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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Panasonic Support Sucks in 3D

Posted on August 17, 2010 at 6:15 PM

If you recall, I mentioned receiving a new 65-inch Panasonic (I’ll not use the term Panny here. In fact, it makes me hate you a little-bit when I hear you use it. Also, if I find that you used the term “Panny” in an on-line forum post, I’m going to just assume that you are a sweaty, pale-skinned shut-in who lives in your parent’s basement and spends all day watching Buffy re-runs and surfing chat rooms looking for the opportunity to spout some bit of geek knowledge that you gleaned in another chat room. The same goes for the term Sammy. So, you’re all on notice... ) Plasma about 10 days ago. This is a new VT25 series TV that is supposed to be a visual journey to Tecca (I think I just invented that term!; note to self: submit for copyright and trademark status before it gets stolen by Darryl…).

Apparently we have one of less than 10 in the country. (Or one of less than 10 that our distributor received. I’m not really sure. The point is, there aren’t many of these things in the wild. Though to date, I have seen infinity more of them than Black Cards, so goes to show what circles I run in.)

So my installers get it all installered and then I head over to the house to put the finishing touches on the customer’s MX-980 Universal Remote. Now this was the EXACT house where I had my ass seriously whipped back in May, but my programming needs were minor (remove steaming pile of Visio and replace with Panasonicey goodness; add in codes for new 3D Blu-ray player; download to remote, download to system controller, download myself back into van) so I didn’t have any troubles here. (Well, that’s not totally true. I spent about 30 very frustrated, angry and confused minutes going WHY IN THE HELL AREN’T THESE CODES WORKING?! before I realized that my installers had glued the emitter for the TV about 1 inch to the right of where it needed to go.)

So I finish my programming and testing and am packing up the laptop when the homeowner asks if I’ll go over how the 3D works on the set. Which is actually a totally reasonable request considering that we did this entire project based on filling his fever-dreams of living in a 3D world. Now, this is my first experience actually trying to get 3D to work so I stall by saying, “Well, we’re gonna need a 3D Blu-ray…” letting the statement hang out there with the implied “and since you don’t have one, I’m not gonna really be able to show you.” Instead, he whips out a disc. Two of them actually. Yay! I don’t think.


So I pop “Cloudy with No Chance of Me Getting Out of Here Anytime Soon” in and wait through the menus. And wait. And keep pressing skip and keep being told “Operation unavailable.” (Come on, Sony. We bought your disc. Let us out of the digital prison which is your pre-movie propaganda. This goess like 10 fold for you Disney, who has literally raised the pre-movie ritualistic torture to an art form; an art form that they are making bank on.)

So we wait the near eternity to actually arrive at the menu and there is no option for playback in 3D. So we just hit play and oh, there it is, play in 3D or 2D. OK. Select 3D. Then get a big angry box that says “You must have a 3D TV and 3D capable player to view this movie in 3D.” OK. Check and check. So I press again, thinking it is just like a Windows box that I can click, “Of course I want to proceed to this potentially virus-laden Website. And run every unsigned ActiveX driver you can find while you’re at it! You don’t tell me what to do, computer. I tell YOU what to do!” but the box, she won’t go away. So we start looking at the usual. Firmware updated? Yes. Go into the TV menu; check to see if it’s in 3D mode? Well here’s a setting called “AUTO” that seems like where we want to be. Glasses are turned on. TV appears to be Thundercats go for launch. Start with the Blu-ray. Bring up the Setup menu and start drilling DEEP into its menu. Like Deepwater Horizon deep. Finally I find the 3D settings where I am offered the choices of Full HD, Side by Side or Checkerboard. Now, Full HD sounds like the setting I want, but at the bottom of the screen it says something like, “Full 3D is the setting to use when using this player with a 2D television.” So now I’m not so sure anymore. Plus, it is IN Full HD 3D mode and we are getting No 3D. Which is significantly less D than the client was looking for. And looking he was....standing there in his glasses. Ready. For something.

So I switch to side-by-side mode. And go back and play the movie and it now lets us play it in 3D. Except the Auto setting in the TV isn’t auto-ing. So I force the TV into side-by-side and voila! We’re watching 3Ds! (Well, that isn’t totally true. One out of three pair of glasses that he had were broken out of the box. The power on button was broken.) Except it is obvious to my video-ninja eyes that we aren’t seeing full HD resolution. It looks great to the customer – Wow! Look at that depth! Take me Lord! I’m ready! – but it doesn’t look right to me. And I’m John Sciacca, consumer 3D advocate. (Actually, I’m not. But this guy has been a good customer, and I am John Sciacca take care of good customer advocate.) So we keep playing with it and it is clear that something isn’t right. You have to constantly force the set in and out of 3D mode, meaning a ton of button pushes and menu navigation which and shouldn’t a setting called Auto at least work with the player from the same manufacturer?


