LG talks up passive Cinema 3D tech

LG Dual Play
By combining the lenses from two pairs of Cinema 3D glasses gamers can have two seperate views

When we say that LG's booth at this year's IFA exhibition was a true standout, we're talking mostly about the captivating 3D treats that lay within.

Whether it was by design or not, the obligatory 3D glasses needed to view the majority of the display exhibits were best left on all the time, not for convenience, but for constant 3D thrills; every glance thrown across the show floor caught something leaping out of somewhere.

This captivating 3D circus was an antidote to the naysayers who insist that 3D is all about total immersion, though the Korean company certainly has the products to match the eye-catching gimmicks.

New 3D TVs launched at IFA by LG were actually few and far between (the Nano Full LED LW980T Series excepted); this was all about Cinema 3D - only launched in April - becoming a fixture in the TV market.

LG's passive 3D tech is increasingly dominating its displays, though the LW980T is the first time it's been seen on a 'premium' product (the 47 and 55-inch LW980T's are priced either side of £2k - and more Nano Full LED sets are promised for 2012).

LG's home entertainment consumer & product marketing manager, George Mead told TechRadar why he thinks Cinema 3D is an easier sell than the once-loved active shutter 3D tech.

"Retailers wanted a TV that could show 3D in a simple and easy format with no worries about glasses breaking, batteries running out or problems synchronising them to the TV," he says, also claiming that LG's research indicates that 80 per cent of people prefer passive to active shutter.

True to form, the Cinema 3D glasses we wore throughout our LG excursion were bordering on weightlessness. It's one of the features that has helped Cinema 3D do well for LG, which used IFA to report that it had 20 per cent of the 3D TV market in the UK, a market that's increased from around 125,000 units last year to around 300,000 - projected - in 2011.

That's 16 per cent of the whole TV market, which might not be massive, but is at least already a significant chunk of sales. Mead also indicated that LG had overtaken Samsung in both company's domestic South Korean market.

Cheaper screens

This Film Patterned Retarder (FPR) tech that enables the Cinema 3D screens could be about to get cheaper, too, thanks to its adoption by the likes of Toshiba and Philips on their 2011 3D TVs.

"The FPR tech all comes from LG, so that should bring better economies of scale - and it also makes consumers realise that Cinema 3D tech is the best around," says Mead.

Such statements suggest that LG has dumped active shutter 3D, but it hasn't; the brand's plasmas still sport the less-loved tech. "Putting FPR tech on a plasma would bring down the brightness to the extent that they wouldn't be able to show 2D and 3D," says Mead. "Consumers love the brightness of Cinema 3D - it's a key driver of picture quality for most people."

We know that - the success of LCD/LED over plasma has been attributed to consumers' preferring the brightest possible picture while in a shop, despite the fact that for 2D viewing high brightness isn't nearly the advantage at home that it may first appear.

Dual action gaming

And Cinema 3D, it seems, has another trick up its sleeve in the shape of 'dual action gaming'. "There are two types of 3D glasses here, and if you put them on and connect a split screen game to either of the LW980T TVs, each gamer will experience a full screen picture," explains Mead.

3D glasses' lenses work by blocking one of the two halves of a 3D picture so that each eye sees a different image; the human brain then creates the 3D illusion itself.

The LW980T's 'dual action' mode uses 3D's side-by-side format but dumps the third dimension, and by combining the lenses from two pairs of Cinema 3D glasses, creates two entirely separate views, one for each player of, say, Gran Turismo, MotorStorm or MarioKarts.

Although oh-so-simple, dual action is aimed at early adopters, so much so that Mead doesn't think LG will specifically sell tailor-made left-eye and right-eye lens glasses for gaming purposes - not that they'd be expensive.

"The glasses won't be included in the box for the LW980T TVs - at least, not yet - but the kind of gamers we're talking about can swap-out the glasses themselves," says Mead.

In use we noticed a touch of ghosting, but not enough to prevent us being audibly wowed by the demo. The advantages are myriad - imagine full-screen person-to-person gaming with no glancing to check your opponent's position.

That's an intelligent use of 3D for 2D purposes, but is it smart to mix messages? Do consumers know the difference between a 2D, a 3D and a 'smart' TV?

Mead doesn't think so. "Consumers often ask if 3D TVs work in 2D, and our research shows that 50 per cent wouldn't buy a smart TV without a demo - and that's not possible in a lot of shops."

The pre-Christmas push will therefore see LG emphasising the all-in-one nature of its TVs, with joined-up messages about Cinema 3D, 2D and 'smart' internet options.

LG is clearly sizing-up the gaming fraternity for its future tech releases, though perhaps the ultimate fast motion-friendly tech, OLED displays, were conspicuous by their absence not just at LG's booth, but at the IFA as a whole. Roll-on CES 2012 in Las Vegas, January, for that particular unveiling…

Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and Space.com. He also edits two of his own websites, TravGear.com and WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),