2 3D projectors already here.  (A couple of other manufacturers have already offered.)  One projector is your basic 720p DLP (but 3D ready), and a massive LCoS projector from LG ($10K), at the other end of the spectrum.  (The low cost projector uses active glasses, while the expensive one uses passive glasses.  I’m also bringing in a polarizing modulator that should work as an add on to many existing projectors (for some types of 3D content?)

My biggest problem, folks, is content.  I’m going to pick up a blu-ray player this weekend that has the necessary HDMI 1.4 that looks to be needed for the best 3D movie compatibility going forward. (Or use a similarly equipped PC?).

For gaming, if any of you are playing 3D games in 3D, drop me a line (comment in this blog).  The one of the guys at Nvidia, that I spoke with at NAB says Batman, is one of the best 3D games.  I’m open to other suggestions, of course, and different types of gaming.

I’m also going to either buy another computer next week, or upgrade the card in our most powerful PC here (a 3 year old gateway – I’m a Mac guy mostly), so I can handle the 3D computer based content (including games).

Hey, anyone out there already gaming in 3D, would love to chat, about what you have as a setup (yes even LCDTVs), software, video card, etc… If you have something to pass along, commenting back to this particular blog would be the best thing until I start publishing all the 3D stuff, in the 3 – 8 week timeframe.

My goal is to be ready to rock in terms of 3D, by end of May, with a couple of articles published, and at least one review.

BTW, I’ve got my passive glasses here (two types), I’ve got my active shutter glasses too.  It’s the content, that’s now critical.

And, before I get back to work, one thought relating to 3D hype that has been annoying me for many months.  The sad thing is I’ve even heard it from some very smart industry folks, who should know better, if they had thought it through:

If you’ve been doing any reading about 3D in the  home, it’s not uncommon to read one particular criticism of the solutions that require the active glasses, to view, and that is:

That the expense of the glasses is major problem.  I’ve seen stuff like “…it’s ridiculous, who’s going to buy 4 pairs of $200 glasses to watch 3D on reasonably low cost projectors or other display technologies.”

Arrrgh!   OK, first of all, I searched the other day, one of the distributor’s sites that I buy occasional gear from.  They had, I don’t know, maybe 12 different pairs of 3D shutter glasses.

Of those, yes, there were several up around $200 and one retailing for $400.  But two were down around $100, and several others between there and $150.

And that’s the price today, in a consumer market that has no content as of yet, except some limited gaming…   There are quite truly millions of LCDTVs and plasmas that will be sold in 2010, that are 3D ready.

So, if 3D doesn’t fizzle again, like in the 50′s and late? 70′s or 80′s, there will be millions of shutter glasses sold over the next 2-3 years.

In other words, no doubt by 2013 sometime, you’ll probably be able to buy a cheap pair of shutter glasses for what? $14.99, ok, maybe $25/pair.

In other words, the price of using active shutter glasses will not be a critical issue, and certainly not a deal breaker.  The hype right now (about the pricing), is coming, in part, from the manufacturers who’s gear works better with the passive glasses.

There are advantages and disadvantages of both types of solutions, but let’s at least take “the high price of active shutter glasses out of the conversation.  Sure, the prices will be this high at least until the fall, but then we should definitely start seeing active ones for under $100 and dropping.

Let’s make the decisions based on picture quality, not silly arguements that don’t hold much water.

That’s it.  -a

News And Comments

  • Christopher Arnold

    Here is a site with interesting insights on the future of 3D

    http://www.dvdtown.com/news/10-reasons-3d-might-fail/7540

  • Nathan

    Art, even $100 per pair is a ridiculous price to pay for a technology that doesn’t have any content for it yet.
    My wife and I had three friends over last night to watch a movie. If I wanted to watch something in 3D, that would have been a $500 price. I can’t justify paying that much for a gimmick, much less the average home viewer who hesitates to even buy a Blu-Ray player. The majority of the population is happy to listen to movies through their television speakers; how do you expect 3D to catch on with those people? There simply aren’t enough early adopters to get the prices down to the acceptability level–the point where the cost of active shutter glasses are affordable enough for the casual user to purchase.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Nathan,

      Awe, I hate to pick on my “fans” but, I think you are on the wrong track, for several reasons.
      First, the $100 per pair. Forget that. That’s if you want to buy a pair TODAY. That means you would be a true early adopter – the first person on your block, or if you are more west coast, the first person in your development/tract, to go 3D.

