There have been a lot of rumblings this year between Australia's big four TV manufacturers in regards to 3D TV – or more precisely how the 3D technology is implemented on their panels. When choosing a 3D television, the format choice for buyers will be either "active" or "passive" 3D technology.
Passive 3D Technology
LG invented Passive 3D for our home TVs, and is available across the entire range of LGs LED models this year. Passive 3D glasses are cheaper, lighter and generally a lot more comfortable to wear. Unlike the Active 3D TVs, which display an image for each eye separately, Passive 3D sets display the picture for both eyes at once. Passive 3D screens are covered with a special coating called Passive Pattern Retarder (FPR). Each lens is polarized differently, so the left lens filters out the picture for the right eye and vice versa. There is no flickering, so viewers feel much less discomfort when viewing 3D over long periods. The glasses are about half the weight of active shutter glasses, and cost a fraction of their active counterparts. Passive 3D TV's have a narrower vertical viewing angle than Active Shutter 3D Panels. If you move beyond the ideal viewing angle, approximately 15 – 20 degrees of center, then you may start to get some distortion and image doubling.
Active 3D Technology
Active Shutter Glasses are used by Samsung, Sony and Panasonic Tvs, as well as LGs Plasma range. Active glasses are expensive because the lens over each eye is actually a small LCD screen, which flickers between on and black. The TV flashes an image for your left eye, at which time the right lens goes black. The next frame sees the left lens turn black while the picture is displayed for the right eye. The 3D effect is created as your two eyes are each seeing a slightly different image, which your brain then combines into a 3D picture. This process happens very fast that you do not notice it so much, however there are many people who find the constant flickering to be nauseating, and can cause discomfort and headaches when viewed for long periods of time. Active 3D has good vertical and horizontal viewing angles, so if you stand up, sit down or watch your TV off angle you'll still see the 3D effect.
Positives and Negatives
Many customers will have viewed a 3D set in a retail store, and will have experienced some type of flickering on Active 3D TVs. This always occurs in very bright rooms with ambient lighting – but can be minimized by keeping the room completely dark. Passive 3D sets do not exhibit flickering at all.
Advantage – Passive 3D.
Tied in directly with the flickering we spoke of above, many viewers of Active 3D TV experience eye fatigue, discomfort or nausea after watching prolonged 3D programming. The constant flickering of the lens in each eye, especially in a room with ambient lighting, causes many viewers to complain about discomfort. Passive 3D glasses do not flicker, so viewers are presented with a much more pleasant, comfortable viewing experience.
Advantage – Passive 3D.
Active 3D glasses are heavy and expensive. As they operate on battery power, there is always the chance that they may die in the middle of watching a movie if you've forgotten to recharge them. Many viewers find the Active glasses heavy and uncomfortable to wear, as opposed to the Passive 3D glasses which are lightweight and battery free. In the photo we've taken on the right, the Panasonic picture top left sells at approximately $ 139, the Sony bottom left is approximately $ 139, the Samsung bottom right is approximately $ 149 and LG glasses sell at just $ 19 for TWO pairs!
Advantage – Passive 3D.
Regular 2D TV
You will certainly be spending more hours viewing 2D content compared to 3D content, so if you're thinking about purchasing a 3D TV for your family room and will be viewing it from more than a 45 degree angle, then in most cases an active 3D panel will provide you with better contrast and colors in this situation.
Advantage – Active 3D.
Full HD 3D Branding
Certain manufacturers and critics have tested to stop LG branding their Passive 3D LEDs as 1080P Full HD 3D. They claim that Active 3D technology is the only format capable of producing Full HD resolution when watching 3D content, as Passive 3D halves the vertical resolution in each eye. But in that statement lies the key – half the resolution in EACH eye. So unless you are a cyclops, or a pirate then you watch TV with TWO EYES right? So 1/2 + 1/2 = 1, no?
The following excerpt is quoted from a Press Release in July, 2011.
"This latest certification proves beyond all doubt that LGs CINEMA 3D TVs, which already provide the most comfortable 3D viewing experience, deliver 3D in FULL HD," We're pleased to say we can now put this answer to rest.
The dispute over LGs TV had centered on whether the company's CINEMA 3D TVs truly qualified as FULL HD, defined as a horizontal image containing 1,080 lines of definition. LGs Film Patterned Retarder (FPR) technology, used on the CINEMA 3D TVs, creates the perception of 3D depth by delivering two 540 line images, one for each eye, that are then combined through the glasses to create a unified 1080p image. The ruling from the VDE delivers the clearest affirmation to date of the validity of LGs FPR technology.
CINEMA 3D TV has already received a string of endorsements from other institutions and agencies. The China Electronic Chamber of Commerce ruled that both the vertical and horizontal resolution of LG CINEMA 3D TVs meets the 1080p TV standard, a position that allows LG to use the FULL HD logo in China. TÜV and Intertek, two top European quality assurance and safety certification agencies, awarded LGs CINEMA 3D TVs "Flicker-Free" certification, providing official backing for LGs sharp 3D images.
Furthermore, a top US consumer magazine recently named an LG CINEMA 3D TV the best 3D TV in the US market. The review noted clear advantages for the TV's viewing angle, 3D glasses and bright images. "
From our experience, LGs passive 3D TVs produce a 3D image just as good as their active 3D competitors. While many people will not notice any reduction in quality, especially if you sit back the recommended distance from your TV, what they will notice is how cheap, comfortable and light the passive glasses are. If you have a family of four, then the difference in cost of the glasses alone could be as much as $ 400 – $ 500! You get four pairs in the box with LG LEDs, and extras are less than $ 20 for two pairs, so it does not cost much to have a few spares when friends are over.
While both Samsung and Panasonic's second-generation 3D glasses are lighter and cheaper than last year's models, they still sell for at least $ 100 each and they still provide flickering in anything but a completely dark viewing environment.
If you have to sit at a wide angle to your TV at home, then Active 3D TVs will provide better horizontal and vertical viewing angles, as they do not have the special FPR coating over their screens which can affect off angle viewing.
Overall, the benefits of Passive 3D far outweigh the negatives, and in a retail environment as tough as the one we are in now, the ability to purchase large screen, 3D LED TVs with glasses for the whole family, with the ability to watch Full HD 3D content, at a greatly reduced price will certainly see Passive 3D win the latest format war.