Happy New Year! Over the Christmas break I had the opportunity to sit down and thoroughly evaluate a 3D television setup. What does this have to do with Disney? Right now Disney is one of the biggest publishers of 3D Blu-Ray discs and also broadcasts ESPN 3D. However, I’m not quite sure the general public is ready to take the 3D plunge from both a hardware and software perspective, even as the Consumer Electronics Show 2011 is gearing up this week (and this is coming from me, a technophile).
Let’s start with the hardware. Step one of getting a 3D experience in your home is purchasing a 3D compatible HD television. At this point just about all the major manufacturers are making 3D compatible HDTVs, including Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio. These televisions come in similar sizes and types as the regular HDTVs; plasma, LCD, and LED sets are available. However, many of us (myself included) just bought into HDTV within the last few years. Purchasing a whole new TV for 3D personally isn’t high on my priority list.
After purchasing the television, a 3D compatible Blu-Ray player is also required. My Blu-Ray player is about a year old; although this is less of an expense than the TV, it’s another piece of equipment I’m not looking to upgrade right now. Again, all the major players have a variety of 3D compatible Blu-Ray players.
After purchasing a 3D television and a 3D Blu-Ray player, purchasing 3D glasses is also required. Usually a set of glasses is included with the television; however, a set is needed for each person watching at the same time. These glasses aren’t cheap; on Amazon a pair of Samsung-branded glasses are $124.97 each (suggested retail is $149.99). Sometimes a 3D starter kit for a television brand can either be purchased or is included with the television; this can reduce the cost of each pair of glasses. Also, the glasses are only designed for a certain brand of television; you can’t take your Panasonic glasses over to someone’s house unless he also has a Panasonic television.
After purchasing all of this equipment, 3D content is needed to utilize the television’s 3D mode. I had the opportunity to watch a couple of movies and a college football game on ESPN 3D. The two movies were Disney’s A Christmas Carolstarring Jim Carrey and How to Train Your Dragon. All three 3D sources looked very sharp on the Samsung television and the picture quality was very nice. However, the 3D glasses would lose synchronization with the television. When the glasses lost synchronization, I lost the 3D effect and the colors would change. The 3D glasses work on an infrared system similar to a remote control; therefore, line-of-sight with the infrared transmitter on the TV needed to be maintained. However, I wasn’t turning away from the TV or anything; I’m not sure how the line of sight kept being broken. Waving a hand in front of the infrared receiver on the bridge of the glasses usually synced the glasses back up, but I felt like I was waving my hand over the glasses a lot.
ESPN 3D had a very nice picture and a neat effect while watching. In a long shot, the crowd would be coming out of the screen while the far end of the stadium would be “sunken into” the screen (for lack of a better term). However, I’m not convinced that 3D is the best way to watch a game. ESPN sends a second commentary crew and set of 3D cameras to a site when broadcasting a game in 3D. These cameras are set in places that enhance the 3D effect, but (in my opinion) may not be the best positions to view a football game on television from. The camera on the wire is there for the regular broadcast; it’s never used in 3D but it often hangs in the picture. Sometimes it seemed the camera chosen to view a play was very far away from the action. It’s more like watching a game in the stadium, but it’s more difficult to get the overall view of what went on. I did enjoy the lack of screen clutter; the only graphic displayed constantly was a small scoreboard at the top right of the screen. The normal ticker at the bottom of ESPN broadcasts was not present; the rest of the ESPN stations should borrow from this and reduce the clutter on the screen.
My personal opinions of the overuse of 3D aside, here are a few ways to improve 3D in the home. First, the glasses. For $150, these should work flawlessly. Just today Engadget posted an article mentioning Vizio moving to passive glasses, also known as the glasses found in the movie theaters and at Walt Disney World. This would fix the synchronization problem. Even better would be 3D without any glasses. The upcoming Nintendo 3DS will have glasses-less 3D, but only on a 3.53 inch screen. Second, the amount of content available just isn’t there yet. However, Disney recently announced more movies in 3D including The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. ESPN 3D isn’t a channel that runs 24 hours; it only broadcasts when there is a game in 3D. There are a few other premium 3D channels available through cable and satellite providers, but only about three or four.
The concerns laid out here regarding 3D in the home are slowly being addressed; however, at this point the cost of getting 3D in your home is just not worth it in my opinion. Much of the 3D content being put out in the movie theaters and later on Blu-Ray is not worth seeing in 3D (I’m looking at you Alice in Wonderland). Watching a football game in 3D isn’t the best way to watch a football game (I would have liked to have sampled some other sporting events in 3D; a montage of 3D clips during a commercial break made motocross look interesting). If you’re in the market for a television right now, you might consider purchasing one with 3D capabilities in an attempt to future-proof. For those who have only recently moved to HDTV and Blu-Ray, now is not the time to be concerned with upgrading again to 3D capable equipment.
This article is part of the sixteenth Disney Blog Carnival. Click for more great Disney blog articles!