by Mark R
Sometimes I hate being me. As technology develops in an attempt to satiate my appetite for progress, so my appetite grows. My desire for clarity in movies had me move from VHS to CDi pretty damn quickly although, in retrospect, the difference in quality was perhaps so miniscule by today’s standards that I may actually have been getting excited over nothing. The move to DVD was certainly a turning point for me though, as it’s when I really began to look at movies with that “wow” thought racing through my head every so often when a particularly detailed scene immediately provoked a reaction because you knew, unequivocally, that neither VHS or CDi could have captured so many visual intricacies.
The switch to HD just… well, I don’t really want to get into that just now because the rest of the article would be taken up with me enthusing over being able to see pores in people’s faces and the tiniest little hairs. Yes, it IS a good thing… if you’re me.
Instead, I want to talk about 3D gaming. It’s been around for quite some time, at least to a certain extent, but it was always based in a technology that wasn’t quite advanced enough to carry it off properly. Rather than the image being rendered at separate perspectives for the left and right eye, it simply took the original 2D image and processed the information to create a pseudo-3D effect rather than actual 3D. In some cases it worked adequately enough to convince the player that they were immersed in a 3D environment but, for the most part, it was a poorly executed optical illusion.
In the last ten years, however, the technology has advanced to the point where the dream of many tech-starved gamers such as myself may soon be reality. Not only have more monitors been released to the general consumer market which are compatible with the Nvidia 3D but the major technology players such as Samsung, LG, Toshiba and Panasonic have announced that their new wave of TVs for the market will be “3D Ready”, meaning that the home users will be able to buy their own 3D glasses without the need for additional hardware. This announcement came at the same time Sony revealed that 2010 would not only bring a line of 3D Bravia TVs but that they would also be adding 3D functionality to their Vaio range, BluRay players AND the Playstation 3… but this announcement came with rather a bitter taste, a typically-Sony proprietary taste; the Sony 3D range will be using shutter glasses as opposed to the polarised lenses that all other manufacturers are using. This, presumably, means that anyone with a PS3 plugged into a Samsung 3D set won’t be able to use the PS3′s 3D capabilities because the Samsung (or anyone else that’s not Sony, for that matter) would use the polarisation technology rather than synchronised alternating shutter glasses. I don’t see this as a good move on Sony’s part, but then it appears to be their mission statement to challenge the norm and shoehorn their own tech into the consumer market whether it’s the best approach or not. I’d love to ask the heads at Sony why they think their shutter technology is the best approach when the IMAX cinemas use polarised lenses.
When I finally got my new gaming PC, I was determined to discover whether or not I’d be able to use the full 3D capabilities of GTX 295 with my current set up of an InFocus IN83 projector… please say yes, please say yes please say… ok, that would be a “no” then. The NVidia 3D utilises the same shutter glasses tech as Sony are championing, which not only limits the availability to the home user (requiring a 120hz display, double the norm) but also means there is a high risk of the annoying flicker effect often found with this type of technology.
The advent of autostereoscopic 3D means that we don’t need any apparatus to enjoy an immersive experience as the system is set up to deliver alternate images to each eye, much like we have in the outside world where the offsetting of each eye is enough to produce the depth perception. The problem with this particular method, at the moment anyway, is that it’s prone to headaches and can’t be experienced for longer periods of time. Fine for a 90 minute movie but not great for a six hour gaming marathon. I say “marathon”… but, given the time some of us actually play, that’s more like warming up!
So what do I do? I want 3D, it’s pretty much all I’ve ever wanted. Well ok, that and very high definition… and colour accuracy, no screen tearing, no framerate dropouts and a whole bunch of other things but that’s not the point! The point is that 3D technology has been around in one form or another since 1890 and yet in 120 years we really haven’t progressed enough to realise that polarisation is the way to go. The IMAX understands, the movie studios understand, but Sony and NVidia are still driving home the shutter glasses approach which, at the moment anyway, means fewer people can enjoy it and may be subject to headaches because of the way the technology works.
I look forward to the day that I can sit back on my sofa, power up the XBox and projector, don my polarised 3D glasses and step into a fantasy world where I can experience the landscape with more awe than I ever imagined, tackle enemies with more precision because I can actually SEE how far they are away and get straight into their exposed areas. I long for a point where I won’t have to consider buying a brand new projector with dual offset lamps, or LCD shutter glasses that are not only too heavy to use for long periods of time but also cause eyeache and headaches. I want to trudge through the undergrowth of Cyrodiil and watch as the wind whistles gently through the trees and experience the depth of field where every leave moves independently and feels natural to the eye.
I want all that, and it’s driving me CRAZY that I can’t have it. I want it now.
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