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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

3D TV For Dummies: 10 questions answered about 3D TV

Posted on March 24, 2010 at 10:58 AM

Whatever the reason – marketing hysteria, living on technology’s bleeding edge, you need a new TV so why-the-hell-not? or the overwhelming desire to sell everything and move to Pandora – you’ve decided that life can’t go on without owning a 3D TV. Now what?  What do you need? What do you do? Here are 10 things you need to know about making the switch to 3D.


1)    Do I need a new TV?

To view 3D programming from cable, satellite or Blu-ray, you will need a 3D capable TV and, for the vast majority of people, this will mean buying a new TV. Currently, Panasonic and Samsung are offering one 3D set in what seems to be limited markets/quantities, but expect models from Sony, Toshiba, and others by this summer.  Mitsubishi and Samsung have been marketing 3D capable DLP rear projection sets for several years, and at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, they said that there will be an external device that will enable these existing sets to work with the new 3D specifications. This device is expected to sell for around $100.

1A)  You mean the set I just bought when they switched to HD (and then again when everything went to 1080p) won’t work?

Technologically is a cruel mistress, and she lays harsh commands on her followers. Sadly, your old set is a casualty in the move to 3D. But, you can still enjoy it in your bedroom!


2)    Will my existing DVD or Blu-ray work?

They will continue to work as they always have, they just won’t play any of the new 3D movies. To do that, you’ll need to buy a 3D capable Blu-ray player. These are just starting to become available at prices starting under $200 and many offer other cool features like Internet streaming of YouTube and Netflix, etc. If you use a Sony PlayStation3 as your Blu-ray player, you own the only Blu-ray on the market that is capable of being firmware upgraded to 3D. Congratulations! (Now, take that $200 and buy an extra set of glasses! See #5) (There actually is talk about other Blu-ray players being upgraded, however it looks like they will not offer full 1080p resoultion when displaying 3D. You can read the article at Dvice here.)


3)    Will I need a new Audio/Video Receiver?

Probably not. Maybe. It depends. OK, possibly. If you plan on running the Blu-ray’s video directly to your TV, then you’ll bypass the receiver completely and won’t need a new one. However, if you want to enjoy the sonic benefits of the next-gen audio formats (Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master) then that means running the audio through your receiver. (These audio files are carried primarily via HDMI cabling, though some players still offer a 7.1-channel analog audio output that can carry the same quality audio.) Some first generation 3D Blu-ray players are equipped with*two* HDMI outputs offering a great workaround to this; a new, 1.4 capable output that carries the 3D video directly to your TV, and a 1.3 capable output that sends the audio to your receiver. If you use your A/V receiver to switch multiple HDMI sources – like the vast majority of people do – then you’ll probably need to upgrade to an HDMI 1.4 compliant receiver to continue doing that with 3D.

4)     Will I need to replace my cabling?

Who better to answer this question than the HDMI Licensing group themselves? This if from their Website, 

"High Speed HDMI cables are tested to a more rigorous performance standard, aimed at meeting the needs of high-end home theater systems. It is performance tested to 340 MHz, and can reliably transmit a 1080p signal (and more) up to 7.5 meters. High Speed HDMI Cables are referred to as Category 2 cables in the HDMI specification. The High Speed HDMI cable is designed and tested to handle video resolutions of 1080p and beyond, including advanced display technologies such as 4K, 3D, and Deep Color. If you are using any of these technologies, or if you are connecting your 1080p display to a 1080p content source, such as a Blu-ray Disc player, this is the recommended cable"

Now what are the chances you *know* the speed rating or your HDMI cabling? That’s what I thought. For most people, it will be a matter of trial-and-error; connect everything up and see if it works. If it doesn’t, your cables might be one of the first things to try upgrading. When buying a new cable, look for this logo:


5)    Will I need to wear glasses?

Whenever you want to watch 3D programming you’ll definitely need to wear glasses. Anyone not wearing glasses will see a blurry, double-image that will be decidedly un-3D and basically un-watchable. Manufacturers are taking different approaches to the glasses “game” with some including one pair and others two pair and others not saying if there will be any glasses included. Additional pairs of glasses will certainly be available, with an expected retail of around $150 each. So, hosting your 3D Super Bowl party could set you back, unless you establish a BYO-Glasses program. Also, it looks like there is a very good possibility that Brand S glasses won’t work with Brand P’s TV, so you probably won’t be able to have your buddy bring his glasses over to your house.


