The complete guide to understanding stereoscopic 3D

I first got into the whole idea of stereoscopic 3D in the home when nVidia announced their 3D Vision technology back at the beginning of 2009.  I actually built a high end gaming rig and bought the special monitor and glasses just to see what it was all about.

While It was a worthwhile and immersive experience, but certainly not without its problems.  Needless to say, I've learned a lot about just how stereoscopic 3D works in the mean time.  Based on my experience, I strongly feel that the industry doesn't do nearly enough of its job in explaining why viewing things in 3D doesn't just "work" quite the way you might expect … and that's why you're reading these articles now.
Quite frankly, I've been sitting on these blog posts for a while because there's so much to write and expound on that it just seemed overwhelming.  Finally, I decided to just break things down a bit and get this out piece by piece.  I'm going to start with a quick overview here and then roll out a few detailed articles explaining the rest of what I have to say.

Stereoscopic 3D technologies exist in order to create the illusion of depth for the viewer. The basic principle of how any stereoscopic 3D technology works is that, for any given scene, a separate left and right view of that scene is presented to each of your eyes.  That’s it.  That’s how the real world works too.  When this is done properly, the viewer perceives the illusion of depth, which enhances the feeling of realism and engages the viewer in a way that cannot possibly be accomplished by viewing a traditional 2D image.

Does it work?  Absolutely.  It’s the difference between seeing a cathedral on paper and actually seeing it in person.  Or seeing a picture of a rock vs seeing the depth and texture in the palm of your hand.  Stereoscopic 3D imagery engages your senses more fully in a way that traditional 2D images and video cannot.  It really does enhance the viewing experience.

I’m writing this document to educate people on the issues they are likely to encounter when evaluating or purchasing a 3D display.  There are a lot of different gotchas when it comes to the current state of the art in 3D displays … and, surprisingly, I don’t see many of them being written about or covered in much detail.  In short, 3D displays don’t work perfectly today, and you should be aware of the limitations.  Nobody likes to buy a TV for thousands of dollars and be surprised when something doesn’t just work the way you want it to.

With that in mind, please read the following articles.

  1. Stereoscopic display technologies
  2. Visual anomalies (or stereoscopic 3D is not perfect)
  3. Gaming in stereoscopic 3D
  4. Social issues with viewing in 3D (or why inviting everyone over to watch the Super Bowl in 3D might not work as well as you’d hope) (TBD)
  5. Frequently asked questions (TBD)

Thanks for reading this guide. I hope you'll come out of this feeling a little more confident about any future stereoscopic 3D purchase and avoiding all of the surprises I've encountered along the way.

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