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Report: Gaming on a 3D TV, NVIDIA 3DTV Play and AMD/Tridef 3D
by Guillaume Louel
Published on December 23, 2010

Although October 22 was primarily marked by the launch of the Radeon HD 6850 and 6870, two other announcements took place on the same date, on a common theme: PC gaming in stereoscopic 3D.

For AMD this meant, above all, the official kick-off for its 3D strategy – now known under the name HD3D. Up until now the company had simply announced, last March, the arrival of quad-buffering support in its drivers, a pre-requisite for stereoscopic 3D. Quad-buffering, you may or may not remember, is the counterpart of standard double buffering, with the obvious difference that there are double the number of buffers here, two for each eye. In terms of the graphics driver, these buffers are synchronised so that both the images generated for each eye (noting precisely which image has been designed for which eye) can be sent to the screen simultaneously. The Radeon HD 6800 launch was an opportunity for AMD to highlight the various partnerships they have built around an ecosystem they claim to be open: 3D TV manufacturers, glasses with polarising filters or middleware that transforms existing games into stereoscopic games.

NVIDIA has of course taken a different approach. At the beginning of 2009, the 3D graphics company decided to come out with its own ecosystem for PC. Up until then, NVIDIA only possessed a stereo driver (quad-buffering support, inherited mainly from glasses kits sold with certain GeForces at the beginning of the noughties and compatible with CRT screens), but it then entirely relaunched its technology by coming out with its own active 3D wireless glasses that were compatible with specific 120 Hz LCD screens (using Dual-DVI connectivity to achieve this refresh rate) marketed by partners such as Samsung and Viewsonic. In terms of gaming support, the 3D Vision driver was first made available as a separate download but integrated straight into the NVIDIA control panel. It is now included as part of the NVIDIA driver distribution.

Particular to video gaming on PC, a new stereoscopics ecosystem was created in 2010. Buoyed by the cinema success of Avatar, the TV industry hurried to create a new HDMI standard that would be compatible with stereoscopics (HDMI 1.4a, a software development of the 1.3 standard – only the protocol changes), a standard ratified for 3D Blu-rays, accompanied by a new codec, MVC (an improved version of AVC [H.264] that compresses the second stereoscopic image at the same time as remaining backwards compatible with 2D players) and of course, new compatible TVs. Announced at CES 2010, these screens are now widely available on the market, with, moreover, limited stereoscopic 3D content (not really any TV channels above and beyond test signals, not very many 3D Blu-ray disks available and just a handful of compatible Playstation 3 games).

We carried out our tests on the VT20 Panasonic plasma screen.

The 3D TV market therefore presents an opportunity to the movers and shakers in the PC world and this was something recognised by NVIDIA with the announcement of 3DTV Play on October 22nd, its middleware allowing stereoscopic gaming and compatible with 3D TVs. We thought we’d seize the opportunity to compare it to the new solution on offer from AMD, with its driver on the one hand and the more developed middleware highlighted by AMD on the other: Tridef 3D from the company DDD.

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