3D TV is here, but is it here to stay?
Peter Familari - Editor
Of course technology experts like to make TV buying a lot more complicated than it really is. Making a simple buying decision a chore keeps these experts in a job and maintains their guru-like status.
But ask an experienced retailer which TV you should put in your lounge-room and he’ll tell you it’s the one you find easiest to watch. Which brings us neatly to 3D TV.
Right now hype about 3D technology in TVs, Blu-ray players, games consoles, cameras, projectors and you better believe it – mobile phone -is at fever pitch.
The technology has been launched with the biggest advertising budget the audio-visual industry, Hollywood and the TV networks have mustered in decades. Their enthusiasm for all things 3D is unlimited.
Even so, as the dust settles 3D TV will be seen as what it is – a feature added to selected LCD and Plasma TVs and not a must-have new type of TV because it makes existing sets obsolete.
So what does this tricky 3D processing do that normal LCD and Plasma TVs do not?
How 3D TV works
At the simplest level 3D technology tries to copy a human being’s eye-to-brain co-ordination to give 2D moving images the illusion of depth.
It’s no harder to understand than holding a rosy-red apple about six inches from your nose and closing the left eye. Repeat the process closing the right eye.
Most people won’t fail to notice that each eye sees the apple slightly differently because our eyes are about three inches apart. When the brain merges the two images we get a sense of depth.
3D TVs attempt to mimic the human brain to eye coordination using special processing in the sets to produce two slightly different images.
That’s the easy part. Getting these two images to a viewer’s eyes in the right sequence and frequency requires a special pair of 3D glasses.
The goggles are synchronised to the images on the screen and open and shut to feed the appropriate image to the left or right eye.
Sounds easy enough in theory but in practise 3D TV isn’t flawless least of all because it can’t hope to compete with the complexity and sophistication of the human eye and brain.
My experience of Samsung’s series 7 LED LCD TV ensured I saw images in the foreground fairly clearly but anything in the background was vague. More annoying was the viewing position I had to maintain to get a 3D effect.
A typical couch potato, I like to lounge on a couch with the remote in hand, so I can surf my way up and down the channels. With 3D TV, I had to sit bolt upright and if the head was tilted even a fraction, I lost the sense of depth and saw blurred images. And I also missed 3D if I moved more than three metres from the screen.
So how does 3D TV on a 40-inch or 60-inch screen compare with a 3D blockbuster at the cinema?
Like most people I saw Avatar in 3D at the movies and it had emotional impact or what some people call the ‘’WOW’’ factor.
But while 3D Avatar was an ‘’event’’, I came away thinking it wasn’t a pleasing viewing experience.
But compared to watching the same characters but which had shrunk to about six-inches high on a 40-inch screen, my conclusion is you have to go big or go home if you want an Avatar movie experience in your home.
If we believe the hype, 3D TVs are being snaffled up quicker than the brands can build them. What we do know is TVs with the 3D feature are attracting a well-defined group of buyers.
US research unsurprisingly reports the majority are early adopters, single, male and aged 25-35.
Even so it’s worth reminding TV buyers confused by the amount of different makes and models on offer why 3D isn’t a new type of TV technology.
LCD and plasma TVS haven’t changed much in the last ten years.
Your money still buys an LCD or Plasma TV. There isn’t a third type of TV technology
Sadly that didn’t stop the marketing sharpies for some of the world’s leading TV brands from trying to pass off LED TVs as a new type of telly.
What they failed to tell consumers attempting to work through a rat’s maze of claims and conflicting claims is LED is just another way of producing backlight in LCD TVs.
Think of all 3D TVs as expensive, normal full high-definition models with a 3D feature and you’ll be heading in the right direction where you can make an informed decision.
Manufacturers have to be praised for developing 3D image processing cheap enough to throw into ordinary LCD and plasma TVs.
But let’s not pass it off as sirloin steak when it’s mutton embellished with a dash of garnish.
One glitch that can stymie the 3D TV makers parade is a lack of content. While SBS and Nine are using channel 40 to broadcast about 15 FIFA World Cup matches, there’s precious little 3D content about.
In the short term there’s a couple of 3D Blu-ray movies on the way and about half a Dozen 3D games – and that’s all folks, for now.
It’s also worth pointing out that you’ll need to buy a new 3D Blu-ray player and a new HDMI profile 1.4 cable to watch 3D content on your new 3D TV.
And while most TV brands say they’ll include two pairs of 3D glasses with each 3D TV, extra pairs start from $99. And glasses from one brand won’t work with TVs from the other brands because there is no common standard for the 3D goggles.
So if someone asked me is 3D TV worth the wait – and the moolah? My answer would be: ‘’How easy is it to watch?’’
Peter Familari – Editor, Star Audio Visual Association Inc