Why the home 3D experience will Not Rival that of the Theater

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The question has been raised again recently whether 3D in the home could rival or potentially supplant 3D in the theater. 3D in the home has some interesting possibilities but can it rival the immersive experience in the theater?

Motion picture producers and theater owners have a significant opportunity before them given the recent success of movies like G-Force. Can this opportunity be extended to the home in a meaningful way? Yes. Can 3D in the home eclipse or even rival the theatrical experience? No, but they will be complementary to one another.

Generally how close one sits to a screen affects one’s tolerance for aggressive 3D. In a theater, where one normally sits well back from a screen, most people can tolerate fairly aggressive 3D. By aggressive we mean too much positive parallax held for too long or too much fast panning motion in depth. Both of these conditions are unnatural to the eyes and brain and may cause a series of issues with viewer comfort.

Yet when one sits 6 to 7 feet from a screen (i.e., typical sitting distance for home theaters) that same material would quickly become intolerable.

3D aggressiveness

Chart 1 shows schematically the typical level of 3D aggressiveness that most theater goers seem to enjoy. Comfortable 3D ranges from about 20% of the distance from the viewer to the screen to infinity. (See In-Three’s web site for how we quantify 3D impact.)


3D appropriate for a home theaters

Chart 2 shows the typical range of 3D appropriate for a home theaters. Note that for 3D to be comfortable on a home screen it must be compacted toward the screen – from about 30% in front of the screen to about 65% beyond the screen.

If this holds for most people, as both testing at In-Three and testing at Berkeley so far indicate, then viewing 3D at home will be more akin to a “snow globe” view of the 3D material than the immersive experience that most theatrical presentations allows.

This article attempts to explain why.

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