2010 is shaping up to be a huge year for 3-D, both in theaters and on home video. Numerous manufacturers will be releasing 3-D capable televisions and Blu-ray players. I’ve posted some technical info about the new 3-D Blu-ray standard in my HD Advisor column (here and here), as well as some of my own thoughts about 3-D in general.
Still, people continue to ask me whether I personally think that 3-D on Blu-ray will really be worth all the effort and expense. Many readers have also wondered whether (or when) the staff here at High-Def Digest will upgrade to 3-D equipment. As one of the leading sources of Blu-ray coverage on the internet, it’s expected that we should jump into the fray as soon as possible.
I am an unabashed early adopter. I bought the first HD DVD player (the Toshiba HD-A1) and the first Blu-ray player (the miserable Samsung BD-P1000) each on its first day of release. The Blu-ray format is now four years old, and I believe I’m currently on my seventh Blu-ray player, if I haven’t forgotten any. I love electronic toys of all sorts. I plan to buy 3-D equipment sometime this year, and expect that I will probably be among the first of our staff to do so.
But I haven’t yet, even though both Samsung and Panasonic have just released their first 3-D sets (LCD in Samsung’s case, and plasma for Panasonic), as well as compatible BD players. At the moment, I’m biding my time. In fact, my plans are probably not what some people would expect.
I’m a projector guy first and foremost. I love my JVC D-ILA projector and 2.35:1 Constant Image Height screen. I’m very happy with the image quality I’ve been getting in 2-D with that combo. Unfortunately, the 3-D situation for projectors is lagging behind that of traditional HDTVs. Only a few manufacturers have announced 3-D projectors for later this year. They look to be very expensive, and I’m not especially liking the specs available so far. I don’t see anything that would equal or better my existing JVC for 2-D picture quality, which of course will remain the majority of my home theater viewing. And I just don’t have the space or ability to keep two projectors installed simultaneously, one for 2-D and one for 3-D.
A 3-D projector will likely also require that I install a whole new screen to go with it. The 3-D effect tends to dim the picture, so a high gain screen may be needed to compensate. That will be expensive for me, a huge pain to install, and I fear will have adverse effects on my 2-D viewing. All of that is simply unacceptable to me.
So if I want 3-D this year, it’s going to have to be on a TV. Which means that this will not be my primary viewing screen. I currently keep a small LCD monitor off to the side in my home theater room. I use that for watching Blu-ray bonus features, the occasional TV show, and other things that I don’t feel justified to fire up the projector for. A 3-D set will be replacing that.
I’m in a pretty constrained space here. I will not be able to place a TV under or around my projection screen. At least, not permanently. The TV will have to reside on the side of the room. I suppose it’s possible that, with a long enough HDMI cable, I could drag it to the front of the room when I need it. That’ll obviously be a big pain in the neck, but not necessarily impossible.
Size is also an issue. The 3-D sets released so far have been 46″ and above. That’s great for most home theater viewers, but not so great for me. I’m waiting for something around 32″. That’s the most I can fit.
So there is really no ideal circumstance for making 3-D a reference viewing option in my home theater. 2-D viewing on my projector will remain the default. I’ll use a 3-D TV to gauge how well the effect works. But it won’t be as large, immersive, or enveloping as my regular movie watching.
As a frequent early adopter, I’m also leery of first-generation technology. When it comes to disc players, I’m usually willing to take the risk of glitches and bugs, because players can be swapped out easily enough when a better model is released down the line. A TV, on the other hand, is not something I will be upgrading for a long time. If a first-gen model isn’t all it could be, I’ll be stuck with it for quite a while.
Although Panasonic’s 3-D TVs have generally been getting the best initial reviews, I have a personal bias against plasma because I really don’t care for TVs with reflective screens. I prefer LCD for televisions, despite other picture quality advantages that plasma may have. (Remember, this will not be my primary viewing screen anyway.) Early reviews have pointed out issues with LCDs and the 3-D effect. It also doesn’t help that Samsung is leading the way with LCD. After my experiences with that BD-P1000 Blu-ray player and other products, I simply refuse to get stuck with another Samsung piece of junk again. I’ll wait for a better brand, thank you.
I’m pretty happy with the Sharp LED set in my living room. That company has announced that it will introduce 3-D at the end of this year as part of its “Quattron” line. Sharp’s four-color RGBY format is said to produce a brighter picture that may be beneficial for 3-D. Perhaps I’ll wait for that.
Of course, a 3-D TV will require 3-D glasses to go with it. Some auto-stereoscopic displays that don’t need glasses may be available, but they’ll be hugely expensive and have extremely limited viewing angles. That’s not really an option. Now, I already wear eyeglasses. I’ve never had a problem putting the polarized RealD or IMAX 3-D glasses over my regular glasses in theaters. However, pictures of the shutter glasses that come with these new 3-D TVs don’t look especially friendly for those of us eyeglass wearers. That’s also going to affect my decision.
With all that said, the lure of a new electronic toy beckons me. I will buy a 3-D TV and BD player this year, one way or another. I just need to wait for something that meets my requirements to be released.