How much do you know about 3-D?

At the stereoscopic projection systems session on Sunday, I learned that I apparently know very little, or at least very little about the specifics, challenges and technology that go into making 3-D movies happen.

Technology for 3-D is here, and the major movie studios are quickly getting onboard. According to Josh Greer, CEO of Real-D, a company that supplies 3-D technology to the movie industry as well as for military and airline applications, 1250 3-D systems from Real-D have been deployed in 25 countries worldwide since November 2005, and in 2008, 11 movies from major studios were released in 3-D.

“There’s no one way to do 3-D,” Greer said. He went on to describe that although there are various ways to do 3-D, the main concerns of those who want to implement these systems are cost, content and quality. But, according to Greer, most of the cost involved is for system maintenance, not the initial purchase.

A true 3-D system consists of the projection system, the screen and the eyewear. As far as the projection system, Simon Cho of Korean manufacturer Masterimage talked about his company’s MI-2100 system. Of particular note to those wanting to deploy 3-D systems is that the MI-2100 is that it is a freestanding system that requires no projector modification — it simply sits on the floor in front of the projector, providing for universal compatibility and allowing it to be easily moved between theaters.

Later, Boyd MacNaughton, of XPAND, talked about his company’s “active glasses.” Gone are the days of the red and blue lenses in those ’50s-style 3-D glasses, which are essentially “passive glasses.” The other companies at the session had glasses that controlled light by having different amounts of opaqueness/transparency in each eye that corresponds to the left- or right-eye picture being projected.

According the MacNaughton, the particular challenge for 3-D glasses is that the L/R eye pictures are displayed alternately, so his company wanted to come up w/ a solution that ensures that each eye sees its image and only its image at the precise time. Enter the “active glasses.” The glasses are considered active because at a specific moment triggered by the system, the lenses operate between opaque and transparent, acting, essentially, as shutters. I pair of these glasses was on each seat. They look like nothing more than bulky sunglasses — making it hard to believe that when signaled they are essentially flashing like shutters, alternately dark and light, faster than the human eye can perceive.

With the prominence of such 3-D projects as U2 in 3-D, the Hannah Montana concert and Beowulf — and many more on the way — now is a better time than ever to brush up on your knowledge of 3-D technology.

For more information, check out Masterimage, Real-D and XPAND.