Your Complete Guide to 3D Projectors

The “gimmick” of the three-dimensional stereoscopic movie has returned in full-force around the 1980s until the Turn of the Millennium, which then followed the advent of the 3D home cinema projector. No longer did you need to be a theater owner in order to have screenings of 3D movies in the comfort of your own home.

With that said, a 3D projector has certain attributes that separate it from its 2D or standard projector counterpart. 

What Is a 3D Projector?  

A 3D projector works like a regular projector in that it uses a light source in order to project an image on a blank projection screen or on a flat wall. The difference is that it’s capable of creating a 3D effect by placing separate images of the same video on each of your eyes. 

  • How Does It Work? As for how 3D projectors work, here’s what you need to know. These devices send out 3D transmissions that can be picked out by your 3D glasses. When you put on 3D glasses wherein one eye picks up the red color and the other eye picks up the blue color, this results in a stereoscopic effect that gives what you’re viewing the illusion of depth like what happens when you look at something in real-life in twin angles.


  • What Makes a 3D Projector Three-Dimensional? A 3D projector can be used to map 3D data on a 2D surface such as a wall or screen. What this means is that the images from a 3D projection allow for viewers to see depth in them thanks to extra information not present in the images of a traditional projector. This feeling of depth typically requires the viewer to wear special glasses that, like old 3D glasses of yore, gives you two separate images in each of your eyes to produce a stereoscopic effect.


  • How The 3D Simulation is Created: In modern times, this 3D simulation is shown in full color by projecting two nearly identical images at the same time, allowing your eyes and brain to process the illusion of depth just as projecting successive images quickly with different poses can simulate motion. The feeling of depth of a 3D projector allows you to experience a simulation of depth and immersion, as though you’re watching something live. This effect can be jarring to those not used to it, like when you see a 60 FPS, HD video, or 4K movie for the first time.


  • More About Your 3D Glasses: The 3D glasses of yore when it came to 3D movies from the 1950s or so used red and blue lenses to pick up the red and blue parts of a movie on each eye, thus giving you the stereoscopic effect that way. With full-color, HD 3D projections, you use special glasses that filter polarity instead in order to allow you to see all colors while replicating the feeling of depth of old-timey red-and-blue monochrome 3D movies of yore. This polarity filtration allows you to see both images on each eye, one image each. These glasses can be included with the 3D projector or you can buy them separately.
01 3D Projectors
Image Credit: Demo of TITAN 3D Projector

What Is The Difference Between a 2D and 3D Projector? 

Let’s cover the obvious first. The number one advantage of a 3D video projector over a standard video projector is 3D. The 3D effect, although ultimately an optical illusion, adds immersion to your viewing experience, whether you’re playing a videogame or watching a 3D movie. You feel like you’re part of the action or you’re witnessing something live, like in a stadium or when you’re watching live sports in action. It’s not real but it looks much more real than what you see on a normal projector or TV.

On that note, here’s a list of 3D projector similarities and differences as well as benefits and detriments over its standard projector counterpart.

  • Both Have Big Screens and Immersive Sounds: Both projector types offer the big screen experience that even the biggest HDTV couldn’t replicate. Couple that with a high-quality surround-sound audio system in home cinemas, and it makes for a unique and awesome viewing experience.


  • Become Part of the In-Depth Visual Action: You will feel more like you’re part of the action, from the explosions seemingly blowing up right into your face to any gun pointed at you seemingly having a depth to it that you can’t get from a 2D projector. You’re a passive viewer on a flat image with a standard projector.


  • Personal Preference and Movie Availability: Many people still wish to stick to 2D even as love for the 3D format has risen through the years. It’s mostly a personal preference. Some view 3D as a gimmick while others can’t get enough of it as a movie-viewing feature. 3D is not available for most movies though.


  • Only a Limited Amount of Movies Use 3D: It certainly doesn’t help that even with the resurgence of 3D in the mainstream, only a handful of movies make use of the format to its fullest potential and most movies are still in 2D, even the current Hollywood tent pole genre of Superhero Films that would’ve cashed-in on the tech the most.


  • Educational Usage for 3D: 2D projectors are used for both recreational and educational applications. It’s also the case with 3D projectors. Quite a number of things that are hard to visualize in 2D are now being presented in 3D such as complex structures and certain objects. 3D projector technology (along with virtual reality and hologram projectors) is mostly utilized to stereoscopically view 3D architectural designs and the human tissue structure.

