Monday, February 22, 2010

3D is ready for your home. Are you ready?

Last September, I attended the annual CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association conference and expo in Atlanta .
Almost all major TV manufacturers and couple of projector manufacturers were demonstrating their prototypes of 3D products. A huge 103 inch 3D plasma TV from Panasonic and $55,000 3D projector from Digital Projection ( ) were attracting large crowds.
The demos were very impressive. Images were lifelike. Finally, full color full HD 3D is going to be a reality for consumers. Products are expected this spring and at least 50 titles of blu-ray movies are to be released soon.
Standards for 3D TV and blu-ray are being finalized. This time it is going to be a major change for the way we watch video at home. It may be the greatest thing to happen for home video since we switched from black & white to color. Even the switch from standard resolution video to HD video did not create such an impact.
While the manufacturers are praising this new standard, we have to wait and see how the consumers are reacting to it. There are several roadblocks to overcome before 3D becomes mainstream.
  1. Investment - You need new 3D capable equipments. New TVs, new blu-ray players etc. The initial models are not going to be cheap. Even if you can afford, are you willing to spend more money over what you have just spent for the latest flat screen TV?
  2. Lack of programming material - Initially, the availability of 3D programming material will be an issue. majority of material you will be watching will be still on 2D. Will you spend large amount of money for 10% of the material you watch? This will of course change when sports broadcasts switch to 3D HD and hundreds of blu-ray movie titles are available.
  3. New HDMI version - Full HD (1080P) 3D will need HDMI 1.4. This means all the receivers in the market today which supports HDMI 1.3 video switching and processing making them incompatible with the new 3D format. Do we have to get new receivers?
  4. Inconvenience - Wearing  3D glasses for long durations is certainly not comfortable. If you are already having glasses, you have to wear 3D glasses over them.
  5. Puppet show effect – The moment you wear the 3D glasses, our brain perceives the image as smaller in size. I could feel this even on the huge I-MAX screen while watching Avatar in 3D. Imagine watching 3D on a 46” TV. Except for real close up scenes, everything will appear like a puppet show. Over the years, our brains may get adjusted it to it. With early televisions, people might have experienced the same. Till then, they had seen video images only on a big screen in a dark theater. Now they are watching tiny images in a small box. Then we got used to it. Same thing may happen with 3D.
  6. Impact - For telling a good story, do you really need 3D? If the movie is bad, can 3D technology make it any better?  Except for science-fiction and action movies, sports events and nature documentaries,  will 3D significantly enhance viewers experience?
 Anyway, 3D is ready to enter your  home in 2010. But the question is “are you ready?”.  It may take several years before the format becomes mainstream. Till then, it may be a luxury available to a minority – the early adopters, and the filthy rich!