3D is one of the biggest buzzwords in Hollywood and consumer electronics today. Take a look at the movie listings for your local theater – chances are at least one movie is being presented in 3D. If you are in the market for a sexy new flat panel TV, you will find many 3D-ready models available. Most of the higher-end models come with 3D capabilities as a standard feature. Of course, what would a newly (re)introduced technology be without a lot of debate and misconceptions? Probably a boring one.
I recently brought up the subject of 3D TVs with some prospective clients. Their response was somewhat interesting and unexpected. Several of them said that they don’t want one, because they believed it would only display 3D at all times. It was important for them to know that 3D is simply an included option and not a full-time function of the TV. Much like a luxury car, the better the model, the more options you get. 3D happens to be just that – an option. Good old 2D is the standard for virtually every video source. Even if you were to purchase a 3D movie on blu-ray, there are typically 2D and 3D versions available on the disc. The best of both worlds are available, based on personal preference to watch in 3D or not.
A common question I get about 3D TVs is if glasses are required to view 3D content. As much as enthusiasts would love to see a 3D picture without wearing glasses, they are required to view anything in 3D…for now. Keep in mind that the 3D glasses aren’t the old red and blue glasses from years ago. These look more like high tech sunglasses than anything else. Manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony and Panasonic currently make their own glasses, but they only work with their respective brand. The technology to view video content on 3D TVs without glasses is being developed, but it has yet to be perfected. Toshiba has been quoted for saying they expect to have glasses-free 3D TVs available as early as 2011, but the reality is that the technology is expected to take a few years longer before it is ready for the general public. In the meanwhile, there are glasses-free 3D products available in stores today. Some of these include Nintendo’s 3DS portable game system, digital and video cameras by Panasonic and Sony, and most recently, the EVO 3D cell phone. Those items will all display 3D images on their LCD screens without the need for glasses. With their screens only being several inches, they are a reasonable first step of the technology to come.
There is still some confusion about what people should come to expect. What 3D does can be incredibly interesting and exciting. Many people are under the impression that images will be “jumping out” of the screen. That’s not exactly accurate. While some images do appear to float in front of the screen, what 3D TV technology actually does is create a convincing illusion of depth. Companies like IMAX have released some truly breathtaking movies in 3D. The experience comes across as being life-like. One example of this level of realism can be found in “Into The Deep” from IMAX. Certain scenes are convincing enough to make one feel that they are looking right into a tank at the New England Aquarium.
What many people are not aware of is that several manufacturers have included an impressive feature into their 3D TVs. For some reason, it has not been promoted nearly enough though. Imagine watching a regular 2D source and turning it into 3D at the push of a button. You can! Some TVs are able to take a standard 2D video source and convert it to simulated 3D. You can use cable, satellite, VCR, DVD or any other source you can connect. This is a big deal, because they have essentially eliminated any concerns about not having enough 3D content to watch. With some content it works better though. Maybe you’re waiting for Star Wars to be released (again) in 3D in 2012. Why wait? With a 3D TV, you can pop in the DVD, switch to 3D mode and get a sneak preview a year early! If you or other members of the household enjoy video games – this can be considered the holy grail of the gaming experience for them.
Now that you know what 3D has to offer today, there are a few key items you will need to enjoy the experience. You will need a 3D-capable TV and 3D glasses. The 3D glasses should be the same brand as the TV, to ensure proper compatibility. Some cable companies are offering networks that are being broadcast in 3D and also on-demand 3D programming. If you really want the ultimate picture, a 3D-ready blu-ray player will produce the highest quality image available from 3D blu-ray discs.
The best advice I can give is this: think of 3D like surround sound. While it’s not required, it is a fantastic enhancement for those who want to enjoy a more immersive entertainment experience.