What Is The Difference Between a 2D and 3D Projector?

The Types of 3D Transmission Formats for 3D Projectors 

3D projectors are made to display video, games, pictures, and user interfaces using technologies like LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), DLP (Digital Light Processing), or LCD (Liquid Crystal Display). However, 3D projectors have an extra data stream type that it receives then projects in various formats. These formats include Checkerboard, Side-by-Side, Frame Packing, and Frame Sequential.

  • Frame Sequential: The Page Flip or Frame Sequential format is the simplest 3D format out there in certain aspects. This signal is a full-resolution one that’s sent at 120 frames per second to the projector. The frames alternate in sequence, so the display receives the left then right eye frame continuously. The projector doesn’t need to decode the source. It simply requires the ability to receive a 120Hz signal and it’s good to go. This is a high-bandwidth format to allow for a full-resolution signal.


  • Frame Packing: Frame Packing is similar or somewhat correlated to Frame Sequential but they’re not the same type of format. This particular 3D format sends the images for your left and right eye at the same time, stacked atop one another with a small space between them. You’ll get a one giant-sized, double-height frame instead of two smaller frames alternating between one another. The signal is sent at 60Hz or 24Hz. Furthermore, the projector must be the one to separate the images and sequentially display them.


  • Side-by-Side: As the name suggests, the side-by-side 3D format popularized by DirecTV involves two frames that are compressed to half their original resolution horizontally. Their signal is then sent simultaneously so that the 3D projector can display them in a way wherein one eye gets one image and the other eye gets another image stereoscopically. A 1080p HD signal that has 1920 x 1080 pixels per frame will make two 960 x 1080 frames hanging together side-by-side, which the 3D projector then separates and expands to their original 1920 x 1080 resolution.


  • Checkerboard: Many 3D-ready televisions of the DLP variety accept the checkerboard format. This involves interleaving the two images for the left and right eye, such that every other pixel is going for the opposite eye like a checkerboard with black-and-white alternating squares as its design. However, instead of black-and-white squares, you have each pixel instead. The TV separates the two half-resolution images and displays them in sequence to give the illusion of depth.

The Types of 3D Transmission Formats for 3D Projectors

3D-Ready Projectors versus Full-3D Projectors

The transmission format supported by any given projector serves as the yardstick that divides them into two groups, which are 3D-ready and Full 3D projectors. It’s important to know the difference between the two so you don’t end up wasting your money on a projector that doesn’t support any other transmission signal other than Frame Sequential.

  • 3D-Ready Projectors: A 3D-ready projector is designed to only handle the Frame Sequential format to produce a 3D image. It’s supposed to reduce production costs as the aforementioned 3D format is one of the simplest forms of 3D available. Many users have buyer’s remorse over buying this projector type, mistaking it for a Full-3D projector that’s capable of rendering all transmission types.


  • Full-3D Projector: Meanwhile, a Full 3D or Full-3D projector is capable of handling all four formats, from Frame Packing to Checkerboard. If you want the 3D experience when watching the BD version of Avatar, for example, you need a Full 3D projector that offers full 1080p 3D projection as well as compatibility with HDMI 1.4 or Blu-Ray 3D. Prices range from $1,500 to $3,700.


What Are The Different Systems Used by 3D Projectors to Render Videos in 3D?


The systems used by the 3D projector in order to render a movie, video clip or TV show in full stereoscopic 3D can be divided into 3 main categories—Active 3D System, Passive Polarized System, and Passive Optical Filter System. They all use special glasses and/or screen technology to ensure that each of your eyes view a separate image to create the illusion of depth.


  • Active 3D System: An active 3D system projector is different from a standard projector because it supports a 120Hz refresh rate and beyond. The 120Hz refresh rate is especially useful when rendering the Frame Sequential 3D format and its alternating frames.


  • Passive Polarized System: This system comes in a set or package deal that includes a pair of polarized glasses, special silver screen, and a polarizing filter. This setup also involves the use of twin projectors instead of just one projector—one for each eye.


  • Passive Optical Filter System: This system is similar to the polarized system. However, it instead uses color filtration instead of light polarization in order to achieve its 3D rendering abilities. It can involve anaglyph glasses for simple color filtration a la 1950s 3D glasses. Thanks to high-tech optical filters, you can now get full-color filtration to achieve the stereoscopic effect, as in the case of the Omega 3D system that doesn’t require a special screen to work.


