Why Sony mandates 720p for PS3 3D

1080p best suited for Blu-Ray movies.

Interesting reports from Develop last week say that Sony is mandating 720p for all 3D titles, even though Blu-ray 3D movies will all use the full 1080p capabilities of the spec. The question is, why? Are gamers being short-changed by a heavy-handed dictate from Sony High Command?

The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, is no: it's simply the case that the new stereo 3D support built into the HDMI 1.4 spec is specifically designed for Blu-Ray movie playback at a standard 24 frames per second, making the full HD mode a poor fit for gaming. In a world where games are created to run either at 30 or 60 frames per second, dropping down to 24FPS means a jerkier image and a more muted response from the controls.

In the original news story, Sony's Simon Benson talks about the 720p mandate perhaps being relaxed for more cinematic titles, so for games heavily reliant on filmed material shot at 24FPS, or for a slower-paced adventure title along the lines of Myst, the 1080p mode may well be more appropriate. The door's clearly open there if the game requires it. There's certainly no lack of support from the PS3 itself either, as even in the current 3.40 firmware - which doesn't support Blu-Ray 3D movies - the mode is clearly recognised and available for use by the console.

As for whether we're really missing anything with the omission of the 1080p24 3D mode, this is something that we hope to have a look at in the near future. NVIDIA has announced that its 3D Vision driver for its range of PC graphics cards has been tweaked and improved, and is set for full compatibility with the new range of 3DTVs. Instead of buying the firm's 3D glasses, instead you'll shell out $40 for the upcoming 3DTV Play package which supports both the 720p60 and 1080p24 3D modes for all 3D Vision titles.

While PS3 developers have to contend with the fixed architecture of the console in producing its 3D games, sometimes paring back resolution and frame-rate, NVIDIA can simply brute-force its way through as even its entry-level enthusiast GPUs at the 80 mark far outstrip the capabilities of the RSX. The performance level of the 3D Vision titles via 3DTV Play is something we'll be looking at in a future DF feature.

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