The Real Battle of 3D: Shutter Vs. Polarized
After listening to speakers at the 3D Gaming Summit this week, it is clear that filmmakers and game developers are split about which technology is best. Filmmakers like polarized glasses, while game developers like shutter glasses.
For example, Paul Anderson, writer, director, and producer of the films Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil, is adamant that polarized glasses are the way to go. “I hate shutter glasses,” he said during a discussion on stage, noting their weight and tendency to cause headaches. While Anderson said he wasn’t familiar with many game titles, he said he was excited about the future games.
Executives and industry professionals at the conference tended to agree with Anderson’s perspective, but didn’t agree with the panel of game developers who insisted that shutter glasses are a better technology than polarized glasses are. Mark Rein, vice president of Epic Games, told a story of how he watched a clip of Avatar prior to the film’s release on a giant TV, complete with backlight and shutter glasses. He said it looked spectacular.
“The 3D-capable LCD and plasma screens I’ve seen produced a brighter and more vibrant picture than what you [see] with a projector, even in the best theaters,” Rein told Tom’s Guide after the panel discussion. “When you see much higher frame rates than films are capable of, on these vibrant screens, you will be very captivated–at least I am.”
Unfortunately, videogame developers couldn’t wow the conference attendees. Nearly every 3D demo experienced technical difficulties. Developers blamed the issues on poor projection hardware. The demos were shown on a three-year-old projector, and even though the demos were designed to be viewed with shutter glasses, the crowed viewed them with polarized glasses.
During one Q&A session after a panel discussion, the first question was: “How could you show such faulty footage?” Murmurs of agreement ran through the crowd, comprised mostly of film industry workers. The person asking the question followed up by saying: “Film never has problems like this.”
Outside of the show floor, Gunnar Optiks, a maker of computer-friendly glasses to relieve eyestrain, showed off its new polarized glasses, which, the firm says, work with any display and 3D movie. “You can walk into any theater and watch Avatar with these glasses,” Mark McNabb, vice president of marketing for Gunnar Optiks, told Tom’s Guide.
Gunnar Optiks’ polarized glasses are much like any standard and ordinary pair, with a small form-factor, true lenses, and very light weight. The company has aligned iZ3D and hopes to sell the polarized glasses to those interested in owning their own pairs to bring to movie theaters or use at home. The glasses will be available in early May, starting at $79.99.
Gunnar Optiks’ executives expect polarized glasses to win out, for two main reasons: they’re simpler and lighter. Polarized glasses are just like any standard pair. Shutter glasses, on the other hand, are expensive, bulky, and require battery power. Nvidia’s 3D Vision Glasses are significantly heavier than a pair of Gunnar Optiks’, as are Panasonic’s.
As I learned from other attendees, shutter glasses may yet win out. In Europe, for example, Volfoni, the largest manufacturer of 3D glasses, makes shutter glasses, while theaters in the UK all use them. While the U.S. film industry may be pushing for polarized glasses, gamers want shutter glasses, as do Europeans. It may be possible for Volfoni to gain share in the United States, especially if it makes smaller and lighter shutter glasses.
Shutter glasses require hardware and software to be built into the display, while polarized glasses only require hardware. Shutter glasses must communicate with the display to properly open and close the lenses, while polarized glasses don’t have that problem.
Shutter glasses require users to sit in the “sweet spot,” directly in front of the screen, to see the image properly. This isn’t true for all technologies, but Nvidia’s technology requires it for now. Polarized lenses, on the other hand, can allow viewers to properly see the image at any angle, so long as they are circular polarized glasses, the de-facto standard at the 3D Gaming Summit.