3D Television – the devices

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What systems are available?

Most of the current televisions work with shutter glasses. They look a bit like sunglasses but they are packed with electronic. As we just learned, their job is to switch the right picture to the right eye on and the left to the left. Actually they shut out the wrong picture but the result is the same. It is important that they are in sync the TV so they communicate with the television via infrared. One massive big disadvantage is that you need the right glasses for your TV and they do tend to be expensive. 50 Euro a piece are pretty common. It means you can’t just invite friends over to watch a movie. Personally I don’t fancy the glasses at all. They are uncomfortable, look silly and they run on batteries which again is anything but ideal.

The second system takes advantage of polarising filters. Rather than shutting the “wrong picture”? out one by one they are “blind”? to the opposite video stream. The system requires polarised light. In cinemas – they are the main adversaries of this technology – two projectors deliver the two polarised pictures. With glasses now left and right are use the same glass but one is rotated by 90 degrees. It is therefore blind to picture one and only lets you see picture two. It’s a simple trick but works.

The big advantage is these polarising glasses are cheap and light. There is a catch though when it comes to home cinema. In order to create the 3D effect the glasses divide the TV picture into half pictures. As a result you see only half the vertical resolution. Instead of Full HD 1920×1080 you will only see 1920×540. That’s no problem on a big screen in the cinema but at home with a limited size and resolution a minor drawback.

What about regular programs?

Well; they are called 3D televisions but that doesn’t mean they don’t do 2D. Quite the opposite; all latest models are quite good. As a little gimmick they can even calculate a 3D picture from a regular signal. The result is not as graphic as dedicated 3D movies but the results can be astonishing. It does depend on the source though and of course your device. With most televisions you can scale the 3D effect.

Is it worth it?

The answer is not a straight forward yes or no. Personally I wouldn’t buy one right now. 3D is spectacular but only as long as it is somewhat exotic. The wow factor wares off quickly. Sitting in front of the telly with glasses is not only looking silly but is also uncomfortable. I wouldn’t do it. The good news is; you don’t have to. They work perfectly well in normal operating modus. But then why spend the extra buck?

If you own a blue ray player though, a game console and you play games and/or watch movies regularly a 3D system is a must. Many of the new games will support 3D, movies like Avatar are meant to be watched in 3D. There are many good reasons to go 3D and prices are dropping. The only thing to keep in mind is: You need think big! Don’t buy a small screen. That’s a waste of your money!

So here is my answer: If you mainly watch regular TV program don’t bother, if you have some serious gear in your living room and the telly is your best friend anyways go big and go 3D.

Which 3D television to buy?

Excellent question! It depends on what you prefer. Go to the shop sit down and try both systems. The shutter glasses are expensive but the results are better. On the other hand; they are a pain in the back long term. Imagine you watch a movie and run out of batteries. Polarising glasses don’t need batteries but you only get half the resolution. Most people probably won’t notice so I guess I prefer the latter. Once you start watching 3D TV programs you have to live with a lack of resolution anyways. Even with the best digital receivers there is a lot less data available. It still works but it’s not as impressive as a blue ray.

I already mentioned size. It does matter. For the best 3D experience, and that’s a rule of the thumb, screen size and distance between you and the device should be in proportion one to two. If you sit three meters away from your telly you want to buy at least a 52 inch. That begs the question if you actually want that. We are talking about a massive screen here.

The solution could be a projector. They are pricy but if your living room is as big as mine the premium isn’t all that big. You can buy a fairly good projector from Acer for less than a 1000 Euro. It delivers reasonably good results even in 3D. Much better but also much more expensive are the Sony projectors. As always it depends on your budget.

What the perfect solution is depends on your circumstances and your wallet. Don’t be fooled by the ads. Try it out. Look at your living room and the take into consideration if you actually want a telly or a projector. A physical device on the TV stand is also a piece of furniture. You don’t get that with a projector. On the other hand you may need a massive piece of hard ware that uses electricity and space. Go with what you like best. Try it out in the shop and then make a decision.

Or wait. As it looks the next generation of television sets will come without the glasses. The first attempts with computer screens are far from perfect but they do work. Looking at how quickly they adapted the current technology they might solve the problems with the next generation devices quicker than you think.

Read about the technology behind it …