3D Movie Technology for DVD and Blu-Ray

3D movies have recently seen a resurgence in the movie theater. Due to new 3D theater technologies, several 3D version of movies have hit the theaters and a few of those have made it to home theater formats in both standard DVD and Blu-ray.

3D movies have been around in theaters since the early 1950s when they were very popular. Many of these movies used a stereoscopic anaglyph image, which requires two cameras separated by a few feet to run simultaneously. Colors are added to each image and then they are superimposed. To view the 3D effects with anaglyphic images, you must wear special glasses with different colored lenses. The left lens separates the part of the images filmed by the left camera and the right separates out the images filmed by the right camera. Your eyes combine the images, which creates a depth of field and the 3D effect.

Newer movie theater technologies use dual projectors and polarized images that you view using glasses with polarized lenses. Each polarized image can only be seen properly through the corresponding polarized lens. This avoids the color overlays used in anaglyphic image technology and the colors are therefore more realistic and accurate. Linearly polarized 3D movies have been around since the 1930s when the technology first emerged.

Disney and a company called Real D have pioneered the use of circular polarized 3D projection technology that has greatly improved the 3D viewing experience. Circular polarization alternately displays left-eye and right-eye images, which are filtered through special polarized glasses. Recent 3D versions of films such as Chicken Little, the Nightmare Before Christmas, Meet the Robinsons, Hanna Montana’s Concert Tour and Journey to the Center of the Earth were all filmed and shown using this technology.

What about home theater 3D movies?

There is good news and bad news. The good news is that a few recent 3D theater hits have been reproduced in 3D for both standard DVD and Blu-ray. The bad news is that polarized technologies require expensive dual digital projectors that are not practical for home use. You cannot simply display polarized images on an HDTV. That means that the 3D movies available for home theater use do not use the same imaging technology and you cannot use the gray polarized glasses that you might have kept after viewing one of the current 3D flicks at the theater. Sorry, no can do.

All of the most current 3D movies on DVD and Blu-ray use anaglyph technology, which requires that you wear glasses with different colored lenses. When you buy a 3D movie, you generally get 4 sets of cardboard-framed anaglyph glasses.

There have been improvements made to anaglyph technology and the screen colors are generally very accurate. The 3D effects are not as dramatic as with the Real D polarized technology, but it is still pretty good. If you have a choice, buy the Blu-ray version of a 3D movie. The extra sharpness offered by Blu-ray improves the quality of the 3D effect. A lot of people are disappointed with the 3D effects when using a non-HD TV and a standard DVD format. If the image is not sharp enough, it is difficult to see the full 3D effect.

The current 3D movies available on DVD and Blu-ray include Journey to the Center of the Earth, Hanna Montana’s Best of Both Worlds Concert, and Polar Express. There was a 3D version of Shrek 3, but I do not think it is available and was only produced using a standard DVD format. You might, however, find a copy on eBay.

The HQFS 3D alternative

There is also a wide range of older movies available using a technique called HQFS (high quality field sequential). Many of the old 3D movies from the 1950s are available on standard DVD using this technology approach. Amazon has a nice selection of available HQFS DVDs. With HQFS, movie fans wear special wired electronic shutter glasses that are synchronized to the frames in the video. If you want to experience 3D in your home theater, it looks like you will either have to purchase HQFS glasses (they are not included with most HQFS movies) or wear anaglyph glasses. We have not yet tried any of the HQFS movies, but we are tempted to buy a couple shutter glasses because it looks like there are dozens of older 3D movies available. Most of those movies are pretty cheesy, but make for good entertainment if you are into 3D. It looks like the newest HQFS video available is Spy Kids 3-D Game Over.

I just saw a long list of 3D movies that Disney is planning to release in the theaters over the next few years. Bolt is just hitting the theaters now. I suspect that Bolt and at least a few others will be released on Blu-ray and DVD.


  1. mike says

    Eventhough, your bad news says polarized technologies require expensive dual digital projectors for home use as of Nov 2008, I am positive and believe that an affordable technology exists and will come to market for a quad/dual track read capability (upgrade unit or OE add-on) to your DVD or blu-ray player. The demand for 3D HDTV is there and is very affordable to supply if the industries involved want to make money. We can send those two seperate visual signals affordably to your HDTV. Then you can simply watch polarized images on an HDTV and use your appropriate 3D glasses at home. Thanks, M.

  2. Doogie says

    Hi Mike

    There may some way to do this. Current anaglyph technology is inferior to the polarized technologies found in theaters.

