Analysis by Jesse Emspak
Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:09 AM ET



In South Korea, a team of investigators thinks they have a way to show 3-D movies without glasses in commercial theaters.

3-D televisions are available now, and consumer electronics companies have been showing off some glasses-free technologies (as on the Nintendo 3DS). But generally, theaters use a two-projector polarized light system.

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Each projector displays an image, but the images are offset slightly. The projectors, meanwhile, are sending out light that is polarized. That means that at certain angles half the light is absorbed.

It's possible to see this effect with sunglasses; two polarized lenses. Put one in front of the other and start rotating it, and it's not possible to see through them when one is perpendicular to the other. In movie theaters, the 3-D glasses are polarized so that each eye only picks up one image at a time, giving the illusion of depth. Two projectors, though, can be cumbersome and expensive.

There are single projection methods, but those require even more moving parts, involving physical barriers akin to venetian blinds between the screen and the viewer. Called the parallax barrier method, the barriers limit which image the eye sees, creating a 3-D illusion.

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To fix this, the South Korean team, led by Byoungho Lee, professor at the School of Electrical Engineering at Seoul National University, used polarizers to stop the passage of light after it reflects off the screen rather than doing so at the projector.

The polarizer is a coating called called quarter-wave retarding film. It acts like the polarizers in two-projector systems, except instead of relying on two images, it splits up the single one coming off the screen to the eye. Basically, it moves the 3-D glasses to the screen, so the audience no longer has to wear them.

It will be a while before theaters use this, but it's been shown to work in at least two types of displays, and offers a path to cutting the costs (and the admission prices) of 3D movies.

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Replies to This Discussion

Hah! You posted this first, Steph. I was all excited to share this breakthrough.

Next Generation 3-D Theater: Optical Science Makes Glasses a Thing ...

The experimental setup of a proposed glasses-free 3-D theater experience is shown, with the projector in the familiar front position, creating 3-D images. (Credit: Optics Express)

Cool Ruth  - we think a lot alike.

Thanks for the wonderful link.

I am always happy to see your posts and discussions.

That would be a breakthrough all right!

It ... offers a path to cutting the costs (and the admission prices) of 3D movies.

Costs, yes; admission prices, somehow I don't think so! (Because not all of us go for the horrendously overpriced popcorn, other snacks, and sodas....)

I was gonna say the same thing.  Once they've trained audiences to pay more for 3D movies, no way in hell they'd drop prices, just because the costs went down.




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