      There’s nothing overly expensive in the making of 3D shutter glasses, best I can tell. The only issue is volume vs. price.

      If 3D in the home really starts taking off this fall, and I mean lets say that 3% off all the people who have 3D capable LCDTV or Plasmas, decide to buy and view some content before year end. Assuming only 50% require active shutter glasses (and 50% passive glasses, that works out to about 20 million 3D capable sets out there (US only), and at 3%, about 600,000 homes with 3D. Let)s say only 2 pair of 3D glasses per home. OK, we’re up to 1.2 million pair of shutter glasses by end of year. US only. Apply the same percentages world wide, and you have to figure at least 2 million, and maybe 3 million plus pairs of shutter glasses.

      Those are serious numbers (the best selling home theater projector probably has world wide sales of less than 50,000 units/year.

      My point being, if there is any success in 3D moving into the homes, then the sheer volume of people buying glasses, should all the street price of a nice pair to be no more than $30, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone or other, realizing that they won’t usually be single sales, will be offering 4 for $99, etc. Think of all the even more sophisticated things than shutter glasses that can be bought for $30 or less, including some digital cameras, music players, with multiple gigabytes of memory, etc.

      Finally, the point you are right about – most people are fine watching movies, with just their TV speakers for sound (a gawd awful thought), there are a lot more folks with good sound and LCDTV and Plasma, than the numbers with projectors.

      Like I said, we only need about 3% of the mainstream LCDTV and plasma crowd to make 3D shutter glasses a high volume, low cost product.

      And the catch is this. People don’t have to especially buy new sets to get 3D, With many homes buying 2nd and 3rd lcdtv/plasmas, with almost 40 million unit sales a year, in two years time, when you look back, probably 1 in 3 homes in the US will have at least one set that can play 3D.

      At that point, it’s only a download and glasses away, or a player and glasses away. those folks already “spent” for 3D, even if they didn’t care. Now, it’s only spending “the chump change” to actually view 3D at home. Figure in a year, virtually every LCDTV and Plasma sold will be 3D ready to go. -art

  • BrianM

    While I dont have a 3D computer setup at home, I have played with a full nVidia setup quite extensively at my brothers place.

    Now, being 50, my eyes are not what they used to be and I wear contacts. I found with the nVidia shuttered glasses and a 27″ widescreen Dell monitor, I couldn’t stand it for more than about 30min. My eyes got really sore and focusing on the screen difficult.

    Add that to the fact that the games we were trying (Avatar and some 1st person shooter) were just plain bad, I think we have a long way to go before its ready for prime time.

    Anyway thats my quick observation so far…

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi BrianM,

      I’ve had some discussions with folks, more knowledgeable than I. It seems you do need a good set of eyes, to enjoy 3D. From what I’ve heard recently, there are a number of eye issues that will make 3D difficult or completely impractical for some. And the older we get… the more likely. If one eye is noticeably weaker than the other, that’s enough, apparently to ruin things. In fact any condition, I imagine, that causes a person to rely on one eye more than another. I’m not sure where astigmatisms (corrected, and/or uncorrected) have impact. My mom has macular degeneration. One eye “sees” dimmer than the other. That’s enough to kill 3D. Ultimately, there may be millions who will have trouble or be unable to watch 3D. As I learn more I will try to get a better handle on it. And it may not relate to passive glasses, or shutter glasses, it may just be that you need to well balanced set of eyeballs, even for some future methods that don’t require glasses. On that note I did look at one glassless system, and it worked pretty well. The problem was you had to be the exact right distance away for it to work well, move a foot closer or further back and the two images no longer merge correctly.

