Open Letter to ESPN 3D

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

By Jennifer B. Davis

On the occasion of the announcement of the first-ever NBA telecast on ESPN 3D, here is an open letter to the executives of the network.

Dear ESPN 3D,

I am writing as a concerned fan and as a fellow-traveler in this crazy world we call “3D in the home.”

First, I have to say that I appreciate your leadership and vision with regards to 3D. In similar fashion, you lead the charge to HD and I only became a fan of sports watching once I saw it in high-definition. I share your belief that 3D will be to sports what HD has been to sports, but only if we solve some of the fundamental problems with the medium. Problems, frankly, that you are proliferating.

Allow me to explain. When I go to http://espn.go.com/3d/, I am told that to experience ESPN 3D I need three things: 1) a 3D TV, 2) Active 3D glasses, and 3) a compatible set-top box. I have no concerns with your #3 (that is your business), but I have a problem with #1 and #2. They just don’t tell the whole story.

I am concerned that your fans will take your advice and rush out to buy a small, 3D TV to serve up their new cable channel. They probably won’t get great service from the big box store in which they will shop. They probably will end up with a compromised, mass-marketed display with mediocre performance on a small screen (when compared to being in the stands, courtside, or on the green at the sporting events you will shoot in 3D). They’ll want to experience the thrills and spills of their favorite sports with the same realism they get at the game (the promise of 3D), but instead they’ll see something that looks like a diorama or dollhouse (more like foos ball than hockey). If they want the realism that is possible, they need the immersion that they get not with a 3D TV, but with a truly big-screen experience of a projector, like the new Runco 3Dimension™ Series D-73d. Projectors and screens are a solution that you don’t even mention on your website.

Along with the 3D TV, you tell them they will need glasses. That technically is true, as autostereo (glasses-free) 3D impacts display resolution and viewing angles too dramatically to make it a viable option for the home any time soon. However, you show a picture of Active 3D glasses (of course, designed to go with the 3D TVs that you recommend). This isn’t the sports fans’ only option. They can watch 3D in their home using glasses that are as stylish as sunglasses they may buy. Prescription glasses wearers can choose clip-on or custom-ordered prescription glasses. Kids can have glasses designed for their smaller faces. All of this is possible with Runco’s PreciseLight™ system used with our projection systems. This innovation results in more comfortable and compelling 3D (with no batteries to wear down or replace), yet it isn’t represented in your description of 3D.

The most discriminating sports fans will want to replicate the view from the 50 yard line or the 9th hole green and their 3D experience will lack that realism, that immersion, and the excitement of being “there.” This kind of involvement in sports watching is possible, but not with the technology you are advocating. If your customers had a Runco D-73d projector in their home, their experience would be incredible, the feedback they would give to their family, friends, and neighbors would help you sell more cable packages for your new 3D channel, and we’d truly embark on a new era for sports watching in the home.

I am a big believer in 3D. I love that you had the vision to be one of the first to announce and deliver 3D content into the home and applaud your efforts to improve the state-of-the-art in camera recording techniques, editing and distribution technologies. I ask that you show that same vision to the display technologies that you recommend.


Jennifer Davis

P.S. I am excited to see the Miami Heat (and its new core of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) versus the New York Knicks on Friday, Dec. 17 in a 3D broadcast from Madison Square Garden and, rest assured, we'll be watching it on a 3Dimension Series D-73d here at Runco. I am hoping by the time that the other eight regular-season NBA games air on the new ESPN 3D (like the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic which are coming up after the first of the year), and certainly in time for the play-offs, you'll acknowledge that consumers have a choice for 3D Done Right.

Designing a 3D Theater: A Three-Dimensional Challenge (Part 1)

Friday, October 15, 2010

By Jennifer B. Davis

Runco D-73d 3D ProjectorThe market is abuzz with 3D and Runco is proud of the industry accolades and awards that were bestowed on our new 3Dimension™ Series D-73d product and our Constant Stereoscopic Video (CSV) approach to 3D. The recent releases and announcements from Hollywood studios and cable operators alike are making the 3D space more exciting than ever.

However, market excitement or skepticism (or outright criticism) is overshadowed by confusion. There are too many options, too much to know, and clients are struggling to make good choices. Runco is leading with a projection-based solution that we believe is superior for 3D. However, designing a theater for 3D content playback, while retaining the flexibility for exceptional 2D playback, is a 3-dimensional problem indeed.

Below are some of the challenges with 3D and what to do about them. This is a three-part series and we’ll start with what our clients are asking for and that is exceptional image quality that exceeds what is common in commercial cinemas.

Image Quality -

The problem:

For 3D displays to create the illusion of depth (and it is an optical illusion), they must give each eye their own distinct view of the world. Active 3D accomplishes this with shutter glasses, which blank out every other frame while the projector alternates between left and right eye images. When synced appropriately, each eye should theoretically only see what it is intended to see. However, in practice, there is cross-talk between the left and right eye content (causing ghosting) and this approach can introduce pull-downs artifacts. But even more importantly, this approach has been known to cause physical discomfort (including nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, and headaches). Some clients will be particularly sensitive to this.

