Intro to 3D TV
What you need to know about 3D TV
|Want to watch 3D at home? You'll need a 3D TV, compatible 3D glasses, and a 3D video source.|
Were you dazzled by the reach-out-and-touch-it realism of the alien world depicted in Avatar? The added depth and dimensionality of 3D makes you feel like you're part of the on-screen action, and can even make characters seem more real. 3D movies have definitely arrived, but what about 3D TV?
HDTV picture quality has gotten steadily better in recent years, but one thing HDTVs haven't been able to do is display true three-dimensional images — until now. Hollywood's 3D blockbusters have whetted viewers' appetites for this exciting way to watch, and TV makers have responded by delivering a new breed of TVs that can create an engaging 3D viewing experience in your home.
This article will provide a clear idea of what you need for 3D viewing; there's more to it than just the TV itself. You'll find tips on 3D glasses and the other items you'll need, as well as which components and cables are compatible with 3D video. For more information, watch our video intro to 3D TV, or check out our extensive 3D TV FAQ.
What you'll need to experience 3D TV in your home
3D TV is a system, and you need all of the pieces to make it work:
|Special active shutter glasses are required for most 3D TVs, though a few TVs use passive 3D glasses instead. (Samsung SSG-3700CR 3D glasses pictured)|
- A TV designed for 3D: You can choose from LCD or plasma models, but all 3D TVs use a specially designed screen that can actually display two different versions of a video image by alternating the video frames at very high speed. 3D TVs that require the use of active 3D glasses also have a built-in infrared emitter that communicates wirelessly with the glasses. The emitter's job is to precisely control the timing of the shutter glasses to synchronize with the video flashing on the screen.
- 3D glasses for each viewer: Anyone watching a 3D TV needs to be wearing 3D glasses to see the three-dimensional effect. Most 3D TVs requires wireless "active" glasses — battery-powered liquid-crystal "shutter" glasses, which can lighten or darken hundreds of times per second to alternately block out the left or right lens in coordination with the video frames flashing on screen. A few 3D TVs use passive glasses, like those used in movie theaters. To anyone not wearing 3D glasses, a 3D TV picture will look blurry and distorted.
- A 3D video source: And finally, a true 3D experience begins by feeding your TV a 3D video signal. The best example is a 3D-capable Blu-ray player playing a 3D movie, though some cable TV providers are also offering 3D content.
|If you plan on switching your 3D video sources through your receiver, you'll need one capable of passing those 3D video signals on to your TV.|
Before you begin to shop for 3D equipment, keep in mind that although TV makers are using the same basic 3D technology, some gear from different companies may not play well together. To ensure compatibility, choose a TV and 3D glasses made by the same company. This is especially true for TVs and glasses that use active 3D technology. Blu-ray 3D players and home theater receivers seem to work fine with 3D TVs from different brands.
|You can find both LCD and plasma TVs that are capable of displaying 3D video. (LG 65LW6500 3D-ready LED-LCD TV above)|
What can I watch in 3D?
Whether viewing in 2D or 3D, Blu-ray is hands-down the highest-quality video source. Your television provider may also have 3D channels or broadcasts. Check out our 3D TV FAQ for more info. Most 3D TVs will also include special video processing circuitry that converts standard 2D video to 3D. Naturally, the result won't look as good as true 3D content.
If the length of HDMI cable you'll need is two meters or less, any good-quality cable rated for 1080p should be able to pass 3D content. For longer runs, look for an HDMI cable labeled "high-speed." (AudioQuest Chocolate HDMI cable pictured above)
Will I need 3D-compatible HDMI cables, too?
The recently certified HDMI 1.4 spec enables several new audio, video, and Internet capabilities, including 3D TV. In general, because of the type and amount of digital data required by 3D signals, components that handle 3D video — Blu-ray players, A/V receivers, TVs — must be HDMI 1.4-certified to be able to pass the signals. 3D video is actually two full 1080p signals running in parallel, and simply recognizing this video formatting requires an HDMI 1.4 chip.
We're aware of a couple exceptions. Sony's PlayStation® 3 game console can be upgraded to 3D capability via a firmware update. Also, high-def satellite and cable TV boxes may be able to pass 3D video without any hardware upgrades.
As far as the cables themselves, 3D video requires nearly double the bandwidth of standard 1080p video, but if the length of HDMI cable you'll need is two meters or less, any good-quality cable rated for 1080p should be able to pass 3D content. In general, look for an HDMI cable labeled "high-speed" — especially if your setup requires a cable that's longer than two meters.
3D TV vs. 3D in a movie theater
3D movies are actually filmed in 3D using two cameras — for animated movies, the 3D effect is computer-generated, of course. In older 3D movies, the effects were often crude and gimmicky, but 3D technology has grown much more sophisticated. If you saw Avatar, you know that the latest 3D technology can create an intensely immersive experience that emphasizes picture depth rather than objects jumping out of the screen at you.
Viewing 3D movies in a theater has always required the audience to wear some type of 3D glasses. For older movies, these "passive" glasses used two different colored lenses, typically red and blue, and color-coded film to create the 3D effect. More recent movies are based on 3D glasses with polarized lenses, which look more like standard sunglasses. Again, the key to creating the 3D effect is to create slightly different perspectives for each eye.