Recent history to present
The recent HD 3D TV movement began about 2009 where (at least) one major manufacturer (LG) promised that 3D TV would be in people’s living rooms by 2010. This editor witnessed the frenzy of the media at CES 2010 where S3D was touted as the “next big thing” and immediate widespread adoption was promised. Clearly the over-optimistic were banking on the success of James Cameron’s Avatar which was filmed in 3D and was wildly popular with the theater audiences.
Avatar is 3D unlike the 3D of the 1950s-1990s – all of which were also touted as the “next big thing” – but they never materialized as the technology was really awful. Generally the early 3D films featured headache-inducing dark movies with scenes that included characters and objects that generally looked like 2D cardboard cutouts superimposed over a 2D background and with nauseating “effects” always popping out at the audience.
Today’s 3D is much better and the creators of S3D content have learned to maximize its effect while providing a solid movie experience with extra immersion. Unfortunately, the predictors of the rapid adoption of 3D forgot one big thing: lack of 3D content for the home. There are only a very few sports-related 3D programs carried by cable or satellite and few “native” 3D movies. Not to mention that most Europeans and Americans have just finished upgrading to HDTV and would need a really compelling reason to upgrade further.
It has always been expected that 3D PC gaming would lag behind 3D HDTV because only Nvidia has been really pushing their own proprietary version of 3D gaming since 2009 called “3D Vision”. During this same time, AMD has been mostly touting the advantages of their Eyefinity multi-display which can be driven off a single card (where as Nvidia requires SLI for their competing “Surround”) and is a few years behind Nvidia in developing a 3D ecosystem with their partners for 3D gaming with their own S3D that they call HD3D. We expect that adoption amongst gamers will be more rapid beginning with the HD 7000 series as AMD begins to give more importance to S3D gaming. We also expect AMD to copy Nvidia by offering HD3D across three display and perhaps one-up them with 3×2 Eyefinity – six screens in S3D.
If television programming content is lacking for S3D, that is not at all the case with PC games. 3D is already programmed into each and every PC game by using the Z (“depth”) buffer. Nvidia has rated over 550 PC games at the time of writing – six classes including, “3D Vision ready” (the best), “Excellent”, “good”, “Fair” and “not recommended” – and most of these games are good or better for playing in S3D. This evaluation was also approached from the perspective of “value” – using S3D to possibly “reopen” a library of games that were never finished or to be replayed just for the 3D experience.
To this end, we installed over 80 games and played and replayed them with 3D Vision. There are many more games that we installed, only to find that they were too old (the drivers did not work properly to enable S3D) or the engine is OpenGL-based (Nvidia’s 3D vision drivers do not support any OpenGL games). Generally, we found that games after 2002 are largely compatible with Nvidia’s 3D Vision. And we found several really excellent games that play well in S3D that Nvidia has not evaluated that we will share with you.
Earlier games are hit and miss – often we would spend hours tweaking the game or looking for ways to edit the game ini files; or to even make it compatible with widescreen gaming since we have a 1920×1080 120HZ 3D Vision ready LCD. And the really old PC games look generally pretty awful – their faults are magnified by 3D. Here were are taking about “cardboard cutouts superimposed over a cardboard cutout background” – just like the 3D old movies. However, we have well over 100 PC games available to us in our library for testing that are less than 10 years old.
Some PC games we tested for only an hour or so; six brand new games were played from start to finish while others we revisited for many hours each – depending on the S3D gaming experience. During this 5-month evaluation we have learned to ‘tweak’ 3D Vision settings and the game experience we have now at the end of this evaluation is much better than when we first started out.
3D Vision benefits from tweaking and there are keyboard shortcuts and hot keys to adjust it even in-game. Nvidia also provides a general setting guide for every one of the 550 games they that they have tested, as well as 3D Vision blogs and a sub-forum [insert link] devoted to improving the 3D experience that Nvidia employees regularly monitor and contribute to. We also tested some games that Nvidia didn’t and we will be glad to update you with our own ratings and suggestions.
Stereoscopic 3D at ABT
This evaluation is particularly devoted to 3D Vision and testing Nvidia’s proprietary S3D solution. We will also continue to follow AMD’s competing HD3D solution and from time to time we will look at handheld and mobile S3D solutions. For now, let’s look closely at Nvidia’s 3D Vision and how it works.