Another Look At Dolby Glasses-Free Display by Ronald Epstein February 2014 I am suddenly coming to the realization that purists like myself don't have the ability to alter the future and stop movie makers and display manufacturers from ruining the future of 3D. And perhaps, with that being said, maybe we purists have been looking at this whole 3D technology from the wrong perspective. After all, what popularized 3D in the 1950s and decades later in theme parks, was the ability for images to seemingly pop off the screen, coming mere inches from the faces of viewers. Those were the moments which caused audible gasps from audiences, and remained burned in their memories long after leaving the theater. Lately, it seems that most 3D filmmakers shy away from such gimmickry, even cautious to use it sparingly. Many argue that the use of pop-out lends to taking the viewer out of the film experience entirely. Such an argument certainly helps manufacturers like Dolby and Philips who have teamed up on creating Glasses-Free display technology for the home. I had the opportunity to first see this new autostereoscopic technology in person two years ago, while visiting Dolby Labs with other HTF members, during our 2012 California Meet. I had initially reported that I was mildly impressed with what I had seen, and even expressed resentment towards Dolby for downplaying the fact that their new technology was unable to provide any forward projection whatsoever. What's rather odd, is that now two years later, Dolby is still using the above graphic to illustrate the benefits of their Glasses-Free display. You see a turtle and other assorted sea life emerging forward from the display. Fact of the matter is, none of the exaggerated imagery depicted in that illustration is even possible on their display without the use of 3D eyewear. I am not quite certain why Dolby still insists on using that graphic to advertise what their display can (or rather can't) do. Having the opportunity to see this 55-inch display again this very week, I don't see any major improvements upon what I originally saw two years prior. Showing a repeated loop of clips from 3D films like Avatar, Frozen, Life of Pi and Avatar, the display essentially showed what appeared to be a slight level of depth and separation between background and forward objects. I would compare it to being the same effect you would see when looking at the lenticular cover of a 3D Blu-ray title. No surprise, as its actually a lenticular screen that has been attached to the display. In all, the effect is far more subtle than what you would see with current passive/active-shutter technology requiring eyewear. It was a little difficult getting to the "sweet spot" when viewing the display. I and other reporters found that sitting down directly in front of it gave the most optimal effect of separation. While Dolby claims their display has 28 different viewing zones, those that were standing forward or viewing from side, seemed to experience more subtle effects than those sitting directly forward. And then there's this guy.... It was interesting that, within this demo presentation, was a segment featuring Avatar Director James Cameron, essentially endorsing this new technology that Dolby and Philips were developing. His endorsement certainly adds worth to this venture, and that is what got me thinking about how I should perhaps be looking at this technology from a different perspective.... "Isn't this technology a step-down from current 3D that offers pop-out when wearing eyewear?," was the question I asked to the Dolby representative. "Yes, we initially felt that it might be" came the response of the rep, but he went on to explain that filmmakers are using pop-out less and less and concentrating more on providing depth. While that is true, for me, it sort of felt like a lame excuse to gloss over the limitations of the technology. But the Dolby representative added that people still complain about wearing glasses in order to watch 3D. He explained further that having a glasses-free viewing environment allows the viewer to be able to sit on their couch with a laptop or book and be able to quickly have their eyes switch between that content and their display. Here was the opportunity to watch television, in 3D, completely unbound, as you normally would. Why complain? And you know, as I talked with other reporters there -- mostly older than myself -- I heard voiced complaints about 3D television and the discomfort of having to wear eyewear and the strain of having to focus on the content without feeling nauseous. So, obviously, I am finding myself falling further and further into the minority when it comes to being a 3D purist. But for those that want a basic level of 3D without the eyewear and the side-effects that some experience with it, this could be the perfect solution. It's just not nearly as elaborate as Dolby makes it out to be in their turtle ad above. So at this point, the question becomes...will Dolby's technology ever come to fruition given the exorbitant cost of such a display and potentially limited panel sizes? And if such technology will one day become affordable in a multitude of display configurations, will it dominate and kill off current passive/active shutter technology or will both be able to co-exist together? Let's just hope that our beloved current 3D technology will co-exist rather than being completely dumbed down.