With visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads, manufacturers are foaming at the mouth thinking of how they can make 3D Television sets the next big thing. But if I want to watch a 3D movie at home, do I really need to throw out my HDTV and buy a new 3DTV? I mean, I can currently watch 3D movies on my HDTV at home with my 3D glasses, so what does 3DTV offer that my “normal” HDTV doesn’t? I need a filter to sort through all the hype.
Do I still have to wear those uncomfortable 3D glasses? This is the main question that John and Jane Q. Public keep asking. Unfortunately the answer is Yes. In both formats, you will still have to wear the flimsy plastic glasses to get the 3D effect. And you’ll still need to find 3D content to watch on either type of TV.
Watch commercials for 3DTV and they will show things like snowboarders jumping out of the TV and coming into your living room to do tricks on your couch. But the reality is that – just like in the movie theater – the frame (or the edge of the screen) is still the hard boundary line for the 3D effect. Whether you have 3DTV or HDTV, Angelina Jolie will not be jumping out of the screen to get you another beer.
To have the real 3D experience, the content needs to be shot in 3D. In this method, every shot is filmed/taped with two cameras lined up side by side (just like your eyes are lined up side by side, giving you depth perception), in a process called “stereoscopy.” The two images are then lined up on top of each other and polarized, one for the left lens of the 3D glasses and one for the right. Voila! The images start popping off the screen by tricking your eye into seeing in three dimensions.
The thing is, there’s real 3D and there’s fake 3D. Real 3D uses the process above, but fake 3D is merely a regular 2D image (i.e., a shot taken by a single camera) edited in post production to virtually pop off the screen, a process called “depth processing”. As a result, it only yields a paper cutout look where all the 3D elements look flat like paper dolls. 3DTVs claim to be able to do this process automatically. The problem is that this depth processing effect does the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to do. It distracts you from the story itself and turns you into a 3D critic; you start noticing and thinking about how unnatural the flat 3D imaging is, and you’re pulled out of the story.
So what’s the big difference? If I still have to wear 3D glasses in BOTH FORMATS, and if I still have to find special 3D content to watch on BOTH FORMATS, then why on earth should I buy a 3DTV???!!! No one seems to be able to answer this question.
The fact is that although 3D films have been around for decades, good 3D technology is still evolving. Manufacturers like Phillips are even now looking for ways to eliminate the 3D glasses. But we are presently in the in-between time, the beta testing stage when some legitimate 3D products are available, but good ones are hard to find, and content is hit-or-miss at best. The bottom line is that until there is an accepted standard for 3D formatting (both producing content with cameras and reproducing it with televisions) having a successful and consistent 3D experience at home may be – for now – just out of reach for John Q. Public.
If you pride yourself in being the first guy on the block to buy every new gadget (if you spent $900 for a Betamax back in1976, then this is you) then buy a 3DTV right away! It you’re not that guy, then you may want to hold off for a bit. At Acoustics By Design, we don’t sell any of these products, but we do design the audio-visual systems that run them. We keep an eye on the audio-video industry, so we can design the kind of systems our clients need. We’ll be your hype filter.