    I hope you are right, because I enjoy 3D movies. :)

    Polarized movie theater 3D also requires a special silver screen to boost the reflectivity. There are some new technologies out there that are supposed to allow 3D on HDTV, but right now the retail price estimate for the special 3D HDTV is in the $10,000 range.

    There was a company that exhibited 3D technology at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that did not require special glasses, but the quality was very poor, looked like you were looking through a telescope and were about to fall over the edge of a cliff, and even stationary scenes made you queasy. I studied it for about two minutes before giving up. It was pretty bad.

    I will be looking for new 3D technologies at the January CES. A full report is forthcoming. Stay tuned. . .

  3. Alan says

    Circular Polarised displays are available for PC use and work very well indeed. I have one and have seen some stunning 3D video clips on it. Just like some of the cinema 3D systems, I wear a pair of circular polarised glasses to see the 3D image.

    My gripe with 3D in the home is not the availability or cost of hardware as niether are a problem. The hardware IS available and is affordable. It is the lack of titles that is currently hindering 3D in the home.

  4. Doogie says

    Hi Alan

    You are right. There are very few 3D movies available for home use. They have to shoot movies in 3D in order to produce videos in 3D. Most current 3D movies, such as Journey to the Center of the Earth and Polar Express were intended to be 3D movies and the scenes reflect that.

    Part of the problem is that 3D movies frequently do not look very good at home unless you have your HDTV set confiigured just right, plus people hate wearing the cardboard glasses.

  5. leroy says

    Mitsubishi has a 3D technology built into it’s Diamond series HDTV’s now, there’s a plug on the back of a TV for glasses i think that you have to plug in or something. That might be interesting to check out!

  6. Andrew Sherwood says

    I have recently watched journey to the centre of the earth at home on our Sony vplvw60 black pearl projector. With the full 1080 P and the over 100″ widescreen viewing it was to say the least spectacular. There were scenes where the action was coming from behind and over your head. Probably the best was the hovering bird that one felt you could reach out and touch. Over all very impressed!!

  7. Chris says

    It’s a myth that movies in the 50s were presented in anaglyph. They were, in fact, presented in a polarized format very much the same as the current 3D films are (as well as the 3D films of the 80s such as Amityville 3D and Jaws 3D). One of the main problems back then, however, was keeping the two projectors in synch. This is now longer a problem because with RealD only one dual projector is required, meaning the left and right images are always in synch with each other.

  8. TE says

    Hi Chris

    Actually, there was a mix of emerging 3D movie theater technologies in the 1950s, but linearly polarized 3D eventually dominated. I was here for the 50s and the 3D movie glasses for the couple of 3D movies that I saw as a kid used colored filters. That was anaglyph technology. I never saw one of the polarized flicks from the 1950s, but I have heard that the technology used was a bit blurry and tended to give some people motion sickness. Perhaps that is why 3D experienced a couple of brief runs with popularity in the 1950s, but never really endured into the 1960s. I don’t remember anaglyph technology as being very impressive either.

    RealD uses circular polarization, which uses a single projector that alternates left-eye and right-eye polarized images. Sony demonstrated a variation of this at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show with what appeared to be a dual-layer polarized LCD screen. You viewed it using RealD polarized glasses and the 3D effects looked pretty good. Unfortunately, they said is was just a prototype with no plans for production.

    Panasonic is bringing a 3D unit to the market, but that uses shutter technology. Samsung also displayed a prototype using shutter technology. At this point, it appears that shutter technology will be the best choice for future home theater use. What I saw at the CES show was pretty impressive.

  9. Randy says

    We have the Blu-ray Journey to the center of the earth and while the 3d effects are okay, somes pretty good, the color is absolutely horrendous. Perhaps is is because we have a plasma screen, I don’t know, but this “film” was virtually black and white. We had to watch it both ways backing up for the parts that we thought would likely be good in 3d. It was very unsatisfying. I figured others would have this same commentary but I have not seen it. Is there a possibilty something is not right with our setup? We have a 49.9 1080p Panasonic that we bought this past January. Comments anyone?

  10. Doogie says

    Hi Randy

    Anaglyph technology is not the best, but it can work on a wide range of TVs. It order to improve the 3D effects and color balance, you have to tweak the video settings. Journey To The Center of the Earth does not include viewing tip recommendations, but The Polar Express does.

    You would normally watch movies in an accurate color mode, such as Cinema. Polar Express recommends switching to Standard mode, view the movie in a room that is not too bright, and turn up the brightness on your HDTV.