  • http://www.avintegrated.com Paul V (AV_Integrated), Lorton, VA

    Art – It’s great to hear that you are gearing up for a full HD test of projectors which are advertising the feature. If a PS3 is in your aresenal, then that is supposed to have both the Blu-ray and gaming aspects covered. It certainly will be interesting to hear your thoughts on the new Acer and Optoma HD66 models wich are the cheaper 720p ones being advertised right this second, while we anxiously wait for Epson, Panasonic, Sony, and JVC 1080p models.

    Most of all, I am interested in the plug-n-play capabilit of these models. If you drop in a HDMI cable from a Pansonic BDT300 player’s video output, does the projector just work right away as it should, or do you end up spending hours tweaking to get it to work?

    All the best, and keep up the great work!

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Paul, well, it should work. That said, I’ve got an engineering sample of the LG CF3D. I went out and picked up a Panasonic 3D player. I connected them with a short, high bandwidth HDMI cable. And Bingo. Nope! Can’t get 3D out of it. The two pieces are trying but, eventually the LG says to take it out of 3D mode (which I take it to mean it’s not seeing the Panasonic’s output as 3D, yet I can see the separated images on the screen, I just got a lot of fast juttering back and forth, but no effect. LG provides passive glasses with their machine, but no joy. And, for fun, I have 2 other sets of passives, and one active. Nothing.

      We’re going to try to solve that this week, but it’s a bummer. I didn’t need to spend $400+ on a 3D blu-ray player, when there’s actually 0 content in existence other than the sample 3D Blu-ray disc provided with the Panasonic, or Monsters vs. Aliens which you can own for something like $400 or $500 when you buy it bundled with shutter glasses for Samsung’s LCDTVs.

      Of course it’s supposed to be close to plug and play. The Panasonic asks if you want to output 3D. The LG has a button to switch into 3D mode. I’m not sure we’re at the point yet where the two devices are sensing each other’s abiliities. But, then that may be because of a problem with the LG (or the Panasonic), since it’s an early prototype. -a

  • taylor

    Can’t wait to start reading your reviews on 3D. The question I have is how much will distance from the screen in the home theater setup matter. Maybe it won’t be an issue at all considering in the movie theater there are people sitting at varying distances. I know that when i sat on the side once the effect was ruined (with polarizing lenses at least, maybe active shutter will be different). Thanks for the great blog.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      I believe your hunch is correct, that distance is very variable, however there may be some limits. Same with sitting far to the sides. The important questions will be how much variation, and can the image be controlled to compensate. I do believe there is some ability to adjust optimum distance on some 3D schemes. Again, I’m just learning. Infocomm seminars next should fill in tons of blanks… -a

  • PatB

    I think 3D will fizzle again in movie theaters but will prosper at home in your Home Theater.

    There was a conspiracy among Spielberg, Cameron and Lucas to push 3D as a way to bring back patrons of real movie theaters. This of course was the same motivation that led to the first wave of 3D with “Bawana Devil” and “House of Wax”.

    As it happened I got to the theater early to see “Avatar”. So I sat there and wathced the previews. Steven Speilberg (one of the original 3D conspirators) was seen promoting his collaboration with Tom Hanks for an HBO series. So the technology that was created to draw you into the theater was being used to promote the practice of staying home to watch TV. I knew then that theater 3D was doomed.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi PatB,
      Don’t write off the movie theaters so quickly. The sad truth is, 3D on your favorite brand of 58″ or 50″ or 47″ or 40″ LCD TV or plasma, is not going to give you the immersive effect of a large screen experience.

