Thursday, September 2, 2010

Got 3-D? (part 2): Playing non-BluRay 3-D videos

No, that isn't a blurry picture above.  It looks perfectly fine on my TV (when I wear my 3-D glasses).  If you have ever tried an old-fashioned stereoscope then you already know exactly how the new real 3-D works (and should look) on your TV.  Looking at this image looks exactly like I am looking through a window at a real scene.  The people in the foreground look closer (not just bigger).  Also, the wall on the left looks like it is next to me and goes off in the distance towards the buildings.  In my opinion 3-D on real live scenes looks way more impressive than 3-D animation because it looks, well...  more real.  That should, after all, be the point of 3-D!

This is part two of a series of posts that I'm doing on 3-D for my Media PC.  You can find part one here.

Now that I have my Media PC and TV ready for 3-D, I thought it would be fun to play with some demo videos that you can find on the web.  What you see above is a scene from a short tour of Heidelberg Germany.  Let's go through the steps you need to start watching some of these 3-D videos.  I'll be covering 3-D BluRay playback in a separate post (I'm still working on it).

If you don't yet have a 3-D Ready TV, I'll even show you how you can use a cheap pair of red-blue glasses to at least get an idea of what you are missing!

1. Enable 3-D mode on your TV and put on your glasses

Depending upon your TV, you may need to enable 3-D mode (unless it detects it automatically).  My Mitsubishi TV requires this be done manually so I use the TV's remote to turn it on:

As shown above, I've enabled 3-D mode and set the "Glasses L-R" to "Reverse".  I've read that reversing L-R images is necessary when using DLP Link glasses (as I do).  If I don't use "Reverse", I don't get a 3-D effect (the image just looks strange).

Note: earlier Mitsubishi TVs (made in 2007) called the 3-D mode (FX Gaming).  You can read a helpful FAQ from Mitsubishi about their 3-D support here.

Next, I put on my glasses and turned them on:

If you read the manual that comes with the Optoma BG-ZD101 glasses that I use, turning on the glasses is simply a matter of pressing the red button.  Here is their datasheet with a good close up view.  However, I noticed what appears to be an undocumented "feature".  If the glasses are on and I press the button quickly, it appears to step between three "modes".  I'm guessing that they are left eye view, right eye view and combined view.   I only get 3-D if I am in the combined view mode.   So, if you don't see in 3-D, try pressing the power button again to get into the right mode.

Note:  Another really nice thing about the Optoma glasses is that they are large enough to fit around your regular glasses (if you happen to need them).

Now with your TV in 3-D mode, your glasses on (and in the right mode), any 3-D content displayed on your TV should look...  3-D!

TIP:  I don't put my TV in 3-D mode until right before I'm ready to display 3-D content because it makes my screen look fuzzy.   Fortunately, it is fairly easy to switch back and forth with the remote.

Now we are ready to play some 3-D videos!

2. Get a stereoscopic media player

Unfortunately, a regular video player like Windows Media Player, VLC, etc. isn't going to work for 3-D videos (yet).  The video formats are "new" or at least not yet popular enough.  So, we need what is called a Stereoscopic media player.  If you browse around IZ3D's website, you will see that they provide some links under viewing software.

First of all, if you have 3-D software to play BluRay movies (like PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3-D), I've found that it doesn't work on the demo videos I've tried.  Perhaps a future update might fix that.  I've also tried ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre 3, but it requires a plugin for 3-D (which I don't yet have).

Back to IZ3D's recommended software.  I tried to get their free IZ3D movie player classic to work, but it doesn't appear to support the 3-D checkerboard video format that my TV needs.  I fiddled with a bunch of options, but failed.  For fun, I also tried Nvidia's stereoscopic player.  Surprisingly, it actually ran!  However, it had the same problem in that I couldn't figure out a way to get it to output checkerboard 3-D.  If anyone has gotten either of these players to work (using checkerboard), please share!

However, the demo version of's Stereoscopic player does support the checkerboard output.  The only limitation of the demo software is that it stops playing the video after about 3 minutes and asks you to pay for a license (sigh).  Looks like a private license costs 39 Euros (see here).  Demo videos are usually short anyway.

