I love going to the movies these days. Why? Because most current action blockbusters come in eye-popping 3D versions, and boy, do I ever thoroughly enjoy explosions, bullets, spaceships and assorted detritus flying towards me while I giddily eat popcorn covered in some sort of artificial butter-flavoured goo. Mmmmm, artificial butter-flavoured goo… Of course the only thing negative about the whole experience is usually those, what do you call them?… oh yeah, “people.” There’s the dude on his cellphone, chatting with friends during the movie. Or, the lady with the big hair who will always, and I do mean always, chose to sit right in front of me. And whoever sits behind me usually has a weird compulsion to kick the back of my chair throughout the entire showing. If only I could take that big screen 3D experience into my own living room, I’d be one happy movie fan. Fortunately, 3D TV does exist, and it’s actually easier than ever to get that same eye-popping cinematic fun right in your own home theatre. So, what is it? How does it work and what is there to watch? Find out more as we tell you all about 3D TV.
What is 3D TV?
A 3D TV is essentially an HDTV with 3D capabilities and functionality. This feature, which actually comes standard on many higher-end TVs these days, allows the television to display special made-in-3D content, which the viewer watches using 3D glasses (although there do exist some sets where glasses are not required… more on this later).
How Does 3D TV Work?
Okay, the reason we all see the world in 3D, is because our little mammalian ancestors needed an advanced visual system to keep from being eaten by bigger, hungrier things with sharp, nasty teeth. Seeing in those three important dimensions meant you could see how close you were to that thing with teeth, and today it helps us to not jab ourselves in the face when we brush our teeth. Ahh, progress. So, the way we are able to see 3D is because our eyes are spaced slightly apart. Each eye sees a slightly different angle of the world, and our wonderful brains take those two pictures being sent and turns them into one image for us to see. The process is known as stereoscopic vision.
A 3D TV works on essentially the same principle. The 3D content produces two separate images, one for our right eyes and one for our left. The TV set and glasses combo then makes it so our right eye doesn’t see what the left eye is seeing, and vice versa, like how those red and blue glasses (called anaglyph glasses) let one eye see the red-tinged image, and the other blue lens lets that eye only see the blue-tinged one. This basically “tricks” our brain into creating an image with depth.
Active vs Passive
To give you the 3D experience at home, 3D TVs don’t use those old red and blue glasses, of course, but rather one of two technologies, either active or passive. The passive glasses are just like the ones you get at the movie theatres that make everyone look like they’re auditioning for the next Men In Black flick. The sunglass-style specs lets each of your eyes see differently polarised light. Your brain then combines the two views to make the 3D effect. Passive glasses are cheap and usually you get a few pairs included with your 3D-capable TV, however the 3D picture is also usually not as detailed as TVs that use active 3D technology.
Sets that use active 3D have higher resolution images. The glasses usually run on a battery, and connect to the TV using Bluetooth or infrared signals. These glasses basically have the left and right lens “blink” on and off, while the set transmits the images to either eye. The downside is these glasses are heavier, more expensive, and need to be charged. You also don’t get many sets with your TV and will likely need to purchase more for family viewing. There are some sets that have used autostereoscopy (which is complex and expensive) however they offered limited viewing angles and demanded fewer people viewing the content (due to the necessary head/eye tracking), and they were pretty costly. But some advances are being made, so we could have better and cheaper 3D sets coming in the future where we won’t need to endure the nuisance of having to wear glasses to watch a movie. But for now, most sets use the glasses. Oh and you’ll also need a Blu-Ray player that supports 3D content, as well.
Speaking of 3D Content
As with anything new, content is what’s going to make or break an emerging technology. At first, the movies were few and far between, but now that the 3D feature comes standard on many new sets, we’re seeing many more titles coming straight out of the 3D theatre and smack into our faces at home. Liked watching Captain America’s shield fly towards your head in Avengers: Age of Ultron? Bring that action into your living room. Or maybe you prefer some Star Trek, or a little wander in Middle Earth with The Hobbit? Basically, if it’s in the theatre in 3D, it’ll come out on Blue-Ray in 3D. And there are also some specialty channels that feature 3D content, with more coming. So, although there doesn’t seem to be a lot of hype around 3D TV as a feature, it does seem like a tech that’s making a determined effort to not just become a novelty act.
Do you need 3D TV? Well, no, but you don’t need two speakers working in your headphones either, however stereo sound is pretty nice isn’t it? So, if you have a new 3D-enabled set, or are looking for a new TV and wondering if you should make sure your new set is also a 3D Tv… I say, why not? Try it out. Some people don’t enjoy the 3D effects, but others, myself included, do like the spaceships flying off the screen and explosions showering dirt and debris all around us. My next TV setup will certainly need to be 3D… and in the meantime I can figure out how to make my own artificial butter flavoured goo.