Alternatively, there are “passive” glasses approach (named because they are not electronic, nor do they take batteries) that can be used. Runco’s Constant Stereoscopic Video (CSV) approach to 3D with PreciseLight™ is one such approach. This relies on polarized light to make sure each eye is only seeing what it should. This is accomplished with PreciseLight polarizing filters on the projection lenses, glasses of a unique formulation to preserve stereo separation, and a screen that maintains the polarization (often called non-depolarizing or polarization preservation). Unless all three of these work flawlessly together, you will get less than optimal 3D video performance.

In any case, it is critical that the system not only playback 3D, but also demultiplex, decode, sync, and format the 3D formats (starting with the required list in the HDMI 1.4a specification). If the display company you are working with is not a RealD® licensee and is not compliant with the full HDMI 1.4a list there is a chance that what you are buying will be incompatible with the some of the content that will be distributed.

Note: For more information on how to evaluate 3D technologies and approaches, download a free copy of the Runco Enthusiast's Guide to 3D eBook.

The solution:

  1. For a premium 3D experience that is both compelling and comfortable, there is nothing that beats CSV. It has been field-proven in long-duty cycle applications (for 10 hours a day), so we are confident it will lead to a great result for a 2 hour movie when movies like Star Wars or Despicable Me are released on 3D Blu-Ray or sporting events are shown on ESPN 3D.
  2. If you are looking for a system that will be used primarily for regular cinema or broadcast content in 2D and you want the option to have 3D for those that like it, then Active 3D can be used. Runco offers Active 3D upgrades on several products that can be added at any time to the installation.
  3. In any case of the solution, Runco offers our 3Dimension processing solution, which is a critical component of great 3D playback. It comes bundled with the D-73d and with the Active 3D upgrade for the SC-50d and SC-60d.
  4. For years, Runco has led the charge in the playback of Cinema Scope (2.35:1 aspect ratio cinema content) without black bars. It is critical that whatever system you choose is capable of this. We call it CineWide® and you can download an eBook on CineWide with more details. We are the only company who can provide CineWide functionality on a dual-imaging system as we have in the 3Dimension series. It is a Runco exclusive. Just because it is in 3D doesn’t mean that you suddenly like black bars!

Stay tuned for our next installment in this series.

PreciseLight Runs Circles

Thursday, October 07, 2010

October 7, 2010

By Jennifer Davis

Q. Runco talks about linear polarization, but some say that circular is better. Why did Runco choose linear polarization for their PreciseLight™ filters and glasses?

PreciseLight glassesA. Thanks for asking this important question. There are a variety of polarizer technologies out there and circular has gained wide acceptance, at least in the States, in commercial theaters. It is the only technology that works with some 3D approaches. However, our architecture didn’t require it, so we had the luxury of evaluating it and all other commercially-available filters (and some that weren’t commercially available) and decided on linear. Why?

In short, our formulation of linear provides better stereo separation than the alternatives (including other linear approaches). This results in less ghosting or cross-talk and better overall 3D performance. Our design is proprietary and features a different polarizer orientation, unique coatings and differentiated lens materials that combine into the proprietary PreciseLight system we sell.

The main "selling point" for circular is it is more forgiving when you turn your head, because the light is not polarized in one direction but twists the light instead. However, in my experience, If you want to get really sick when watching (even good 3D) then turn your head to the side! That is because the camera angles for the left and right eye content don't turn when you turn your head. The 3D effect should break down when you tilt your head because it is an optical illusion. We have found that our glasses allow for approximately 10% of a head tilt without losing the 3D effect, so you can easily settle into your favorite chair and comfortably watch compelling 3D!

Most theaters can’t use linear polarization very effectively, because they do not use dual-imaging projection systems. In Europe and Asia, Active 3D (like the technology used in our Active 3D upgrade kit) is used commonly in commercial theaters. In the US, a circular polarization and the use of a Zscreen active filter is more common in the cinema. The exception to this, of course, is IMAX 3D which utilizes two projectors to create their truly immersive 3D experiences, reinforcing the principles behind Constant Stereoscopic Video™ (CSV).

We will not stop innovating, evaluating, and inventing new technologies in the 3D arena, building on the early success of the D-73d, our 3Dimension Series, and the PreciseLight offering. We’ll continue to write more on this blog about 3D trends and technologies and will provide ongoing updates.

And while I am on the topic of 3D innovations, I have had the pleasure of working with the leading screen manufacturers as they work on their polarization preservation technology for 2D and 3D presentations. Without speaking out of turn and making announcements for them, let me just say that there are exciting developments in the works, and by the time our new 3D projector ships out to dealer showrooms and client homes there will be lots of solutions that meet our PISCES standards, while offering features like acoustic-transparency, masking systems, and curved installations. I agree wholeheartedly with the market analyst Chris Chinook who commented recently that, “the 3D market continues its torrid pace of advancement.”

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