September 01, 2010
| by Arlen Schweiger
First came black and white. Then color. More channels. Better channels. Greater resolution. Wider screens. … And now, the third dimension.
The evolution of television and home entertainment can’t really top that, can it? We live and breathe in 3D every day, and maybe that’s partly why seemingly every movie released and every display manufacturer has 3D in its vision, so to speak. With each evolutionary step, the combination of TV and movie viewing has brought the medium closer to realism than the last. The transition from standard-definition to high-definition resolution, which is still happening for many U.S. households, literally opened a viewing window into super-clear, super-crisp details unlike ever before. But now we’re taking another step further, and in doing so, taking a step closer to the action—virtually into the action, in a perfect viewing world.
That’s what 3D is selling us. It’s taking over your local movie theaters, so the next phase is for it to take over your home theaters. If you didn’t have a good excuse to purchase a new TV or upgrade to a Blu-ray player before, here it is. Ten years ago we didn’t know what could possibly improve on HD. Is 3D the answer?
Take our 10-question quiz and see if you’re prepared for this future of home entertainment.
What electronics component does not have 3D capability?
A. Television/projection display
B. Blu-ray disc player
C. DVD player
D. A/V receiver
Answer: C. Rather than start you off with the ultra-simplistic “What does 3D stand for?” we went with the components you’ll need for it. Sorry, but your DVD player will not be in the equation when it comes to 3D home entertainment. Please upgrade to Blu-ray (you can still play your standard ol’ DVDs) and ditch the VCR while you’re at it. The latest and greatest components mentioned are hitting shelves, and the new TVs ought to improve on your current 2D viewing, too.
Which type of television technology does not feature “3D ready” or “3D built-in” capability?
A. CRT (Cathode Ray Tube)
B. LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)
C. DLP (Digital Light Processing)
Answer: A. It’s 2010—why are you still watching TV on a boxy, space-eating CRT set? If you are, we’ll let it slide if it’s in a secondary room and not a living room or media room used for primary (read: 3D, in this case) viewing. The other technologies are fully entrenched in 3D now, however, so it’s taster’s choice. If you can’t hang a flat-panel TV, don’t want to spring for a stand and seek more diagonal display inches for less dough, Mitsubishi has DLP sets up to 82 inches—just make sure you reserve enough floor space. If you prefer the slickness of plasma, Panasonic is the main name. For bright LCD viewing, Samsung, Sony, LG, Sharp and Vizio have the category well covered—some LED (Light-emitting Diode) displays are starting to surface, too. Note that in some cases, like Mitsubishi, you will need a separate adapter or converter box to process the 3D effect on your “3D-ready” or “3D-capable” set. (Mitsubishi plans to upgrade some of its 3D displays to preclude the need for an adapter, according to Nick Norton, senior manager, brand marketing.)
What specification of HDMI (High-definition Multimedia Interface) cable and input/output do you need to view 3D Blu-rays and TV programming?
Answer: D. The evolution of our favorite A/V cable has brought with it support for 3D in the latest spec, which was actually updated to 1.4a earlier this year to address broadcast content and interoperability between 3D facilitation devices. Without getting ultra-technical, version 1.4a supports three mandatory formats of 3D transmission—frame-packing (for movies and games), and side-by-side horizontal and top-and-bottom (both for broadcast content).
Along with a rollicking good time, viewing 3D may also cause which of these symptoms?
B. Dizziness and disorientation
C. Involuntary movements such as muscle or eye twitching
D. All of the above
Answer: D. Before you change the menu setting on your new TV from 2D to 3D, make sure you’re aware of the potential medical pitfalls. Samsung has outlined them, including the aforementioned and other risks, in a PDF download, “Viewing the TV Using the 3D Function,” which is available on its website. If you’ve ever been through a 3D demonstration, it’s easy to see why Samsung (and presumably other manufacturers that may post similar warnings) wants to ensure it has covered its bases and offered such safety information. The company goes so far as suggesting that those who have a history of seizures or stroke when exposed to flashing images or lights should consult a physician before using 3D.
Which of these is not a form of 3D eyewear?
A. Anaglyph glasses
B. Polarized glasses
C. Active-shutter glasses
D. Sun glasses
Answer: D. As in duh. But more on the actual 3D glasses types, beginning with the ones that spring to mind first—anaglyph. Those are the cheapie cardboard glasses with a red and blue, or red and green, filter over each eye. It’s common to old-school 3D viewing that also tends to dilute the image quality. Polarized glasses are what you’ll find at the movie theater (RealD is a chief manufacturer), because they’re inexpensive yet manage to create a 3D effect without compromising picture quality. These essentially filter light to project the same image to each eye only slightly adjusted, for your brain to then combine and produce the greater field depth. Active-shutter, or liquid crystal, glasses are what you’ll receive with the purchase of your new TV (XpanD is a main brand, along with proprietary technology from TV manufacturers, with average pricing ranging from $100 to $150). This type of 3D eyewear forms 3D by syncing with displays that rapidly alternate frame sequencing so that each eye gets a different perspective.
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.