3D television is coming to the home, make no mistake. The chips required to process the signals and generate the (glasses-aided) effects are just too inexpensive NOT to be built into the higher-end sets sold by all the major consumer electronics manufacturers. So if you buy a top-of-the-line high-definition TV over the next couple of years, chances are you will have 3D in your family room.
Remember, we’re talking about active-shutter glasses here, not the passive, polarized glasses used in movie theaters. Active-shutter glasses have lenses that are actually transparent LCD screens, which are alternately blacked out, left-right-left-right, 60 times a second, via an infrared signal generated by the television. The broadcast consists of two separate, interleaved high-def video streams, typically captured by the two cameras mated in 3D production rigs, and delivered separately to each eye.
Cool technology aside, the question we hear most often is, “What kind of programs look better in 3D?” The usual suspects suggested are sports and nature documentaries. And it’s true – when well-shot, both of those categories benefit greatly from the 3D treatment.
But…humans are born with binocular vision. (That means two eyes, humanities majors.) Question: What looks better with one eye closed? Answer: Nothing! Having two eyes gives us the sense of depth and context we get when looking around our world. Similarly, 3D television brings a much more natural richness to the viewing experience, which greatly enhances ALL programming.
And we’re not talking about the gratuitous special effects that have characterized so much cheesy 3D in the past – spears flying over your head, and so on. Well-made 3D adds an incredible sense of depth to television, giving the impression that the show you’re watching extends far back into the wall behind the set. It’s immersive, whether the subject is downhill skiing or a studio cooking show. Put it this way: the difference between 3D and “regular” high-definition TV is much greater than the difference between high-def and standard def.
So be careful. Everything looks better in 3D. And once you make the leap, there’s no turning back.