I finally decide to call Panasonica Viera Concierge service. Basically because I don’t want to ever miss out on a chance to deal with anyone with "concierge" in their title. And maybe they’ll be able to snag me a reservation to Club 33, you don’t know. (OK funny story… I once called the Platinum Card concierge and asked if they could get me into Club 33. After some hesitation the woman said no, that she couldn’t. Then I asked if the woman that if I had a Black Card instead would she be able to get me in. Then – in just the greatest line – she said, “Well, sir, why don’t you call us back when you get a Black Card.” Set and Match!)

So I call the concierge line and wait and finally get the guy and explain that I’ve got their new top-of-the-line set but have some 3D problems with the Blu-ray player and…"

“Sir. This is the TV help line. I can only help you with a TV problem. For a Blu-ray problem you will have to deal with another specialist.”

“OK. But there is a setting on the TV that says ‘Auto’ for 3D but it isn’t working. I have to force it into 3D mode and that doesn’t seem, you know, auto. Or right.”

“That’s not what auto does. You have to manually select 3D. Then you know you’ve selected it.”

This bit of logic stumbles me, perhaps giving the “concierge” just the break he needs to secure someone a last minute reservation at Nobu. And I find that the concierge is unimpressed with high-fallutin words like "totally counterintuitive" and "back-asswards."  “But I have a Panasonic 3D Blu-ray. Shouldn’t auto talk to that and detect the 3D. You know, auto…..matically?”

“Let me get you in touch with a Blu-ray specialist.”

“But, I….” and then the dead air of you’ve just been transferred.

So, Blu-ray comes on and I start explaining my situation. And it is clear from the first word that my call is now no longer in the US but in some village within smelling range of the Ganges. And I think I can hear some bodies floating by… Blu-ray starts out with, “Sir. Please. Sir. To get 3D to work you must use an HDMI cable.”

Surprisingly this little tidbit of advice does not lighten my mood. The ass-switch is *especially* sensitive to people who know less than me on a subject talking down to me. ESPECIALLY sensitive. In fact, it is just bristling with nerve receptors waiting for just such moments. “Look. This has nothing to do with HDMI, though it is connected with one.”

“Sir. Please. Sir. You must listen to me. First we must connect with the HDMI cable. Then you must put the TV on the HDMI input. Can you see the picture now?”


So after several painful moments of this, we finally get to the heart of it. Well, we finally get to the setup menu where I confirm that HDMI output is indeed selected – this guy was the Shiva of HDMI; Noel Lee should hire him to travel the world evangelizing about how life in general is improved when connected via HDMI – and then we get to the crux of my question: Do I want to use the Full HD setting or don’t I? At some point I say/ask/think something that causes Blu-ray to put me on hold. When he comes back I can tell his dander is up and his Six Sigma rating is taking another wallop. “Sir. I have checked the manual. I have consulted my supervisor. The Full HD setting is not what you want. You must select either side-by-side or checkerboard depending on your television manufacturer.”


I start to say "I HAVE A FRICKING PANASONIC TV! AND A PANASONIC BLU-RAY! THEY SHOULD PLAY NICEY-NICE WITH EACH OTHER! AND I'M AN AUDIO/VIDEO PROFESSIONAL! HOW IN THE WORLD IS THE TYPICAL I-JUST-BOUGHT-THIS-AT-BEST-BUY CUSTOMER EVER GOING TO GET IT TO WORK! HOOOOOOOW!!!!" But instead I just hang up, no my faith seriously shaken in my fellow man and more pissed than anything. This info just plain reeks of wrong. I’m pretty sure that Panasonic’s ENTIRE ad campaign revolves around Full HD 3D, in fact, yep, there it is, right there on the box in letters as big as my head “Full 3D HD.” So we do some power-cycling, put in a different 3D movie, put it back into Auto and Full HD and Hot Damn! It works! And there on the screen, an identifier that says, "Full HD 3D" Well that sure wasn't there a second ago! Maybe “Cloudy” was just poorly mastered and not Full 3D. Though the box notes say it is, but who knows more, the box notes or the Panasonic Wonder 3D Twins here before me? So we pop the movie back in and Double Hot Damn! That works too! And also says "Full HD 3D" Maybe the TV just had to establish some relationship between the Blu-ray and the TV. Maybe instead of just an old-fashioned HDCP handshake, the Blu-ray player wanted some kind of complicated homie street-shake. Or maybe when it drove by the first time, the TV threw-up BLOOD (this is a shout out to Keely, who actually CAN throw up Blood; an amazing finger trick that has a 33% chance of either getting you accepted as a true-playa fa life, getting shot to pieces on the sidewalk or having someone toss loose change at you in appreciation) and the Crippy Blu-ray (get it? Blu...Crip...Bueller...Bueller....) 


Anyhow, moral of the story is, trust what you KNOW should work. Power cycling cures a world of ills. And 3D is only going to add another layer of “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” frustration to future installations. Oh, and the profit on 3D models is already eroding so more more and less pay. So, yay! I don’t think....

Categories: August 2010, 3D TV, Rants