To 3-D or Not 3-D? That Is the Question

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.


  1. HuskerGuy

    No 3D for me, at least not for some time. First, I don’t have the budget for it. Second, I don’t see the need for it. I’m content for the near future to limit my 3D viewing to select theatrical releases on the big screen.

    • I won’t be buying at first either, also because of budgetary reasons.

      I don’t have the funds to buy a new 3DTV right now or within the next year, but the main reason is because I JUST UPGRADED MY TV!

      I bought my current HDTV in JANUARY OF 2010! –and then they start announcing 3DTVs like the very next week at CES. Bastards.

  2. No 3D for me either until they eliminate the glasses. I already wear glasses (as does my wife) and the expense of the glasses with the current model 3DTV’s is far too high for my budget. I really do not understand the appeal of 3D either. Well done 2D is very good and I do not see how having things poke out of the screen at me could add to the movie experience.

  3. matty moran

    nice article Josh. i too have the absolutely miserable BDP-1000, and sadly, it’s still my Blu-ray player. as of now, i’ll still steer clear away from buying a 3D setup but glad to know more about how it’s all coming together.

  4. Ross Rehart

    Personally, I am waiting for 3D. I just cannot see sinking money into first gen of a ‘standard’ that is not yet standard. Let alone the costs – The glasses alone will cost $500 – $1000 for a set of 4 – 6 pairs. Rediculous.

    I am venturing that by the end of 2011, there will be a standard agreed upon by all studios – and that standard will not include glasses. The viewing angle problem will be solved and prices will settle down a bit. By then, 3D projectors should be a viable option as well.

  5. I was going to post, but Travis Kline said exactly what I was going to. In fact, it looks like you copied a post of mine from another site. I don’t think you actually did, but that’s how close we both think.

    if 3d_glasses == true
    no_3d_for_me = true

  6. Thanks for the article! I’m interested in 3-D, but will have to wait until it’s a little more mainstream. Expense and space are my concerns.


  7. lizap

    Very interesting read. I’m particularly interested to know what your wife thinks about all this equipment you plan on purchasing this year.

    • Josh Zyber

      My very lovely and sometimes-understanding wife often starts out skeptical of my home theater purchases. Inevitably, however, once she settles in with the new equipment, she finds that she loves it and can’t live without it any more than I can.

      I would have to remind her of comments such as, “I don’t need a DVR. If I wanted to record something, I’d just tape it on the VCR. And I don’t keep up with that many shows anyway.” Or, “We don’t need an HDTV in the living room. I’m perfectly happy with this 15-year-old regular set.” Or, “You want to put a projector in the back room? That’s insane! Who wants to watch movies or TV on a screen the size of the wall? That’s just too big!”

      Her tune changed quickly enough each of those times. 🙂

  8. SeanTG

    I’m fine seeing anything that is 3D when I’m out at the theater. I don’t need it/want it at home.

    PS: I just bought a Samsung UN46B8500 to go with my PS3. Love them both.

  9. Tony Smith

    I don’t know if 3D will really take off. You know never know though, two -three years ago people said Blu-ray wouldn’t kick off, and now everybody I know has a player and a sizeable collection.

  10. For those of you who are worried about the glasses over your current glasses, every Sears (as far as I’m aware) has a demo unit of the Samsung 3DTV set up and you can try on their glasses in the store.

    Also, it’s not a bad way to try out the 3DTV setup. It’s on the Samsung LED 3DTVs.

  11. Comixguru

    My next projector will be 3D most likely. I already have a high gain (2.4) screen in my great room.

    Unfortunately, that will be 3+ years from now. I’m definitely not an early adopter when it comes to this sorta stuff. Usually around 18 months to two years in, the deals begin. That’s when I get interested.

  12. Arkadin

    it’s hard to imagine 3D tv taking off if even early adopters seem to be hesitant.
    of course prices will go down eventually, but I honestly can’t see any situation where I would want to replace my current tv with a 3D capable set.

  13. Bill

    I have the Panasonic 3D Plasma and 3D Blu-Ray player. I love the 2D and the 3D is a bonus. I like everything Ive seen in 3D so far. Just waiting for more 3D material to be released.

  14. RollTide1017

    My TV is not that old and I love my TV, not looking to replace it anytime soon.

    My AVR is even newer then my TV and, again, I love the thing and not interest in replacing it.

    Just bought the new Oppo BD player earlier this year so, I’m not looking to buy another BD player anytime soon.

    Have no interest in spend the kind of money they want for these 3D glasses, especially when my kids would just break them anyway. These companies are nuts and the price for these things are outrageous, which is enough reason to avoid 3D all on its own.
    All the hype 3D is getting in the media is driving me up a wall. This is the wrong time to try and get people to adopt a new format, especially when it has been hard enough getting the average person to switch to HDTV, much less Blu-Ray. Now everyone is asking the “few” people who have jumped on board to go buy everything again.

    Plus, I’ve seen so many people here and other sites like AVS, that you would consider early adopters speak out against 3D that I don’t see how it will succeed. If they can’t even get me, a techie, to jump on board then how are they going to get my mom on board.

  15. The biggest gimmick to come around since Nokia’s “N-Gage”. Being a filmmaker myself I see 3D as a giant stain on the reputation of film (especially nowadays with companies taking films that are shot in 2D and making them 3D). Blu-ray was a giant step forward in terms of home viewing and now 3D appears to me as a step back. For shame!