The annual CEDIA trade show wound down Saturday, September 10th as our sore footed crew made their way back to Raleigh and Charlotte.  This year, the CEDIA show moved back to its normal home in Indianapolis where they have a great convention center for trade shows.  I think I sat through more interesting demos at the 2011 CEDIA than ever in the past, which has given me a whole lot to write about.  Instead of one very long blog, I’ve decided to break down my report into several sections I’ll post over the next couple of weeks.  I’ve got so many cool things to tell you about, I am having to use a spreadsheet to track them all!

The biggest buzz at the show was not hard to miss.  Can you guess what it might be?  Well, if you have kept up with video news, you might have heard about this thing called 3D.  Last year 3D made its way into just about every type of flat panel TV, but this year, you could not turn around without seeing a 3D capable front projector.  Front projection is the ultimate movie theater experience with its ability to have a much larger screen than you could ever imagine in a flat panel (unless of course you can somehow move the walls around in your home to bring in the new Panasonic 152” Plasma!).   For me, 3D in flat panels has not been very exciting.  I am one of those people who gets a headache very quickly when wearing the active 3D glasses.  Active 3D is by far and away the most prevalent way to view 3D, but interestingly enough, it’s not used in movie theaters.  The primary reason is the cost of the glasses are about 100 times the cost of passive 3D glasses so when you need thousands of glasses for your audience it really adds up, but at this year’s CEDIA I had a chance to make a very interesting comparison.

Digital Projection, one of our favorite front projection vendors, had probably the largest display booth of anyone.  DPI specializes in commercial grade front projectors for residential, business, industrial, and military use.  They frankly make the widest selection of projectors you can find anywhere.  In their booth, they had set up two identical projectors, on identical sized screens, playing the same 3D content.  The difference between the two demos was active and passive.  The active demo required the use of active glasses, while the passive demo used the lightweight passive glasses and an LED modulator in front of the projector (just like they use in a real movie theater).  Our entire group sat through this demonstration and to a person, we all agreed the passive 3D was the better experience.  We all felt, as most people do, that the active glasses, just like every active glasses set up we have ever tried, are heavy and fatiguing.  The passive system seems brighter and without the jumpiness you experience with active 3D.  We all agreed we could actually sit through an entire 1-2 hour presentation without getting fatigued using passive 3D.

The industry however is really pushing active 3D mainly because it’s far less expensive to implement in the small scale of a home.  The LCD modular you place in front of the projector is quite expensive, but the big catch for front projection is the screen.  For passive 3D, you need a silver finished screen, which means for 2D, you need a different screen material.  Our friends at Stewart Filmscreen have already introduced a system where you have two screens in one frame that roll down for 3D or 2D, but this system is far more expensive than a single screen.

Just so you know, I am not the biggest fan of 3D.  I frankly think it’s been an attempt by the video industry to sell a bunch of new TV’s and in that regard it has flopped.  I think getting into a wide screen 2:35 front projection set up is far more fun and engaging than any 3D system out there.  The great news is, there have been some real advances in 2:35 technology that make it even easier to get into this great format for front projection theater.  More about those in my next posts!