10 Facts About Big Screen 3D TVs

Do you want to go 3D TV?  10 Facts to Know First

With 3D HDTVs becoming so popular a lot of people may be asking what it’s all about, if it’s any different from regular televisions and probably a lot more.  After doing some research there are 10 facts you probably didn’t know about this new technology.

1. Sports are shot differently for 3-D.

To show off the challenging contours of the Augusta, Ga., golf course, and place players in bold relief against the gallery behind them, cameras were positioned closer to the ground than usual for the Masters 3-D shoot. The same sort of camera repositioning has been done for recent 3-D basketball game demos. Will 2-D TV viewers learn to like these new angles? Or must broadcasters pay out to shoot an event with two full production teams, as they did at the dawning of HDTV?

2. Not all 3-D TVs are created equal.

LCD-based 3-D TVs are more prone to “cross-talk” interference — a ghosting effect — not seen on plasma 3-D sets. With the fresh-out-of-the-box but still preproduction Sony 52- and 60-inch LCD models used for Comcast’s golf demo, all looked spectacular through the infrared-light-triggered shutter glasses if your head was positioned “straight up.” But tilt the noggin just 10 degrees to the left or right and the picture started to go out of focus and the colors shift. A Samsung 55-inch LCD 3-D set and companion glasses studied later at a Best Buy proved less problematic. Yet, as with the Sony, the picture went totally funky, fading to black, when I lay down on the sofa, as many viewers do at home. Plasma 3-D sets (at least the Panasonics) don’t suffer any of this.

3. Providers deliver content differently.

To squeeze a 3-D signal into a conventional high-def channel, cable and satellite TV providers are transmitting both left and right eye images in a single split frame, either side-by-side or top-over-bottom, respectively cutting the horizontal or vertical picture resolution in half. The former, favored by DirecTV, is better for maintaining film detail. The latter, favored by Comcast, should keep the picture sharper as athletes move left or right. Blu-ray 3-D disc content does not compromise on the full, high-definition resolution.

To squeeze a 3-D signal into a conventional high-def channel, cable and satellite TV providers are transmitting both left and right eye images in a single split frame, either side-by-side or top-over-bottom, respectively cutting the horizontal or vertical picture resolution in half. The former, favored by DirecTV, is better for maintaining film detail. The latter, favored by Comcast, should keep the picture sharper as athletes move left or right. Blu-ray 3-D disc content does not compromise on the full, high-definition resolution.

4. Manual shifting is required.

Until there’s an upgrade of HD cable boxes, attached 3-D sets won’t be getting electronic cues that a program is being sent stereoscopically. So, early adopters must adjust the set manually when tuning in 3-D content. DirecTV will upgrade boxes for auto-triggering of TVs before launching its 3-D channels in June.

5. Understand 3-D “feng shui.”

The closer you are to a 3-D set, and the bigger the screen, the better the depth effects work. With a 50- to 55-inch screen, view from about 9 feet away. With a 60-inch screen, 11 feet is ideal. Subdued room lighting also enhances 3-D TV enjoyment. Overhead fluorescent lights are especially evil, miscuing the shutter glasses.

6. 3-D glasses aren’t interchangeable.

First-generation Panasonic 3-D TV glasses don’t work with a Sony 3-D television. Samsung’s glasses are similarly incompatible. Independent glasses maker XpanD is pushing for a “universal” standard, and has promised models that function with different sets. But given that single-format glasses are now fetching $150 each, multiformat models are likely to be $200-plus.

7. Setup is not a piece of cake.

I’ve heard tell of it taking a couple of hours to get a 3-D TV and 3-D Blu-ray player locked and loaded. Sticking with a single brand for both products evidently reduces “issues.”

8. What about broadcast 3-D TV?

Small-screen-oriented 3-D channels might win converts to the fledgling Mobile DTV format, playing on pocket TVs and smart phones with the same sort of “glasses-free” stereoscopic displays to be used on next-generation portable game systems. But don’t hold your breath waiting for conventional broadcast television channels to go 3-D.

9. Up-conversion works!

Some (not all) set makers are building in circuitry that can convert regular 2-D programming to quasi 3-D. On a preproduction Sony, the enhancement proved minimal. On a Samsung 3-D TV, the process worked shockingly well with high-def sources, less so with standard-def content.

10. Beware the ill-informed salesperson.

Wow, was an electronics store demonstrator “Imagineering” me the other day. He claimed, for starters, that the 2011 Super Bowl and World Series would be broadcast in 3-D — along with the entire 2011 NFL and MLB seasons, but only on cable because “satellite doesn’t have the bandwidth to carry all that.” He also claimed that “you need to subscribe to Comcast’s highest speed Xfinity broadband service to get 3-D.” And (in pushing a stocked Samsung set) said “Panasonic has just raised the price of its 3-D TVs, so they’re no longer cheaper.” In reality, all of the future programming “information” was pure speculation at best, and the technical and pricing blather was downright wrong.

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