I am writing this as a convert. Just a few days ago if anyone has asked me what I thought of 3DTV I would have grimaced a little, murmured a few niceties and ended my answer with a sentence containing the words “marketing gimmick.” They can only make televisions so much bigger and so much flatter, and an old boxy TV with a cathode ray tube is now a rare sight in places both public and private. So 3DTV technology must have been a godsend to the manufacturing executives. Another fad to generate more cash. Blu-ray never became a must-buy. Just something you thought about upgrading to when your DVD player needed replacing. It was only better, not different and better.
But now having seen a demonstration of 3DTV in action I can honestly say that this is not some incremental change in technology, but has all the signs of being a complete game changer. For a start, it works. And it works really well. You put on your goggles and away you go. In a way that’s it. You are now having a three-dimensional viewing experience in all its awesomeness. To be fair, I am not a great TV watcher and I didn’t watch this long enough for the novelty to wear off so I admit to bias, but if I had watched it for longer I would have been very disappointed to have to go back to a 2D viewing experience. During the demo, we did switch from 3D to 2D for comparison. Saying the picture looked flat is as jokey and dismissive as it sounds.
One of the great problems with all these new developments is the library of material available for viewing. But Dreamworks have been leading the way and the additional production costs will be reduced with widespread use. Sky are also planning a 3D channel later this year. Also you can check this page at the 3D@home consortium for a list of available 3D films. Enough to get you through many a winter evening methinks.
The technology for sourcing images is also proceeding rapidly. Panasonic will have a low-budget 3D camera available soon. The most interesting thing about it is the parallel lenses making it almost like a regular camera. It also records on SD cards. (Note: Because of my day job I have to add here that I am not endorsing Panasonic products.) It will not be long before documentaries, soap operas, chat shows and other mainstay programmes of traditional television will be recorded on 3D. Whatever 3DTV may be, it is certainly not a fad. There is now a clear inevitability about its future in the home.
The goggles themselves were rechargable and had an internal shutter rate to match the film. In this case it was 60 Hz. They were lightweight plastic items that were big enough to fit over regular spectacles. I found them very comfortable but it would be a drag if they slipped behind the seat cushion and got crushed. That, as far as I could tell, would be the only real downside of the technology.
The price of the package I saw was just under four thousand dollars. But prices after the early adopter phase always seem to drop and I don’t see why it would be different for this viewing system. Gadget Republic are reporting that sets should arrive in Ireland as early as April this year. This is a bit early in the game for me but I think I might be looking forward to what will be in my Christmas stocking for 2011.