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Video: Intro to 3D TV

Steve Kindig has been an electronics enthusiast for over 30 years. He has written extensively about home and car A/V gear for Crutchfield since 1985. Steve is also a volunteer DJ at community radio station WTJU, where he is a regular host of the American folk show "Atlantic Weekly," as well as the world music program "Radio Tropicale."

More from Steve Kindig

Get the scoop on 3D TV, including how it works and what you need to watch 3D at home.

Video Transcript

Steve: We've been hearing from lots of people about 3D. They've seen 3D movies at the theater, like Avatar, and they want to be able to watch 3D at home on their TVs. So in this video I'm going to cover the basics of how 3D TV works and then I'll tell you exactly what you need to get it at home. Now right now there's not a lot of 3D content available, but 3D TVs also give you an excellent picture with everything you watch, non-3D stuff too. So if you're shopping for a new TV, you might want to consider a 3D TV because you'll get a fantastic picture now and then you'll be ready when there's more 3D content available.

3D movies are actually filmed using two cameras to simulate what we see with both of our eyes and our brains combine those two perspectives and that's what creates the 3D effect. What's tricky is making sure that you have precisely the right perspective for each eye. Different TV manufacturers are using slightly different approaches, but most 3D TVs use a special screen that can display two versions of an image at the same time. And it does that by alternating video frames very quickly so that the left eye and the right eye have slightly different versions. And because of that if you're watching a 3D TV and you're not wearing special glasses the image is going to look blurry.

Now if you've seen a 3D movie in a theater, you're used to the idea of 3D glasses, but active 3D glasses are quite different from the theater experience. These are wireless, battery powered liquid-crystal "shutter" glasses, and that sounds complicated, but it's really not. The 3D TV sends out infrared signals to control the timing of the glasses, so either the left or the right lenses darken and block out the image in sync with what's on the TV screen. So your right and left eyes each see the correct version at the correct time. Our brains are wired for 3D. That's how the world looks to us every day. So our brains interpret the two images from a 3D TV screen the same way it does the perspectives from our two eyes.

A newer technology to home 3D entertainment is passive 3D TV. With passive TVs and glasses the experience is similar to how you watch 3D in the theater. The TV and glasses use polarizing filters so each eye sees a different image. The advantages of this technology are that the glasses are much lighter, much less expensive, and they don't need batteries. And also the viewing range is wider. But there is a loss of resolution which may be noticeable to viewers who are particular about picture quality, especially on larger size screens.

If you want 3D TV at home, here's what you'll need. First, you need a TV that's designed for 3D and that can be an LCD, including an LED illuminated LCD, or a plasma TV. You'll also need 3D glasses for everyone who is going to be watching. And you want to be sure that the glasses are compatible with your TV which will usually mean buying glasses that are the same brand as the TV. Then you'll need a 3D video signal. Now most 3D TVs will be able to convert 2D video to 3D, but for 3D video that looks best you want something that was originally shot in 3D. And your options there are 3D Blu-ray players and movies, and then we've also heard that there'll be more and more channels offering 3D content as it becomes more established.

To connect a 3D video source component to your 3D TV, you're going to need an HDMI cable, and most recent good quality HDMI cables should work fine, especially if they're two meters or shorter. Now for longer lengths, you should look for a cable that's designed to handle higher data speeds because sending 3D video to a 3D TV is almost like sending two 1080p video signals simultaneously. You can visit for more details on HDMI cables.

So is 3D TV for you? Obviously it's worth looking into if you like the way 3D looks in the movie theater and would like to have that experience at home. Or if you just want the most advanced screen technology for the best looking 2D picture on everything else you watch a 3D TV might be a good choice.

For more information on 3D TV visit or you can email or chat with us online. Or just call Crutchfield and talk to one of our advisers.

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