    Basically, you want to set up one of the video modes for 3D movies. What I found that works best is to pick one of the best 3D scenes, put the movie on pause, switch to Standard or Custom mode, and then tune the video settings for the best color and 3D effects while wearing the anaglyph glasses.

    When the video is not set right, the biggest problem is usually ghosting, which destroys the 3D effect and is annoying. That’s where you see the shadows from the multiple images. Too much ghosting may mean that the contrast is set too high.

    The shutter technology used with the upcoming Panasonic 3D offerings is going to blow anaglyph out of the water, but you may need a 120Hz refresh rate HDTV to get the best effects.

    If anyone else has further recommendations, please offer your advice.

  11. Randy says

    Thanks Doogie,

    Actually it did come with some suggestions for setting the video, many are the same as what you suggested. Pausing it on a good scene and tweeking it is a good idea, although I did try some of that already. I had not thought about maximizing one setting for 3D. I will attempt again but don’t have a lot of hope. There was no ghosting just no color. 3D itself was pretty good. Have you seen it on an HDTV? Was it in color while using the glasses?

  12. Doogie says

    Hi Randy

    I had to play my copy again to see what you mean–and I did notice the instructions on the screen for video setup this time.

    The color is there. You can see it if you remove the glasses. You are correct that the movie appears to be in black and white. I think the green-magenta anaglyph glasses are filtering out all of the color. Other movies use magenta-cyan glasses, which doesn’t seem to filter out all of the color. The 3D effects are pretty good with Journey to the Center of the Earth, so there may have been a trade-off.

    You don’t see any of these problems with Panasonic’s shutter technology.

  13. Randy says

    Okay, so it isn’t just our setup. Great. That is what I was trying to figure out. I did play with it quite a lot and tried to come up with a solution where the color worked too. The 3D is good. Not as good as Polar Express in IMAX though….go figure, lol. Those glasses for it must have been the shutters because the snowflakes landed right in our laps! and we were on the side of the theater. It was amazing! Guess my expectations were high…. :)


  14. Doogie says

    The move theaters are using mostly circular polarized technology with polarized glasses. It is hard to beat that, but the new version of the home theater shutter technology will come very close. We were very impressed with what Panasonic and Samsung were showing at the Consumer Electronics Show. Panasonic said that their 3D products would be introduced before the end of 2009.

  15. Doogie says

    That is a good question. I don’t have a definitive answer. Everyone that was displaying 3D technology at the CES was using 120Hz refresh rate HDTVs. They were all evasive when it came to answering technical questions.

    I don’t know if the 120Hz refresh rate is critical to using the Panasonic 3D system. When using a 120Hz refresh rate, they are splitting the left and right eye channels into an alternating 60 frames per second each. They may have been using the 120Hz refresh rate just to show off their new HDTV technology.

    I do not think there was anything special about the HDTV, but a synchronization controller needs to be hooked into the system to communicate with the wireless shutter glasses. I suspect they have built the controller into a Blu-ray player.

  16. Randy says

    That is interesting. I do recall reading about the 3D splitting into two 60Hz signals somewhere a few weeks back, when talking about the 120Hz LED HDTVs. But then, film is 30 fps or even 24 right? So splitting a 60Hz display into two 30’s ought to be workable, I would think….but I am just a consumer, what would I know about marketing. :)


  17. Manoj says

    Funnily enough several years ago in India a company started marketing 3d TV using some kind of phase lag technology . You still had to wear the anaglyph glasses though but the upside was that you could convert whatever you saw into 3D.

    I’m still trying to get some info about that and was wondering what happened to that tech ? Unfortunately I was a kid at the time and never got to actually see a demo although there were plenty if ads and write ups for the product. It was marketed by a company called Niky-Tasha in India. The product obviously never quite took off.

    Right now i’ve watched “Shark boy and Lava Girl” using anaglyphic glasses and my home projector and it’s good fun though a little tiresome after a while.

  18. Fireal says


    To get back to the “journey to the center of the earth” question…

    I have a Sony KDL 40″ fullhd tv, 2007 edition and I tweaked, fixed, adjusted as much as I could but still the colours where all quite crap. The whole image is simply too green. I couldn’t get white to look like white. It was all a greenish colour. Tried to adjust it and couldn’t find a way to do so. The 3D effect was awsome though, just as I expected. I could have dealed with even a black and white scenario, but too green is enough for me to almost give up with it. Any solutions?

  19. Doogie says

    Hi Fireal

    I do not think you will achieve good 3D colors due to the green-magenta anaglyph glasses that filter out most of the colors. You can either watch it with good colors in 2D (2 D version without the glasses) or good 3D (with glasses) without good colors. The green-magenta glasses do seem to offer a better 3D effect, but the picture is a bit dark and greenish, which is annoying.

