The announcements made at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) regarding a range of new 3D home theater products raised a lot of excitement, but also raises quite a few questions. When we visited CES, several reps gave us vague responses to our questions or answers that just raised more questions.
One thing is fairly certain: 3D home theater technology is here and products will start to appear in the spring of 2010. Panasonic is leading the charge with a range of impressive products. They will most likely be the first to market with products to sell. The Panasonic 3D products should be available in spring.
Here are some of the questions that people are asking.
Will the new 3D HDTVs display all movies in 3D?
No. You will need to purchase a Blu-ray 3D player and other components to enjoy the new technology. Both Toshiba and Samsung offer technology that simulates 3D with 2D movies, but it does not offer the same quality as that from a Blu-ray 3D movie. You can watch all movies and cable and satellite programming in standard 3D.
What do I have to buy for 3D viewing
Unfortunately, you may have to buy most of the major components in your home theater. Every manufacturer that we spoke with said that you will need to purchase a new HDTV with a built-in 3D processor. Some HDTV manufacturers, such as Mitsubishi and Samsung, who have already introduced high definition televisions with 3D technology built-in, will be already compatible or easily upgradeable.
You will need to purchase a new Blu-ray 3D™ player. It is not clear if there will be compatibility issues when you mix-and-match components from different manufacturers. In other words, none of the manufacturers would say whether their Blu-ray player would work with another manufacturer’s 3D HDTV. One exception may be good news for owners of the Sony PlayStation 3, which Sony claims will be upgradeable to 3d capabilities, although full 3D compatibility with other manufacturer’s HDTV is still a big question.
HDMI 1.4 is the new standard for cabling. Several manufacturers said that an HDMI 1.4 cable is required to achieve full 1080p HD 3D resolution. We have not yet seen the new HDMI 1.4 cables, so we do not know if this is an accurate statement. In the past, the HDMI level referred to the home theater electronic components and any HDMI cable capable of delivering the signals would work. It is possible that the HDMI pin configurations has changed, but if it has not, then the statement from the manufacturers is a bit dubious.
If you use a receiver/amplifier with HDMI switching, you may need to purchase an HDMI 1.4 compatible unit. Once again, it is not clear if an HDMI 1.3 compliant amplifier will work, but the manufacturers we spoke to said that it probably would not. They also said that you will need a new amplifier to enjoy the new high definition audio (DTS Master Audio or Dolby True HD) that is included with the new standard.
You will of course have to buy Blu-ray 3D versions of the 3D movies. Your old anaglyph 3D movies will not work with the new shutter glasses. The new 3D standard recently set by the Blu-ray Disc Association does require that the new Blu-ray 3D discs include a 2D copy of each movie for compatibility with the older Blu-ray players. In other words, you will be able to buy the 3D versions of movies and they will still play in 2D on an older Blu-ray player. You can then invest in movies and upgrade your home theater hardware in the future. Only a small number of Blu-ray 3D movies will be available in 2010. Expect to pay a premium price for the first releases.
Basically, you will need to build a new home theater system and purchase new major components in order to take full advantage of the new technology.
Will I need to wear special glasses to watch 3D movies?
Yes. 3D images are produced using stereoscopic technologies that give the illusion of 3D depth by displaying different images for the left eye and right eye. The brain combines them into a single image. The prevailing approach demonstrated at CES used active LCD shutter glasses, which receives a signal via infrared or Bluetooth transmitter that alternately turns the lenses in the glasses on an off in synchronization with the signal. It does this 120 or more per second, which it too fast for you to notice. The glasses are wireless, so they do not need to be plugged into a transmitter, but the batteries will need periodic recharging. If you do not wear the glasses, you will see double images. The new glasses do fit comfortably over standard eyeglasses, so that part should not be a problem.
It looks like most manufacturers will provide one or two shutter glasses with the purchase of a 3D television. No, you do not have to wear the glasses whenever you watch the television. They are only needed for 3D movies and 3D broadcasts. Prepare to pay anywhere from $60 to $100 for each extra set of glasses, so if you want to watch 3D sports with a large group of friends, it will be expensive.
There is a percentage of people who will not be able to see the 3D effects. If you have problems with vision in one eye, or you cannot perceive depth, or you cannot see 3D effects in a movie theater, then the technology will probably not work for you.
What about watching 3D movies on cable or satellite?
if your cable of satellite provider offers 3D programming, which some certainly will, you will be able to watch it is 3D. DirectTV has partnered with Panasonic and is planning to offer a 3D channel starting in spring of 2010. The Panasonic theater that was set up at CES demonstrated a wide range of 3D offerings, including sports. Close-up sports using a 3D camera could be very interesting.
What do we think about the new 3D home movie technology?
We found it to be impressive and perhaps even superior to the 3D effects in a 3D movie theater. If you are planning to buy a new home theater and want to go with 3D, it might be best to wait a year or more until the new products are introduced and the dust settles. If you recently purchased a large screen HDTV and other high definition components, you are hosed. This part is very disappointing and will likely seriously stifle the growth of 3D home movie technology for several years.