      Myself, I see 3D, as perhaps the opportunity for home theater PROJECTOR based systems to leave it’s tiny niche (about 110,000 – 120,000 units a year, in the US, vs. 37 million LCDTV and Plasma sales combined. In other words, home theater projectors are now, less than 3 tenths of one percent of total sales, yep, about 1 in every 350 sales. Rather pathetic if you think about it.
      Next year, 3D avatar, Alice, Dragons, etc. should be viable on a number of 3D home theater projectors that should ship later this year. They will need HDMI 1.4, most likely, to be able to play blu-ray versions of those movies in 3D, as they become available.

      There may be sooner solutions for those 3D movies, downloading to a PC, and running from there, rather than from a Blu-ray player. It’s the HDMI/Blu-ray, folks that have set 1.4 as the primary HDMI for 3D, but, we’ll have to see about the practical work arounds.

      At any rate, with only a million or so households with large screen (bigger than 72″ diagonal) capabilities, I hardly see a threat to 3D in the theaters. I think that people will find Avatar “cute” in 3D on their 50″ sets, compared to “awesome” on my 128″ screen, or most projector owners’ 100 to 110″ or larger setups.

      Best I can tell, is that 3D will remain strong in the theaters simply because LCDTV and Plasma will fail to be impressive enough to keep people out of the theaters. As for those of us, with theaters at home, best I can tell, most of us still go to the movies, at least from time to time. (If for no other reason to reassure us that our home “theater” experience remains far superior to watching the same movie in most cineplexes.

      Your conclusions about using the theater to promote staying home, is an interesting thought, but hey, that’s been a standard of the industry for at least 40 years now. Ever since the ’70′s major movies have all been part of complex deals with food companies (BK, McD’s), toy companies, etc. to take a “property” be it Star Wars, or Toy Story, or Indiana Jones, and have it be a huge money maker in all arenas, including PPV, Premium channels (HBO, etc.) and finally, regular programming.

      In other words, nothing new, really. (other than the latest 3D technologies themselves).

  • http://freytheater.com FreyTheater

    Here’s my take on the direction of 3D in the future – to me it would make the most sense, both economically and for the most immersive experiece, to eventually evolve 3D to just the glasses, like virtual reality glasses – removing the TV or projector from the mix altogether… why not have high-def screens (4K, eventually??) right in the glasses, so you’re looking at a relative screensize as big as sitting in an IMAX 3D theater? Then you don’t need all the real estate and pricey hardware a movie theater takes up in your home. Keep the sound system external, perhaps, for the best quality, but have the video signal going to multiple glasses for everyone to wear. Then you just need a bunch of comfy chairs. I bet we’ll see 3D in some kind of form like that come to market, eventually…

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi FreyTheater,
      Hmm, I’m not going to buy into that. Definitely the idea is attractive, but the first and biggest problem relates to the eyes themselves. They are not “designed” well for focusing on objects only 1 inch away. I’ve played with computer (VGA) glasses in the past. I found them definitely fatiguing. At least for any period of time. That was at least 10 years ago (in the Comdex heyday).

      There are other issues as well. Such devices have been relatively low contrast as well. Whether it is practical to watch movies for hours on end displayed on glasses, so close, is probably something that has already been scientifically investigated, but I’ve never seen anything about it. Then, since you mention IMAX. Now you are talking 8K resolution. Most new digital theaters are 4K. I’m not aware of there even being anything viable with that type of resolution, at that size. the types of LCDs in projectors are small enough, but strictly black and white devices…

      Actually, the ultimate solution is probably less than 30 years away. There are a steadily growing number of scientists and futurists who believe that within 30 years will will have mastered a human digital interface. Basically, like The Matrix, we’ll be able to plug right in, and see images and data by implanting the info on the optic nerve or, more likely, directly into the brain.

      I’ll give’m 20 years. I want my implant before I’m considered too old for the surgery. -art

  • tzaylor

    Haha, brain implants to watch tv! Now that’s a scary thought! I’m a forward thinker but if we are advanced enough to send images to the brain while circumventing the optic pathway then let’s hope we are advanced enough to be able to do it without surgery!

