3DTV FAQ. (last update: 2nd March 2010)

What Do I Need For 3D TV?

Well, basically, you’ll need a new TV, one that is 3D capable. 3D TV’s are not very different from conventional TV’s, they just have an extra chip which does the 3D rendering and shows one stereoscopic image at 60Hz followed by another stereoscopic image at 60Hz, for a 120Hz TV. Beware that you don’t buy a TV thinking it’s 3D ready or 3D capable when it isn’t. The display will need to refresh at 120Hz or more and will need a way to synch with 3D active shutter glasses, which is the technology almost all TV manufacturers are using.

Naturally, the TV will also be capable of showing normal 2D images as a conventional TV would.

Of course, in 3D mode, you’re going to need a pair of special glasses to help your brain construct a coherent, stereoscopic, 3D image from the different images being sent to each eye. These 3D glasses may be the main additional expense of 3D TV compared to buying and watching a new, standard, TV. The so-called LCD shutter glasses alternate between which eye receives an image in synch with the refresh rate of the separate images from the 3D TV. While one eye receives an image, the glass over the other eye is darkened.

You will also need source material to watch, which will be a 3D HD TV signal, either from a broadcaster such as a Sky HD box (in the UK), or from a 3D HD capable device such as a (firmware-upgraded) PS3… either a 3D game or a 3D Blu Ray movie.

The final component is a connector, an HDMI cable, for connecting the source device to the 3D TV.

Check out the Where Can You Get 3DTV for more information on getting 3D into your home.

Will my current TV let me enjoy 3D content at all?

No. A new 3DTV will be required to watch 3D content. The reason is that to create a 3D image inside your head, the TV will need to show two images, one for your left eye and one for your right eye. To do that smoothly, the TV will need to refresh the picture at more than 60-hertz per eye, which means 120Hz or higher overall. Current LCD TV’s can’t do that, so you’ll need a new 3DTV with refresh rates of 120Hz or higher to avoid any flicker effect. Most have been standardised to LCD-LED screens at 240Hz, so each eye sees an image for 1/120th of a second! A 3DTV will likely come with at least one pair of special LCD glasses and a little transmitter unit which sends the synchronisation signal to the glasses. Panasonic is doing something different… adapting 3D tech and LCD glasses to its Viera plasma screens, and LG’s first 3DTV in the UK (the LD920) uses polarised glasses. LG have said that the LG920 is only for use in pubs and clubs. Their first entry into the home 3D market is the Infinia LX9900. Sony have their Bravia 3DTV’s and Samsung have 3DTV’s too.

Do I HAVE to wear silly 3D glasses?

Yes, but not the old “red/blue” throwaway ones. The red/blue ones were for the old “anaglyph” 3D, which kinda worked, but messed up colour perception because the lenses were coloured. The cinema ones use polarised light to create the 3D image, (see LG’s LD920 for the only 3DTV we know of to use polarised light glasses but note that this 3DTV won’t be in shops as it’s not for home consumers). Most manufacturers (Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, LG and Nvidia’s 3D Vision system) use what’s known as “active shutter LCD” glasses which allow the left and right eyes to see alternate images from the TV in rapid succession. Your brain then builds the images into a 3D picture for you.

Aren’t the LCD glasses big and bulky?

Compared to the old red/blue glasses and the polarised cinema specs, yes. The active shutter glasses need power, so they have batteries which makes them a bit bulkier and heavier. Using the active shutter glasses means TV sets can be sold as 1080p, the highest HD resolution, whereas polarised glasses mean a limit of 1080i. It wouldn’t do to sell 3dTV sets as offering lower resolution than 2D sets!

Will 3D TV’s come with the LCD glasses?

Some manufacturers say they will include one pair of glasses (Sony), some two pairs (Panasonic), and some none (Samsung). Others (LG)  have not tipped their hand. As the glasses could cost £50-£100, there will be a lot of money to be made selling glasses as an accessory.

Will A 3D TV function as a normal TV for watching stuff?

Yes, it will. The first wave of 3dtv’s will work perfectly well as regular telly’s. However, the next wave of 3dtv’s, the “glasses free”, or “autostereoscopic” TV’s, won’t. There’s no need to worry about that, though, because glasses-free TV’s won’t be in the shops for a few years.

What if I really want “glasses-free” 3DTV?