  20. Fireal says

    Doogie thanks for the reply.

    It was funny that when I watched it in a well lit room (rather than a fully dark one in which I started) the green dissapeared a bit. Strange effect! And by this i mean full artificial light spread equally across the room. Of course sunlight doesnt do well for the picture but apparently artificial light was good. Test it for yourself

  21. Ramiro says

    I don’t know if any of you remember this 3D technology from years ago.

    An episode Eastenders was shown in 3D once, and you had to use these glasses supplied in the Radio Times magazine. However, the glasses were similar to the anaglyph ones, except one lens was clear and the other was dark.

    How the 3D effect actually worked was through motion. Any stationary picture would be 2D but as soon as it moved it became 3D.

    You could actually watch some TV programmes in 3D when they weren’t even meant to be.

    I think the technology was based on the fact that the image being received by the eye with the darker lens, took that millisecond longer to reach the brain, thereby creating a stereoscopic image. Anyone else remember this?

  22. Slippy Sloppy says

    Hey Ramiro, I remember that broadcast – it was part of BBC’s Children in Need. I also remember Phillip Schofield presenting a demonstration of how the technology worked and it was exactly as you described.

    You’re right, it does also work with programs that aren’t meant to be in 3D and you can even crudely replicate it if you hold one hand close to your right eye and look through the gap in your fingers, whilst keeping the other eye clear. Went to see Coraline in 3D yesterday and kept my RealD glasses so when I get home tonight I’m going to try popping out one of the lenses to see if I can this method of 3D to work as some HD films look almost 3D anyway.

    I’m a real sucker for 3D, I love it when something looks like it’s coming right out of the screen – though somehow it’s never as good as I remember it being as a kid. Shame they can’t get the polarised method to work at home – why is this though, is it mainly due to calibration?

  23. Doogie says

    You cannot currently view polarized images on a TV screen because you need two separate overlaid polarized images, one for each eye.

    While LCD is technically a polarized image, it is only a single channel. 3D shutter technology does work. That is why Panasonic and Samsung are focusing on that approach. Panasonic said that their 3D player using shutter technology would be out this year. I suspect it will either be released for the Christmas season or for the Consumer Electronics Show in January of 2010.

    When you see what I saw at last year’s CES, you will throw all of your old 3D technology in the trash. It is every bit as good as the polarized technologies used in movie theaters, but you may need a 120Hz refresh rate HDTV to use it. That gives you a standard 60Hz on each channel.

  24. Ana Yang says

    Hi, I just read some of the posted coments, and I was intriged by the one of Andrew Sherwood in January how said that he has a Sony vplvw60 black pearl projector and saw a movie just like in 3D, I am surfing for a projector is this the best one, can you actually see a movie like in 3D? and do you need to buy the movie in 3D and lenses or just the regular blue ray or DVD will do it. I am so new at this but I want to give my husband who loves movies the best gift for his birthday but don want to make his life more complicated, could you please suggest something.

  25. Doogie says

    Hi Ana

    You need to buy the 3D version of Journey to the Center of the Earth. It is an anaglyph 3D movie, which means you have to wear the colored lens anaglyph glasses.

    If you have a home theater, you will want to use the Blu-ray version of the movie, especially if you plan to use a projector.

    You might be much better off if you wait until Panasonic introduces their 3D home theater system using shutter technology. From what we’ve seen, it will make all other 3D home theater technologies obsolete. It is far superior to anything we have seen for home use.

    I do not have a suggestion for a projector. There is a wide range of options and prices with projectors.

  26. Prasoon says

    Hi Ana,

    I have Sony’s VPL-AW15 projector and a 1080P up converting DVD player supplying video output through HDMI to the projector. I have watched Journey.. numerous times with my friends and its looks awesome. The projector costs around $1000 and DVD player $60. With Pioneer 5.1 channel receiver ($180) and JVC SXXSW6000 Home Theater 5.1 speakers ($48), the sound is too good. With this setup, the roller-costar seems you are a part of the team and the bird’s chirping sound actually feels coming from back or front, depending on the scene.
    Now I am waiting for the Ice Age 3 (3D) to be available on DVD so that I can try that too.

  27. Larry says

    The shutter glasses will work fine with glass or crt the problems with electronic l/r eye shutter glasses on the LED, DLP, and Plasma is that the reproduction rate and scanning lines are not that good, however, having said that each television runs at different Hrz rates anything over around 600 Hrz. should give you with the electronic glasses pretty good results, Mitsubishi claims they will be able at 1200 Hrz. to run 3 D Shutter I haven’t tested it but if it works great, in your face and the shutter glasses for a pair and the IR transmitters are not that expensive around 49 dollars and you can add as many wireless IR glasses as you like for around 19. a piece.