    Anyway, I just wanted to respond to the naysayers, it seems that the majority of posts are opposed to the 3D idea, or pessimistic about it’s success.

    But I gotta say, this is just the beginning. Don’t expect perfection right out of the gate here. You can’t just release 3D glasses for 10 bucks. In time they may get to that. Heck, in time you wont’ need glasses to see 3D. But it’s an iterative process.

    The market and the technology is evolving and there is no way that we are going to go backwards on this. 3D is not going to fail. True, it may not end in the form it’s in now, but 2D is history folks. We just don’t know it yet. Yeah it may take a few years to improve and cheapen, and a few more years to hit the early adopters, and then a few more years for your parents to get it, but that’s the way progress works, slowly! Where do you want to be in 10 years? Still looking at 2D? Not me! I’m willing to support the trend, not because I think it’s perfect now, but because it’s the only way to get to virtual reality etc!

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      I think Samsung, in particular, and some other big LCDTV and Plasma makers, think the whole world is going to put on glasses in 2011 and watch everything available, in 3D. Not likely, but, many folks like us will want to watch some things in 3D. I met an exec recently from Showtime talking about their bringing 3D to their boxing program. He made one point – basically ‘wait until you see how intense the action will be in 3D’. Now, I’m not a boxing guy, but I understand what he means, boxing I would think, would be rather immersive!

      BTW, this is, if our projector “industry” can get its 3D act together, perhaps the biggest chance to take home theater projectors from being a niche market (less than 2% of LCDTV sales), to one that grows rapidly and drives 3D.

      Afterall, 3D is also about immersion. And for all the limits associated with home projectors – re ambient light, brightness, etc, no one will argue about immersion. that’s why a good 46″ LCDTV belongs in a 3rd bedroom or kitchen. If you have a decent sized room – baby! It’s projector time. But, I’m preaching to the choir!

      Hang in there! -art

  • Jason Langkamer-Smith

    Art,

    You mentioned a “polarizing modulator.” This reminds me of a Bugs Bunny episode where Marvin the Martian tries to destroy Earth with his Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator. But that’s a different story. . .

    I purchased a Mitsubishi HC3800 this year. I based my decision on your advice, and I am not disappointed. It’s a great projector. Even my luddite wife is a convert.

    However, I had considered waiting a few months until the first crop of 1080p 3D projectors hit the market. I decided it really wasn’t worth the wait.

    But what is this “polarizing modulator” device? Could I buy something like that, add it to my projector, and get a basic 3D effect for home viewing without using active shutter glasses? If so, where do I buy it? “Good enough” 3D is better than no 3D, right?

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      The polarizing modulator isn’t a solution for everything. Truth is, I think it’s mostly limited to allowing some (720p only?) DLP projectors that have 120 hz support, to do 3D. I’m meeting with them soon, and will be getting one in. I’ll let you know in late June. Remember, that for the new Blu-ray standard, projectors are supposed to have hdmi 1.4. I’m not aware of a single released projector under $10K that can claim a 1.4 hdmi.

      I have the LG CF3D projector here. It does have hdmi 1.4, but this is an engineering sample, and I’m still trying to get some software for it. the only formal movie released so far is Monsters vs Aliens and you can’t even buy it without the Samsung bundle with glasses, etc, at something like $400 or $500. It’s too soon for a stable fairly future proof 3D solution. Good enough might mean only gaming, no movies, or only older style movies (red/green) type glasses??? -art