You’ll need to wait a few years until they move out of the “business-use-only” price range and into the consumer-friendly price range. Also note that autostereoscopic 3DTV’s cannot have the 3D turned off because it’s part of the TV. I don’t know what 2D looks like on a glasses-free 3DTV, but it may be wise to find out before buying one! Finally, it’s important to note that currently there are only a few “sweet spots” where you get the 3D effect from a glasses-free 3DTV.

When will 3D TV’s be in the shops?

Later in 2010… probably from April onwards. Sign up for our breaking news and we’ll let you know when they arrive in the UK. Already, the LG ld920 has been used in pubs across the UK by Sky Sports to showcase Arsenal v Man Utd in 3D. Of course, that’s not quite the same as appearing in shops, but they are very close!

How much will 3D-TV’s cost?

At the moment, this is our best guess for 3DTV prices. What is known is that the actual process of flashing two different images on the screen for each eye is a software issue, not a hardware issue, so it shouldn’t add considerably to the cost of a TV set. Furthermore, manufacturers seem intent on pushing 3DTV adoption hard, so it’s likely that pricing will not carry a huge premium. Also, consumers are not likely to purchase new sets at a hefty premium if they also have to fork out for several pairs of 3D glasses. Having said all that, the current situation is that prices are unknown apart from the $2,000 price tag on the 47-inch Vizio XVTPRO470SV which as 480Hz refresh rates, LED-backlighting, Wi-Fi networking, 5 HDMI ports, wireless HDMI, 3D capability, and web-enabled apps via Vizio Internet Apps.

Update: Samsung’s 3DTV will be £1,800. Panasonic Vieras will be £2,000 or £4,000.

What will I need to watch 3DTV at home?

You’ll need a 3D-TV, 3D source material and a 3D playback device, as well as the 3D glasses.

There are multiple possiblities for the different setups.

You could use a 3D Blu-Ray player to watch a 3D Blu-Ray movie on your 3DTV

You could use a 3D PS3 to play a 3D game on your 3DTV

You could watch the Sky 3D channel on your 3DTV using the Sky+HD box, which is 3D-enabled. 

You could use a 3D projector to show a large-screen image of a 3D movie or 3D game.

You could use a 3D-monitor to play a PC game using the Nvidia Vision system.

As you can see, there are many possibilities, depending on what you want to do. Some of the technology is already available and some is coming very soon.

What’s this I hear about HDMI 1.4?

The new version of the HDMI standard adds a 3D specification. However, the fact that Sony say the PS3 is firmware upgradable to play 3D content despite it only having HDMI 1.3 connectors indicates that HDMI 1.4, which uses a new cable, may not be necessary for 3D. Some people contend that the high bandwidth required for 3D will require the use of HDMI 1.4 cables and equipment.

Which Blu Ray players can play 3D content at the moment?

None, yet. Although Sony has said the PS3 is firmware upgradable to render 3D content. Other manufacturers have announced standalone 3D blu-ray players that will be released later in 2010 (Panasonic DMP-BDT300, Sony BDP-S770, Samsung BD-C6900 and Toshiba BDX3000 to name a few)

What content is available in 3D?

In the UK, there’s Sky’s 3D channel, which showcased the Arsenal Man Utd match in pubs in January and launches to home users later in the year. Initially it’ll be free to Sky HD customers taking the Sky World package of Sports, Movies and all the trimmings. Other channels are ESPN, who are showing a World Cup match in 3D and the Discovery Channel, although it’s not know if their content will be on Sky 3D, or available in the UK. There’s also 3D Blu Ray discs coming soon such as, “Monsters vs. Aliens” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”. There will also be 3D games on games consoles such as the PS3 and it’s possible to play many PC games in 3D using Nvidia’s 3D hardware.

If I have an A/V receiver and want surround sound with a 3D Blu Ray player and a 3D TV, what do I do?

Get the Panasonic Blu Ray player, which has two HDMI slots, one for the TV and one for your existing A/V receiver, or get an A/V receiver which supports HDMI 1.4.

So, honestly, is 3D going to take off?

It certainly seems so. The fact is that manufacturers are already switching over to 3dTV sets. In a few years it’s likely that all sets will be 3DTV sets because they can function perfectly well as 2D or 3D sets. Whether or not people use them primarily for 2D or 3D viewing is a different question. It’s likely that the “funny glasses” will only be retrieved from a drawer for special events like sports in 3D, to watch a 3D movie or play a 3D game. Most programming content will remain 2D.

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