Setting up's player was simple, all I recall doing was making sure the output method was the one that my TV required:

Then I just loaded up a 3-D video and played it:

One of the real interesting thing about watching 3-D is that it works in a window too.  Here I am watching a 3-D movie and my desktop isn't 3-D.  Very strange effect!  A 3-D window on a non-3-D desktop looks like I am looking through a real "window" on the move.  Kind of cool!  Of course, I can watch movies full screen too (just hit Alt-Enter) in the player.   The 3-D effect works even better when it is large and you don't have a distracting desktop!

NOTE:  If you want to compare real 3-D to the old Anaglyph mode, you can configure the player to output in that format.  If you have a pair of red-blue glasses lying around you can switch back and forth to see the difference between active shutter 3-D and Anaglyph.  Just go to the settings menu and change the playback options as shown here:

If you do this, of course you don't even need a 3-D Ready TV!  However, if you do have a 3-D Ready TV you will see how much better the new system is!

3. Get some videos

Alright, let's watch some videos!  Where can you get them?  The first place that I tried was Nvidia's website.  You can find several videos that play just fine.   Here is the link.  It is kind of funny to go to Nvidia's site and find videos that work on my ATI system (I just love standards...).

All of the videos on the Nvidia site work for me including 1080p videos!

Okay, now if you want to impress your friends, I recommend downloading all of the videos, but watch them in this order:
  • Knight's Quest 3D (Fun animation)
  • Katana 3D (an interesting demo to watch once)
  • Mouldpenny (so-so demo, not shot very well, poor use of 3D)
  • Rhine Valley (not bad, pretty outdoor shots but I hate the extreme foreground shots)
  • Summer in Heidelberg (much more impressive, nice subtle use of 3D)
  • Oldtimers (now we are talking! gorgeous picture of the train in 1080p)
  • Nurburgring 24-hour race (okay, this will knock your socks off and it's 1080p!)
Here are some stills (non-3D) of the last two videos:

If the Nurburgring video doesn't impress, nothing will!  It is a professionally done promo that is cool (turn up the volume too).  This really gives you a good idea of what 3-D can do!

I'm sure there are lots of other cool 3-D demo videos out there.  If you find them, post some links here!

4. Extra stuff in 3-D

Watching 3-D in a window on your desktop gives you a really good idea of what a 3-D desktop manager might be able to do.  On IZ3D's website, there are links to a 3-D image viewer and a 3-D desktop background maker.  I couldn't get either to work, but I'm sure you can appreciate that the possibilities for a 3-D desktop and it's potential are worth exploring.

I've read that flash 10.2 will support true 3-D and we may be able to watch YouTube in true 3-D soon (not just Anaglyph).  Hulu would be nice too!

5. Final observations

I noticed that when I turn 3-D mode on, my desktop gets fuzzy and hard to read.  I imagine this is the result of the checkerboard pattern and the fact that Windows doesn't really know anything about 3-D (yet).  I expect that when 3-D gets more popular, a 3-D desktop will fix this problem.  Alternatively, it would be nice if the TV could sense a 3-D signal and automatically switch.  Of course with 3-D windows, some parts of your desktop will be in 3-D while others may not be.  This might make auto detection a challenge.

I've read that if your TV has overscan (like mine), you should make sure that you avoid using any GPU scaling.  I set my scaling to 0% and use a custom resolution (1820 x 1024) to avoid any overscan issues (and see 100% of my desktop).  Somehow the scaling (if you have it enabled), can interfere with the 3-D checkerboard pattern.  Scaling is also bad for image quality so should be avoided anyway if at all possible.

I do notice a slight flicker with the 3-D glasses.  It isn't annoying, but I can clearly tell when the glasses are synced and are doing their magic.  The flicker is most noticeable when I look out a window (while the glasses are synced to the TV).

3-D is like many technologies.  It can be used well and be very effective, or it can be overused or done poorly.  When videos are shot well, 3-D is nothing short of amazing and the new 3-D technology is well worth checking out.  Even better is the fact that you can do this relatively cheaply and in your own home.

That's it for now, the next post will talk about 3-D gaming, 3-D BluRay, 2-D conversion to 3-D, and anything else interesting I can think of...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Copyright (c) 2010 All Rights Reserved.