Just How Many “Ds” Do We Need, Anyway?

With all the fuss that’s been made about the introduction of 3D to home theater, Stewart Filmscreen decided to do that one better (or two better, as the case may be), with the recent introduction of its “5D” projection screen technology. That’s right, that’s two whole extra “Ds”! Now you can feel and smell your movies as objects fly out towards your head! Right?

In all seriousness, the so-called 5D screen material may serve a useful purpose in a home theater. There are two types of 3D projector: those that use active shutter glasses and those that use passive polarized glasses. The problem with the latter is that passive 3D requires a special silver screen, and those silver screens wreak havoc with standard 2D imagery. Until now, the best option for owners of such projectors has been to install separate screens for 2D and 3D, at least one of which must be retracted or removed when using the other. That can be both expensive and a major installation hassle. Stewart’s 5D material is designed to work with both 2D and passive 3D, without the need to swap screens.

Projectors that use active shutter glasses do not necessarily need a silver screen. They’re intended to be used with standard white screens, just like 2D. However, the 3D takes a significant brightness hit. In these still-early days of home theater 3D, many owners have found that some types of screen material have different polarization properties that reflect light and retain brightness better than others. Exactly which screen material will get the best results for any given home theater depends on the specific projector and brand of 3D glasses being used, among other factors. Many of these details are still being investigated. Whether Stewart’s 5D material is appropriate for active 3D is also unclear.

In the meantime, the 5D material has been chosen for an art exhibition called “Realtime UnReal” at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York. The museum describes the exhibit as:

Two stereoscopic projections on a double-sided silver screen, circular polarized filters and 3-D glasses, stereoscopic cameras, infrared movement tracking system, customized Quake III game engine

RealTime UnReal allows the viewer to enter simulated and imagined spaces inspired by the Museum’s architecture. The artists refer to this seamless overlay of the Museum’s physical space with an identically scaled virtual counterpart as “hybrid space.” The virtual spaces are rendered simultaneously in multiple perspectives and contain live video of visitors in the physical space. Custom-made software uses data captured from overhead cameras to track the position of one person at a time as he or she walks around the screen. Others may observe from the periphery of the interaction zone.

Is that clear to anyone else? Me neither. Here’s how Home Entertainment Magazine describes it:

The installation addresses the fusion of physical and digital space, employing 2 stereoscopic projections on a double-sided projection screen and game engine software customized by the artists, capturing visitors in the physical space and displaying them in an imaginary world. The virtual world seems to occupy physical space like a sculpture in the museum, an alternate reality floating in midair. Walking around the virtual world alters its viewpoint, reveals impossible perspectives and simultaneous occurrences, and disrupts its architecture. Realtime Unreal challenges visitors to bridge the gap between what their eyes perceive and what their minds believe is unreal.



  1. Sounds to me like its a musuem exhibit that you walk through – kinda like a VR tracking system, while you wear 3D glasses. Neat idea, but I am sure someone is going to walk into the screen eventually.

    So, if you get the 3D JVC projector, are you going to look at a 5D screen, or are you going to install a retractable screen over your current one? Or will you just deal with the loss of brightness?

    • Josh Zyber

      The JVC uses active shutter glasses and will work with a standard white screen. I don’t plan to replace my screen, which would be both expensive and a tremendous hassle. If I find the 3D picture too dark, I’ll attempt to compensate with different calibration or perhaps switching to high lamp mode.

      A friend of mine who ordered an RS40 back in November just received his this week. I plan to stop by and check it out before making a purchasing decision.

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