3D films are currently the hottest thing in cinema, with the recent success of films such as Coraline and Monsters vs. Aliens using the RealD 3D technology making moviemakers believe it's the new reason for film fans to head out to the cinema rather than staying at home and waiting for the DVD. I think that's a fallacy—a good film is a good film, 3D or not (the only thing the 3D glasses really added to Up was that it was easier to hide my tears while I wept through the moving first ten minutes)—but even if it was true, it turns out 3D isn't just for the cinema, with some new technology available for the home at not too much of a premium.
Samsung invited me to try out one of their new monitors—the Samsung 223RZ—in conjunction with Nvdia's GeForce 3D vision glasses. It's pretty groundbreaking new pairihg, bbecause the monitor has a 120hz refresh rate, allowing a 60hz update for each eye in 3D (if you're not au fait with the technology behind 3D, it involves shooting a slightly different image into each eye) which is more than enough to avoid the discomfort that would come from viewing a flickery, 30hz scene (previously all that was available with your usual 60hz monitor.)
Personally, I swear by Samsung products. I think their LCDs are beyond compare—the 23'' widescreen monitor I use is a Samsung—and their netbook, the Samsung NC10, is far and away the best (I love mine so much). The Samsung 223RZ is the same kind of great monitor I've come to expect from Samsung, but it does come at a bit of a premium, at about $150 more than a comparable 60hz monitor. So the 3D really needed to pay off, especially when you consider that Nvidia's 3D glasses add another couple of hundred dollars to the cost.
The experience is initially very disorientating, I have to be honest. First of all the glasses have a similar effect to other 3D glasses in that they make everything darker, so you're going to have to adjust your monitor's brightness (and you might not be able to see your keyboard so well...). Then you have to deal with the fact that stuff is popping out of the screen.
There's a real problem with 3D glasses in that when things "pop out" at you when you attempt to focus your eyes on them you can't, because where you're trying to focus it doesn't exist. It's an illusion. So you have to kind of "train" your eyes to take in the screen slightly differently. After a few minutes of this I started to come around to it, with a presentation of a short segment of the first Star Wars film (that's Episode IV, not, shudder, Episode I) rejigged by Lucasfilm into 3D. it was breathtaking seeing the Blockade Runner fly out of the screen and just as pleasing to see R2-D2 in 3D. I was nearly sold.
The best came next, however, with a demonstration of how the 3D works even with off-the-shelf games. A quick go of Left 4 Dead was a remarkable demonstration of the technology, with zombies leaping towards me and reloading the shotgun pleasingly three dimensional. The glasses simply use the "depth call" to work out where items in the game world should be in 3D space, and the user can alter the level of depth to something more comfortable using a slider on the IR transmitter that comes with the glasses. So while I found a wide range of depth very disorientating, when I set it down a few notches I was very comfortable and still saw a noticible feeling of 3D.
So all in all it's very impressive—particularly when the potential for games coded with the system in mind is considered (I saw a version of Resident Evil 5 which was just that, and it was fantastic) but there are problems. The fact that you're effectively wearing sunglasses in your house is one. Then there's the adjustment period, which I imagine would happen each time I put the glasses on—noticably I had to position myself a little farther away from the screen to feel comfortable. And I'm not entirely sure how long I could use the glasses. I didn't feel any ill effects due to any percieved "jerkiness" (there really wasn't any) but the 3D effect was tiring on my eyes by the time my demo was done, especially taking into account playing a 3D shooter like Left 4 Dead, which requires so much concentration. Could I play through an entire campaign, which takes about an hour and a half? I'm not so sure. And that's not even mentioning the requirement to have a beefy graphics card in the first place (it's rendering twice the amount of frames, for one.)
On the otherside, I was plainly aware I could easily watch an entire 3D film this way. The Star Wars demo made me desperate, in fact, to watch the film that way (mind you, it would have to be a 3D version of the original, not the naff Special Edition.)
Ultimately I'm not completely convinced, but if people start to release more 3D films for the home and more games are released with the system considered for, it could be a really worthwhile investment.
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