Insight Media Analyst
3D for consumer applications have gotten a lot of press lately, including from Insight Media. For example, the latest issue of Large Display Report included about 17 pages of consumer-oriented 3D stories, out of a total of 87 pages.
3D is also used extensively in professional visualization applications. These include oil and gas exploration, medical visualization, geospatial analysis (i.e. mapmaking), defense applications, product design, etc. Many of these applications are below the horizon and get little visibility compared to 3D cinema or the high end 3D visualization research centers such as the new one to be built in Saudi Arabia. In addition to these visualization applications, there are "behind the scenes" entertainment applications for professional displays in 3D content creation.
In the past, the primary way for an individual professional to view 3D was on a high-quality, direct-view CRT. The Sony Trinitron was the tube of choice although others were used as well. Now, however, after an estimated 280 million units since 1968, the Trinitron has gone out of production. Distribution in the US and Canada had stopped earlier, in 2006. According to Kevin Faul, Vice President of Business Development at RealD, they still have a strong business in Z-Screens which are used with CRTs in professional 3D visualization applications. He says there are several markets that still use CRT’s because there is no comparable alternative, although he hopes that a new solution will be introduced very soon that provides as high a quality 3D image as CRT’s.
The input to a CRT would normally be in a format called "page-flip." Essentially this is an eye sequential format that can be shown on CRTs due to their relatively high response speeds. Most modern displays won’t accept this format either because they are too slow (e.g. LCD) or the image processing scrambles the image too much (e.g. DLP and plasma).
RealD has come out with three format converter "Pods" to address the problem of the inability of existing 3D visualization hardware and software designed around CRTs to interface to modern 3D displays such as DLP RPTV, 3D plasma or micropolarizer-based LCDs.
RealD has introduced three versions of the Pod:
–Page Flip 3D-POD - converts a page-flip (frame sequential) stereo output to a checkerboard format for display on a DLP TV. This POD is ideal for stereoscopic software applications formerly used with CRTs. The Pod functions as an "HDMI Repeater," as defined in the HDMI version 1.3a standard at up to 1080p@60Hz, and complies with the HDCP security protocol. (MSRP $500)
–Side-by-Side (SBS) 3D-POD - receives and transmits a single HDMI compatible audio/video signal. When the content is received in RealD SBS format, it is automatically converted into either checkerboard or horizontal interlace format, depending on the connected display device. (MSRP $500)
–Dual Input POD - a flexible dual stream video format conversion system that converts a dual stream of data, such as one intended for a dual projector installation, into a checkerboard output for visualization in stereo on 3D DLP or plasma systems. It can also produce the simultaneous independent video streams used by RealD’s new CrystalEyes 5 active eyewear. This POD also supports side-by-side conversion when using just a single input. (MSRP $2000)
3D may not be 100% ready for home use yet, but these format converters give the professional with legacy 3D equipment new options. At $500, the page flip Pod isn’t even priced out of the home market, either. While RealD says it is aimed at pros, anything that is HDCP compatible was designed with the consumer in mind as well. Now all we need is some page flip 3D movies on Blu-Ray disk. Journey to the Center of the Earth, anyone?