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What are 3D Projectors? Everything You Need to Know!

3D technology has been around for decades now. Before, it was limited to the big screen. Today, however, you can enjoy the 3D experience right from your couch. If you are like me, you want to lose yourself in your entertainment. When it comes to 3D technology, though, I initially struggled to understand exactly what I was looking for. I discuss the benefits of adding a projector to your home theater set up in many different articles. Today I want to focus on the 3D projector and what this technology means for you.

So what is a 3D projector?

A 3D projector uses specialized technology that allows it to produce a three-dimensional image on a two-dimensional surface. The viewer is able to see depth from a 3D projector, unlike a traditional projector.

Ready to learn more about 3D projectors? Below I outline how these projectors work, the pros and cons of investing in such technology and the types of glasses you can use to best view 3D images.

How Does a 3D Projector Work?

Projector Blueprint

3D projectors are similar to 2D projectors in many ways, including their problems like noise (we have a solution for that in our guide). They typically contain the same hardware options, such as DLP

The type of data transmittal affects which kind of 3D projector you need. 3D images are transmitted through the use of one of four format techniques. These include frame sequential, frame packing, side-by-side, and checkerboard.

  • Frame Sequential: Frame sequential data formats are the most basic type of transmittal signal. Frame sequential devices send one image to the right eye, followed rapidly by another to left, continuing back and forth throughout the duration of your entertainment. Frame sequential resolutions are limited to a maximum of 1280×720.
  • Frame Packing: Frame packing is similar to frame sequential, but with one major difference. Instead of rapidly sending images to alternate sides, pictures are relayed simultaneously. These images are stacked over each other, with a slight space between each. A projector that displays these images will then need to separate the pictures and display them in the right sequence. Devices that are HDMI 1.4 capable will need to be capable of handling frame packing transmittals.
  • Side-by-Side: Those with DirecTV receive side-by-side 3D data signals. Side-by-side 3D signals compress the original resolution of an image to half their size before relaying them to the projector. Once received, your 3D projector then must separate the signals and resize them to the correct resolution. That being said, side-by-side images do lose some of their resolution through the process.
  • Checkerboard: Checkerboard data formats are perhaps the most complex type. These images are interwoven, with every other pixel being for the left eye, while the other addresses the right one. Televisions have been using this type of data format for years. 3D projectors, however, are slower to adapt this technology. Converter boxes may be required to ensure your 3D projector can handle this data format; make sure you carefully review your projector’s specifications if you believe you will need to display checkerboard source data.

3D-Ready Projectors

Friends watching 3d movie in theater and laughing

3D-ready projectors can lead to disappointment for some buyers. This is because they are designed only to handle frame sequential data transmissions. Frame sequential data transmissions are often the least expensive 3D formats, which makes these types of projectors the cheapest of the 3D family.

Frame sequential signals can be limited; they send a full resolution image at 120 frames per second, which may be considered slightly excessive when considering the bandwidth required to do so.

3D-ready projectors require very specific data sources, such as computers equipped with NVIDIA’s 3D Vision capabilities. This means that not all Blu-ray players will be capable of providing the correct data signals for these projectors to render 3D images.

Full 3D Projectors

Full 3D projectors, however, are able to handle any of the four major data formats. Although every projector has its own specifications, most full 3D projectors offer 1080p images. They are also typically capable of handling source media from HDMI or Blu-ray players, making them a universal 3D projector.

Pros and Cons of 3D Projectors

Pros and Cons

Many of the pros and cons associated with 3D projectors mirror those of their 2D brethren. However, some are 3D-specific in nature. Below are the top pros and cons regarding your investment in a 3D projector.

3D Projector Pros

  • Customizable Screen Sizes: With a projector, you have almost unlimited screen sizes to choose from. Granted different projectors have varying screen sizes they work best with, these devices are much easier to scale and adjust to the individual viewer’s needs and desires.
  • Eye Comfort: Projectors are also notoriously better for your eyes. Televisions emit light, which can be hard on your eyes. 3D projectors, and their 2D cousins, reflect light instead. This helps ease the strain on your eyes and makes viewing much more pleasurable.
  • Portable and Compact: Some projector owners are always on the go. But that does not mean they don’t enjoy the latest movies, game or shows. 3D projectors are easier to pack up and take with you than a television would be.

3D Projector Cons

  • Potential Source/Data Issues: I have already mentioned that there are four different types of data transmission formats when it comes to 3D images. If you are not careful, or do not fully understand the specifications you are looking at, this can create a problem. For example, if you decide to upgrade your source hardware – you might accidentally make your 3D-ready projector obsolete for your home theater. This can limit the types of source media you use.
  • Bulb Replacement: It goes without saying that, as an electronic, the higher end 3D projectors will come with heftier price tags. This is especially true when it comes to the full 3D projectors. However, bulb replacement itself can also be expensive. The good news is that most projectors come with thousands, if not tens of thousands, of hours of bulb life. However, it is a cost you should keep in mind as most owners tend to simply buy a new projector once their bulb dies.

Do All 3D Projectors Require Glasses?

3D Glasses

Yes, all 3D images require the use of special glasses. However, gone are the days of having to wear goofy 3D glasses with one red lens and one blue lens. Today’s 3D glasses are sleeker and modernized.

There are two main types of 3D glasses on the market today: polarized passive and active shutter. Let’s take a look at the major differences between the two.

Passive Polarized 3D Glasses

Passive polarized glasses look more like sunglasses today. They are simply, yet sleek. Requiring no additional pieces, they consist of a lightweight frame and lenses. If you wear regular glasses, these 3D versions typically fit over your every-day ones.

Passive polarized glasses are often the least expensive option when it comes to 3D viewing. They are made of one piece, which allows the eyes to consistently view the same quality image without flickering. However, they dilute the resolution of the image by up to half. They are also known for making text and straight-lined geometric shapes more pronounced and noticeable, which may be a problem for some viewers.

Active Shutter 3D Glasses

Active shutter glasses are powered models designed to sync with the rapidly changing images on your screen. They are bulkier than the passive models due to the included battery that powers them. (This is often in the form of a watch battery or some other rechargeable power source.) They also include an on/off button and a transmitter that receives and translates the data signals for you.

Active shutter glasses, because they sync with your source, provide viewers with the same resolution as the image. However, they may subject the eye to flickering, due to the rapid shutter speeds. This may cause some viewers discomfort. They can also be expensive, often up to three times the cost of a passive polarized model.