  • Big ron

    Before every one plans to go too far in this new 3d era,there is an alternative that I took two years back.While this 3d thing develops there is a way to wet your appatite until the prices go down a little more.I invested in older tech like analog field sequintial glasses and emitter for under $70.oo and later I go the wireless ones for a $100.00.Go and buy a big tube tv at a tv or electronics repair shop cheap and set up a room in the house that you call the 3d room.I am a bacholor that stays home with mom and we have kids coming to grandmas all the time.they know were the good stuff is and turn it on to watch 3d movies I order online thats field sequintial and works great with a big analog tv I put on a corner self I built or you can buy one.I got my big 36 inch tv cheap $180.00 used. alot of feild sequintial movies with late titles for under $15.00 and some under 10.So you you set it up with an xbox or play station I like the Imax stuff my self.Make a 3d room for now for you and the kids for now.I put a few 3d black light polsters that work well for a little 12 inch black light bulb so every one can see in the darkened room.For less than $400.00 and if you already have an older tv put away then the rest is up to you.But rigt now a $2,000.oo tv and a $400.00 dvd player and $200.00 for glasses and two years from now it will cost you half.Ultimate 3d heaven has a $129.00 virtual FX 3d converter with wireless glasses and 14 feild sequintial dvds.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Yo, Big Ron,

      Interesting stuff. Sounds great for the grandkids, but is a bit limiting for adults. True there’s a fair amount of old 3D content (much that is over the top, in terms of 3D), but most new movie content will be coming out in 3D using the new blu-ray standard, at least in a couple of years. They still have to get 3D players out there, and with 0 available titles at this time, only crazy or rich people and those that have to (reviewers like me), are buying one of the two or three $400 3D players.

      The real question is will the PS3 be able to handle the content? Can it’s versatile processing actually support all the critical aspects of HDMI 1.4 needed for Blu-ray 3D? We shall see.

      I did want to make one point though – You mention $2000 projectors. Actually, there are now any number of 3D 720p DLP projectors announced or shipping (probably at least a dozen announced). Most of those are really targeting the gamers market I would think, which as far as 3D goes, I’d say is far, far, more viable than movies. I believe you can buy some of those for $600 or so. (not sure, just a guess, but I have the pricing here somewhere) Note: nVidia’s more powerful graphics cards can render more than 400 game titles into 3D!

      I don’t think we will see a lot of people wanting to watch everything in 3D. I tend to think most projector people will be like me. Some movies – I’ll absolutely want to watch in 3D. Avatar for sure. I’ve seen it in 2D as well, but, hey, the story wasn’t that great. So that brings us to the world view and 3D. In 2D it’s a nice movie with some really cool looking effects. In 3D is an impressive, captivating movie largely due to the tastefully handled 3D effects.

  • Matthieu

    For me, I cannot wait to get a 3D Projevtor with shutterglasses.
    I’m a 3D photographer and on the Dutch community (NVvS) we are scanning our 3D Slides so we can project them with the 2 beamers we are using already with a laptop.
    I cannot wait to get rid of those silverscreens with those hot spots too ( if not having that because you have a matter silverscreen you have Gosting)
    Also you don’t have to sit in the middle for instance. (because with a silverscreen, when you sit on the left the right side is darker.)
    Also, I really like to use the same screen where we watch our 2D movies on too.

    Two Beamers on the ceilling will be a thing of the past, which will make the wifes more happy too.

    For the photo hobby this is great.
    3D Movies are fun, but the possibillity of watching your vacation photo’s in 3D is incredible.
    You need some time to walk through a 3D photo and during a movie you hardly have the time for that.
    Don’t get me wrong, I like 3D movies a lot.
    Still I’m convinced that this will help getting people in the 3D photo hobby too.
    It’s not pricey at all, cause for instance, You have a Fuji 3D-W1 Stereo camera for around $400.

    I believe it will be all 3D within 2 years already.

    YES: This will all be so easy in a few months.

  • Matthieu

    About the eye problems.
    I have Nystagmus, so I see everything moving, and my pupils wont close, so all things get too bright for me very quick.
    My left eye is even worse.
    I hardly look with that one specially when it’s bright, cause than it fals out.
    When looking at 3D, the bit I can see with it is helping enough, giving me just the info I need, to see 3D material.
    It has been a long discusion at the 3D comunity before I joined 16 years ago, and they also came to that conclusion.

    I just thought you might wanted to know.

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    Hello, like the Toy Story movies, awesome movie!

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