MOOD: 3-D television may still be ahead of its time for many home viewers

BY Christian Gossin Wilson Modified: September 8, 2010 at 3:00 pm •  Published: August 30, 2010
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The entertainment industry is always looking to impress consumers by pushing the boundaries in technology, and 2010's wave of 3-D technology is no different.

After companies suffocated potential buyers with the advertisement of LCD, LED and Blu-ray technologies, which have each done their part to improve the home entertainment experience, what attraction does 3-D have to consumers, many of whom have recently purchased new televisions and systems?

Four main companies — Panasonic, Sony, Samsung and LG — have hit the market in force with new lines of 3-D televisions, Blu-ray players and 3-D glasses. In addition to those, Sony also offers a 3-D upgrade to its PlayStation 3, and Panasonic has created a consumer 3-D camcorder, advertising that you, too, can make Hollywood-quality movies.

Yes, it's cool, but who wants to spend $1,400 to shoot 3-D home movies of little Billy picking his nose while eating birthday cake? The snot is so close you can almost touch it.

After invading Hollywood and wowing us with movies such as "Avatar," the technology seems impressive, but when you take away the movie theater atmosphere, will it have the same effect? Consider the following before you look too hard into upgrading to 3-D.

Televisions

All televisions are created equal in the sense that they show you pretty pictures. So, why pay for more when you won't really get more?

As newer LED high-definition televisions have become more mainstream, they've also become slightly cheaper and larger, which creates a great home viewing experience at less cost. Chipping in for a new 3-D television will make you pay thousands more and will also limit your viewing pleasure, at least for now.

Television channels such as ESPN and a bevy of movie channels offer plenty of HD shows and events to watch, but only lately has experimentation begun for shooting events in 3-D, the most notable being the FIFA World Cup. Very few are offered, and it will be a while before programming is widely available in more than two dimensions.

According to Sony, 3-D movie releases are supposed to jump from 16 in 2009 to 30 by 2011. The problem is, they haven't jumped yet. Projections are a fantastic way for companies to suck you in, and they aren't worth buying into. Nearly all movies that come out now are available in Blu-ray, which is a very involved and detailed experience, and "nearly all" is more than 30.

To the companies' credit, the televisions aren't only 3-D. They have all the features of a full HD television, which means if you're in the market for a new television and haven't bought any of the latest, investing may not be a bad option.

One downside, and this is not advertised, is that to watch 3-D, you have to purchase a separate emitter that sends a signal to your special 3-D glasses.

3-D TVs come in a range of lengths from 40 to 65 inches and cost from $2,000 to $7,000.

Emitters cost about $50.

Glasses

These have been front and center in the 3-D debate.

The technology is impressive and simple: The television alternates between different images, one meant for your right eye, the other for your left, and the images are seen through special "active shutter glasses." These glasses receive a signal from the television and synchronize the individual lenses to the alternating images, opening one and then the other in time to when the image is flashed on the screen. The images are shown on screen at a rate four times faster than normal, allowing for smooth viewing.

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