How to Adjust a 3D TV for Best Viewing Results

Get the most out of your home 3D viewing experience

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.
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NOTE: 3D TV production has been officially discontinued. However, there are still many in use and there are also video projectors with the 3D viewing option still available, along with some continuing 3D Blu-ray Disc and 3D internet content. If you own a 3D TV or video projector, here are some tips that will optimize your viewing experience.

3D Viewing Issues

3D TV can be either a good or bad experience and although some people do have problems with adjusting to 3D viewing, there are many that enjoy the experience, when it is well-presented. However, there are still some issues to consider.

The three main issues that many viewers encounter when watching 3D are:

  • Brightness: There is a reduction in brightness as a result of viewing 3D images through either Active Shutter or Passive Polarized 3D Glasses. This can reduce the brightness of the incoming images up to 50%.
  • Ghosting/Crosstalk: An object(s) in an image appears to have a duplicate image that looks like a halo or ghost around the actual object. This occurs when the left and right eye images are not synced exactly with the LCD shutters or polarized filters in 3D glasses.
  • Motion Blur: When objects move fast across the screen, they may seem blurry or stutter more than they might do on the 2D source material.

Despite the above issues, there are some easy steps that you can take that can provide you with a good viewing experience.

Picture Settings

The brightness, contrast, and motion response of the 3D TV or video projector need to be optimized for 3D. Check your TV or projector 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 for both 2D and 3D).

Each of the above options provides preset combinations of 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 looks best 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.

However, if none of the presets quite do it, also check the Custom Settings 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.

Another setting to check for is 3D Depth. If you still see too much crosstalk after using the presets and custom settings, see if the 3D depth setting will correct the problem. On some 3D TVs and video projectors, this setting only works with the 2D-to-3D conversion feature, and on others, it works with both 2D/3D conversion and native 3D content.

Most TVs allow 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 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.

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 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 display 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, as 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 Plasma, LCD, and OLED TVs, 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.

TVs and Video Projectors with 2D-to-3D Conversion

Some 3D TVs (and also some video projectors and 3D Blu-ray disc players) 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, this feature cannot calculate all the necessary depth cues in a 2D image correctly, so sometimes the depth is not quite right, and some rippling effects can make some background 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.

  • 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.
  • Due to the inaccuracies of the 2D-to-3D conversion feature, the optimized settings you made for watching 3D will not correct some of the inherent issues present when viewing 3D-converted 2D content.

Bonus Tip 3D Viewing Tip: DarbeeVision

Another option that can be used to improve the 3D viewing experience is the addition of Darbee Visual Presence Processing.

To do this, connect a Darbee processor (which is about the size of very small external hard drive) between your 3D source (such as a 3D-enabled Blu-ray Disc Player) and your 3D TV via HDMI.

When activated, what the processor does is bring out more detail in both external and internal edges of objects by manipulating brightness and contrast levels in real time.

The result for 3D viewing is that the processing can counteract the softness of 3D images, bringing them back to 2D sharpness levels. The degree of the Visual Presence processing effect is user adjustable from 0 to 120 percent. However, too much of the effect can make images harsh and bring out unwanted video noise that may ordinarily not be visible in the content.

It is also important to point out that the Visual Presence Effect can also be applied to standard 2D viewing. The effect brings out more depth in 2D images, and, although not the same as viewing true 3D, can improve perceived image depth and detail for a 2D viewing experience.

For a full rundown on this option, including photo examples on how the effect works on 2D images, read our review of the Darbee DVP-5000S Visual Presence Processor and see if it might be a good fit for your 3D viewing setup.

Darbee Visual Presences Processing is also built into select Optoma DLP video projectors and OPPO Digital BDP-103D Blu-ray Disc Player.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to watching TV, we all have slightly different viewing preferences and we all perceive color, motion response, and 3D, differently.

Also, just as there are good and bad movies, there are good movies with poor picture quality and bad movies with great picture quality, the same goes for 3D—if it is bad movie, it is a bad movie—3D might make it more fun visually, but it can't make up for bad storytelling and/or bad acting.

In addition, just because a movie is in 3D, doesn't mean the 3D filming or conversion process was done well—some 3D movies just don't look that good.

The important thing to remember is that you approach any 3D TV or video projector settings so that they provide you with the best possible viewing experience, according to your own preferences.