6)    Why can’t I see 3D? Are my eyes broken?

Possibly. A small percentage – between 5 - 10% -- of the population doesn’t have the stereoscopic vision required to see the 3D effect. Some people are actually sickened – nausea, headaches, eye fatigue – by the effect. Chances are, if you’ve seen a 3D movie in the theater and could see and enjoyed the affect, you’ll be fine enjoying 3D at home.

7)    Masters in 3D on cable? ESPN in 3D on satellite? Do I need to get a new box?

Other than the pack-in movie that comes with some 3D Blu-ray players, the very first major dose of 3D will be delivered via cable and satellite. And, shockingly, it looks like you will *not* need to get a new cable or satellite set-top box to accomplish this. In fact, provided your current box has an HDMI output and is capable of outputting HD video, it’s likely that all you’ll need is a simple, happens-without-you-even-knowing-it, firmware upgrade. There are a few different “versions” of 3D, but the two biggest ways that 3D is transmitted are methods called Full HD " top-bottom" or "over-under" (sometimes referred to as "Frame sequential" which describes the way the Full HD over-under signal is unpacked and displayed by 3D TVs)  – which Blu-ray will be using, and which delivers a “full” 1080p 3D experience rivaling what you experienced in the theater – and the less bandwidth intensive side-by-side method which cable and satellite look to be using. This is somewhat similar to your cable and satellite offering HD in 1080i (interlace, or showing ½ the image every 1/60 of a second) while Blu-ray delivers 1080p (progressive, delivering the entire image at once), however, when 3D comes into the equation, the horizontal resolution of each video frame is chopped to 960 (1/2 of the 1920 in 1920 x 1080i) to allow both the left and right eye images to be broadcast simultaneously).  This side-by-side 3D signal, while needing its own channel so those wanting to watch it can tune in, can arrive down the existing cable and satellite delivery pipeline and be handled by existing equipment. (Thanks to Sound + Vision video guru, Al Griffin, for some clarification here!)


8)    I’ve got my new TV, Blu-ray and cables. Now where’s my 3D?

Remember when you bought your first computer years ago – mine was an Atari 400; oh mylar-membrane keyboard, how I hated you – and you got it all unboxed and connected and then turned it on and stared at a blinking DOS prompt wondering, “Now what?” What you needed then – and now – is software. While you’re new 3D rig will play your entire existing 2D library of DVDs, Blu-rays and (you don’t still watch these, right?) VCR tapes, if you want to enjoy 3D, you’ll need to purchase/rent 3D titles. (Some TVs, like Toshiba’s soon-to-be-released CELL processor powered set, will actually be able to 3D-ify regular programming on the fly, though the quality and 3D effect will vary based on programming and never compare to native 3D images.) For this year, the majority of 3D Blu-ray releases seem to be very animation heavy, with titles like Monster vs Aliens, Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs among the first. Oh, and if you’re waiting on Avatar, Fox has pretty much guaranteed that it won’t be in 3D this year.


9)    Do I need new speakers?

I thought this was a ludicrous question, but then I remembered when CD and HD first started appearing and speakers were being labeled as “Digital” and “HD” ready. So, just to be totally clear, you do NOT need new speakers to enjoy 3D. Now, if you’re still listening to your TV’s crummy audio, you might choose to use the upgrade to 3D as an opportunity to improve your entire experience, and certainly, no one would fault you for that.

10)    Is 3D just a fad and is it worth the hassle?

There is a ton of momentum behind 3D that looks like it won't be stopping any time soon. Hollywood is churning out more-and-more blockbuster films in 3D, TV manufacturers are 100% behind it and the largest grossing film of all time raised public awareness to a fever pitch. When done right, the 3D effect is incredibly cool, offering amazing depth and an added sense of realism to programming. When done wrong, it can be a hot mess. Will people choose to wear glasses to watch the majority of their programming? Likely not. Will they plan 3D movie nights for special films? I say yes. However, with the first-gen 3D sets costing only marginally more than their 2D counterparts, my prediction is that 3D will become a feature that is incorporated into many (if not all) future models at virtually no upcost. At that point, it will become something that some will choose to use and others won't.


Categories: Mar 2010, Electronics, 3D TV

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