Reasons for The Growing Popularity of 3D Projectors

In recent years, 3D movies have grown in popularity among the home cinema or home theater industry. Thanks to this growth, the demand or 3D tech has risen as well. Original Equipment Manufacturers have taken notice of this trend, resulting in them inventing and supplying full 3D projectors o(r at least 3D-ready ones) to the market. 

  • An Optical Illusion of Nonexistent Depth: A home 3D projector—in tandem with 3D glasses—allows a viewer to see movies projected in pseudo-3D so there’s a sense o depth of what you’re watching even though in reality it’s a flat projection of a recorded video. The 3D effect is an optical illusion that adds a dimension of depth and immersion to what you’re watching.


  • Vintage and Modern HD Projectors Now Available: The 3D projector market covers equipment such as vintage 3D projectors that are low-priced and low-resolution. High-definition or HD 1080p home projectors have also ended up available but they cost anywhere from 1,500 to more than $7,000.


  • The Affordability of 3D Projectors Have Improved: Since 2011, the prices of 3D projectors have dropped to affordable levels, making them more common in middle-class households. Prime examples of the most cost-effective projectors in the market to date include the Epson Home Cinema 3700 and the Panasonic PT-AE7000U.

3D-Ready Projectors versus Full-3D Projectors 

Videogames on 3D Projectors?

Videogames on 3D projectors kind of makes perfect sense. Granted, virtual reality advancements are more immersive thanks to the way the virtual reality helmet or visor like the Ocular Rift is designed. However, it is possible to play a non-VR videogame and replicate some of the 3D depth achievable from VR through the stereoscopic optical illusion.


  • Why It Makes Perfect Sense: Videogames, unlike (most) movies and TV shows, are interactive. By adding a stereoscopic 3D element to videogames—like when you’re playing a first-person shooter—your immersion will increase significantly. You’ll get to simulate things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience in real-life, like fighting terrorists in gun duels. It’s also much safer since everything is in virtual reality.


  • A More Convincing Simulation: VR and 3D projectors allow you to add more aspects of “reality” in every gaming session, with you simulating things like having your avatar do stunts you can’t do in real-life such as pretending to be a sniper, doing complex martial arts moves, canoeing and parasailing, and being in a car chase at the safety of your own home.


  • Virtual Reality versus 3D Projectors: VR helmets are undoubtedly more immersive than 3D projectors since each of your eyes are seeing the 3D polygonal world in stereoscopic depth and you’re literally interacting in a 3D environment that you can stare at by moving your eyes and your head. With 3D projectors, you’re still looking at a screen or “window” to virtual reality, albeit also in a stereoscopic way with the assistance of 3D glasses.


  • 3D Projectors Are Technically Safer: Technically, it’s safer for you to use a 3D projector instead of an Ocular Rift because you can still see the real-world around you and the 3D screen at the same time versus the full immersion allowed by VR headsets. As a gamer, you might appreciate 3D tech when doing FPS runs when playing things like Fortnite or Call of Duty. The 3D depth is but another feature to push videogame technology to the next level, along with 60FPS or 4K resolution.

Reasons for The Growing Popularity of 3D Projectors

The History of 3D Technology


The 3D movie was a gimmick in the 1950s or so where a black and white film is projected in two monochrome colors of blue and red, with one color slightly ajar from another. This continued with movies such as Jaws 3-D and Friday the 13th Part III in 3D.

Many years later, in the 2000s, the 3D movie made its glorious return to the mainstream through the second-highest (formerly highest) grossing movie of all time, Avatar. James Cameron’s masterpiece employs the same stereoscopic vision idea but this time involving full-color movies and special 3D glasses that pick out multiple viewing angles together to form the illusion of depth on a given image. 

In a Nutshell

Home cinema enthusiasts and gamers are eager to bring the iMax 3D experience back to their home by investing in 3D projectors and 3D glasses that support them. Both videos and videogames can benefit from this stereoscopic effect that adds the illusion of depth to whatever you’re watching on the projector screen. It’s a modern “reboot” or iteration of the red-and-blue 3D glasses for monochrome or black and white movies back in the day that started around the 1980s, with gimmicky 3D movies such as Jaws 3-D. It peaked with the release of James Cameron’s Avatar in the 2000s.

Image Credit:

James Core

I love my projector system and I am here to help you find the right projector for your needs.

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