How 3D spectacles work

New 3D spectacles such as the cinemizer by ZEISS open up whole new worlds of entertainment for your eyes

As humans, our stereoscopic vision has given us an evolutionary advantage since primeval times. Finally, thanks to sophisticated 3D spectacles, we can now watch TV or big-screen movies in 3D. This modern technology attempts to trick the mind by imitating our stereoscopic vision.

How 3D spectacles work

A great white shark in your face, a Formula 1 race happening all around you. When you wear 3D spectacles to watch 3D movies on TV or a big movie screen, it's as if the action on the screen is going on right there in the room with you. It's an amazing visual experience, but just how does it work?

How does 3D vision work?

How 3D spectacles work

cinemizer multimedia video spectacles enable real 3D vision. This is called stereo 3D or stereoscopic 3D. A stereo 3D video or image always contains two images: 1. The image from the perspective of the left and 2. The image from the perspective of the right eye.

The human eye is perfectly designed for 3D vision. The distance between our eyes, about six and a half centimetres, plays a crucial role here. 3D movies work based on the biological fact that our two eyes see different images. We cannot see three-dimensionally with just one eye. Our brain has to put the two images together before we can see one three-dimensional image. This is how we are able to perceive depth and distances from different perspectives.


3D films on television or the big movie screen attempt to trick our mind by imitating the sophisticated technology of our pair of eyes. This only works if the cameras record two parallel images at a distance of exactly 6.5 centimetres apart. This might sound complicated, but it's actually technology that's been around for 150 years. Such images are also called stereoscopic photos. 3D movies are the next logical advancement in this technology. To get the most enjoyment out of 3D movies, you need 3D viewing media such as spectacles with red/green lenses, 3D televisions with 3D spectacles or video spectacles. A few companies have already introduced 3D televisions that don't require spectacles, but according to experts, this technology is not yet fully developed. Current models only work for one person sitting at a very specific angle to the TV. But in a few years, who knows...

The different technologies used in 3D televisions with 3D spectacles

The movie industry currently uses two different technologies for viewing 3D images: polarised spectacles and shutter spectacles. cinemizer spectacles by ZEISS are also another promising technology for 3D entertainment. But let's look at the other technologies first. With polarisation technology, either vertical and horizontal light waves are transmitted, or circular waves are alternately transmitted clockwise and anti-clockwise. However, the two different filters of the 3D spectacles pass only one type of light wave on each side. The right eye sees only the vertically polarised light and the left eye sees only the horizontally polarised light waves. When the brain processes the two images, we see in 3D. But because the spectacles block out a lot of light, the monitor must continuously transmit very bright light.

Today, shutter spectacles are another alternative. They're called shutter spectacles because they work like a camera shutter. These 3D spectacles feature liquid crystal lenses that alternately darken over one eye and then the other. This happens incredibly quickly, up to 300 times per second, depending on the make and model of the TV. The different images for the right and the left eye are projected on the screen in synchronisation with the rapid-fire alternate opening and closing of the left and right spectacle lens. There are also shutter spectacles for watching 3D on a computer. The disadvantage: a flicker effect can be present under certain lighting, such as fluorescent lamps.

What can the ZEISS cinemizer do?

How 3D spectacles work

Did you know about the latest generation of ZEISS cinemizers OLED?

cinemizers by ZEISS are unique 3D spectacles. They simulate a movie screen at a distance of two metres away. This movie screen effect is made possible by small LED monitors inside the spectacles. The frames include headphones for movie sound. A unique feature of these 3D spectacles is that they are also suitable for people who wear spectacles. The prescription strength of an in-built lens can be adjusted from -5 to +2 within the  3D spectacles. Versions are available for the iPod, iPhone, some mobile phones and PlayStation 3 gaming consoles. cinemizers can also be used with your home DVD Blu-ray player.

For those with highly impaired vision, these spectacles can also be worn under the cinemizer as long as it is comfortable for the user.

Can everyone see in 3D?

It's important to know that not everyone is able to see three-dimensionally. This is especially common in people who are unable to see properly out of one eye. Sometimes, however, the brain is unable to process the two images correctly and combine them to create a proper 3D image. Our advice: not everyone experiences the 3D effect right away. Sometimes it takes a while for the brain to catch on. It's best to just try it and find out.