  28. Dinesh says

    i am going to buy the polar express blu ray and i have a blu ray player with my 46inch bravia …all i wanted to ask is with which glasses should i try to watch the 3d movie …for centre of the earth everyone said me a red and green color glasses and for the polar express i read in forums some said you need to use a POLARIZED glasses ….actually i have a carrera glasses and it is written in it that it is polarized can i use that glasses to watch the 3d ….actually itz nt a 3d glass itz my daily sunwear glasses but written as polarized so can i use it ……SOrry for my bad english !

  29. Doogie says

    Hi Dinesh

    You do not need polarized glasses for Polar Express and they would not work with the DVD versions. If you buy the 3D version of Polar Express, it comes with four magenta-cyan glasses, which is what you need.

    Polarized glasses will not work with 3D anaglyph movies.

  30. William says

    Hi all,

    Here’s my take on the subject. Current 3D theatre technology utilises a single DLP projector running a frame rate of 144hz with a polarizing device called a Z-screen which mounts directly in front of the projector lense. The viewer uses polarizing glasses. So it follows this setup would work for home use on DLP rear projection TVs and front projectors running at least 120hz and a polarizing device built-in. If a vendor could build a Z-screen to match whatever size LCD or Plasma TV, that might work as well. Seems the more common option is to use shutter glasses on a TV running at least 120hz. The higher the frame rate, the lower the occurence of headaches caused by flicker.

    Personally, I’m looking forward to rock solid 3D at home, though it will probably hasten the demise of the theatre. The only constant is change.

  31. Doogie says

    Hi spooky

    Interesting. That looks similar to the Sony technology that will soon be introduced. However, at $9100 for a 46 inch display, who is going to buy it? The price for the new shutter technology 3D HDTVs is less than a third of that price. 46 inch 3D TVs using shutter technology will be less than $3000. Of course, each pair of shutter glasses will cost $100 to $150, so it will get real expensive if you want to invite 10 of your buddies over for beer and pizza and a 3D sports event.

  32. AJ says

    Hi Guys.

    I am looking at purchasing 3d Movies and playing this through a DVD or Bluray play onto a screen via projector. I will also have 3d cya/red glasses…just wonder – will thi sbe effective i.e. work ???

  33. Doogie says

    Hi AJ

    Sure, it will work with anaglyph movies, but they will soon be replaced by the new Blu-ray 3D technology. The new 3D technology is far superior to anaglyph, so I don’t expect to see any new anaglyph releases. Unfortunately, Blu-ray 3D requires that you buy all new home theater gear, which is a show-stopper for most people.

  34. Red Eagle says

    This is from an OLD Electronics Engineer. I have really enjoyed all your great comments about 3D TV.
    I remember seeing the FIRST Anaglyph 3D movie – “Bwana Devil” in the mid 50’s. The Second one was House of Wax which was much more popular so many thnk it was the first. As a early Color tv design engineer in the mid 60s, we had to have large, deep enclosures because of the Large and long CRTs. As designers, we all envisioned a Real Flat Screen, Hang On the Wall Color TV in 3D needing NO glasses. Over 40 decades later, the “Wall TV” is here but the NO Glasses TV is not. On an Old(er) person’s budget, I have to be satisfied with wearing Red/Cyan glasses – first hand made but later REAL purchsed ones. I DO have a few tips for all of you in the same Anaglyph boat that want to convert your 2D movies and videos into 3D on your PC and pipe it to your HDTV with a DVI/HDMI adapter/cable system. You will need to add an audio cable between them too.
    So what is this Magic 2D to 3D converting program? I us the new “PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3D” from Cyberlink. Don’t try to push the adjustable 3D effect to the limit or you will get Ghosting, especially on the Red side. I found the Mid 3D slider setting works fine. As to poor color, you are correct. I am a pilot and have some of the very early B/W flying films such as “Wings” and “Hells’Angles” which look GREAT using this conversion program. You can enjoy your 3D viewing of Any B/W movie this way.
    I hope it will NOT be another 40 years before those 3D glasses are no longer needed. I probably won’t live to “SEE IT” , but probably most of you Young folks Will. Until then – let’s just enjoy what we have in 3D.

  35. Alex says

    And to the last reply of red eagle from February 2011… those no glasses 3D TVs are here! I believe you´re stunned!