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How to Adjust A 3D TV For Best 3D Viewing Results

Practical Tips on how to optimize the picture settings on your 3D TV


LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 11: A glasses-free Toshiba 55-inch 3-D 4x full HD TV shows the movie, 'Coraline' at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center January 11, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images New/Getty Images
3D TV Viewing Issues

Three main issues that consumers encounter when watching 3D are: reduction in brightness, "ghosting" (also referred to as crosstalk), and motion blur.

1. Brightness: The reduction in brightness is the result of having to view 3D images through either Active Shutter or Passive Polarized 3D Glasses. This can reduce the brightness of the incoming images up to 50%.

2. Ghosting/Crosstalk: This occurs when the left and right eye images are not synched exactly with the LCD shutters or polarized filters in 3D glasses. What happens is that an object(s) in an image appears to have a duplicate image that looks like a halo or ghost around the actual object.

3. Motion Blur: Another problem is that when objects move fast across the screen, the objects may seem blurry or stutter more than they might do on 2D source material.

However, despite these issues, there is practical action you can take that may minimize these issues without calling in a tech guru.

TV Picture Settings

The brightness, contrast, and motion response of the 3D TV or video projector needs to optimized for 3D. Check your TV picture settings menu. You will have several preset options, typically they are Cinema, Standard, Game, Vivid, and Custom - other choices might include Sports and PC, and if you have a THX certified TV, you should have a THX picture setting option as well (some TVs are certified for 2D and some are certified for 2D and 3D). Each of the above options provides you with preset picture settings for brightness, contrast, color saturation, and sharpness suitable for different viewing sources or environments. In addition, some 3D TVs and Video Projectors will automatically default to a special preset mode when a 3D source is detected - this may be listed as 3D Dynamic, 3D Bright Mode, or a similar labeling.

Toggle through each and see which provides the best combination of brightness, contrast, color saturation, and sharpness that looks good through 3D glasses without being unnaturally bright or dark. As you toggle through the presets (while viewing 3D content) also note which one results in 3D images with the least amount of ghosting or crosstalk. As the picture settings are adjusted to make the objects in the image more distinct, it helps reduce the amount of visible ghosting/crosstalk.

However, if none of the presets quite do it, also check the Custom setting option and set your own brightness, contrast, color saturation, and sharpness levels. Don't worry, you won't mess anything up - if you get too far off track, just go the picture settings reset option and everything will return to default settings.

One thing to keep in mind is that most TVs now allow you to make setting changes for each input source independently. In other words, if you have your 3D Blu-ray Disc player connected to HDMI input 1, then the settings made for that input will not affect other inputs. This means you don't constantly have to change settings. Also, you have the ability to quickly go to a another preset setting within each input. This helps if you use the same Blu-ray Disc player for both 2D and 3D as you can switch to your customized or preferred settings when viewing 3D, and switch back to another preset for standard 2D Blu-ray disc viewing.

Check out three examples of picture setting menus that may be found on 3D TVs and 3D video projectors: example 1, example 2, example 3).

Ambient Light Settings

In addition to the picture settings, disable the function that compensates for ambient light conditions. This function goes under several names, depending on the brand of TV: C.A.T.S. (Panasonic), Dynalight (Toshiba), Eco-Sensor (Samsung), Intelligent Sensor or Active Light Sensor (LG), etc... When the ambient light sensor is active, the brightness of the screen will vary as the room light changes, making the image dimmer when the room is dark and brighter when the room is light. However, for 3D viewing, the TV should be displaying a brighter image in either a darkened or brightened room. Disabling the ambient light sensor will allow the TV to display the same picture brightness characteristics in all room lighting conditions.

Motion Response Settings

The next thing to check is motion response. Another problem with a lot of 3D content is that there can be blurring or motion lag during fast moving 3D scenes. This is not as much of an issue on Plasma TVs or DLP video projectors, as they have better natural motion response than an LCD (or LED/LCD) TV. However, for best results on a Plasma TV, check for a setting, such as "motion smoother" or similar function.

For LCD and LED/LCD TVs, make sure you enable the 120Hz or 240Hz motion settings.

For both Plasma and LCD, even the above setting options may not solve the problem entirely, as a lot depends on how well the 3D was actually filmed (or converted from 2D in post processing), but optimizing a TV's motion response settings certainly doesn't hurt.

Note for Video Projectors

For video projectors, things to check are both the Lamp output setting (set to bright) and other settings, such as Brightness Boost  - doing this will project a brighter image on the screen, which should compensate for the brightness level decrease when viewing through 3D glasses. However, keep in mind that while in the short run this works pretty well, it will decrease your lamp life, so when not viewing 3D, you should go in and disable the brightness boost or similar function, unless you prefer that it be enabled for both 2D or 3D viewing.

Also, a growing number of projectors automatically default to a brighter light output (along with some auto adjustment in color and contrast setting) when a 3D input signal is detected. This makes it easier for the viewer, but you may still need to make some further adjustment according to your own preferences.

Note on TVs and Video Projectors with the 2D-to-3D conversion feature

There are a growing number of 3D TVs (and also some video projectors and 3D Blu-ray disc players) that also feature a built-in real-time 2D-to-3D conversion feature. This is not as good a viewing experience as watching originally produced or transmitted 3D content, but it can add a sense of depth and perspective if used appropriately and sparingly, such as with viewing live sporting events. On the other hand, since this feature cannot calculate all the necessary depth-cues in a 2D image correctly, sometimes the depth is not quite right, and some rippling effects can make some back objects look to close and some foreground objects may not stand out properly.

There are two takeaways regarding the use of the 2D-to-3D conversion feature, if your TV, video projector, or Blu-ray Disc player offers it. First, when viewing native 3D content, make sure your 3D TV is set for 3D and not 2D-to-3D as this will definitely make a difference in the 3D viewing experience. Second, because of the inaccuracies in using a the 2D-to-3D conversion feature, the optimized settings you made for watching 3D will not correct some of the internet issues present when viewing 3D-converted 2D content.

Final Take

The information provided above is based on my own experiences watching and reviewing 3D TVs and video projectors and are not the only ways for optimizing a TV or video projector for 3D viewing. Starting with a correctly calibrated TV or video projector is the best foundation, especially if you are having the TV or video projector professionally installed. Also, we all have slightly different viewing preferences and many perceive color, motion response, as well as 3D differently. Hopefully, the tips in this article will assist in providing you either a 3D viewing solution, or a reference point from which to optimize settings to your own taste.

Feel free to share your own 3D TV comments or tips.

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