3D For You And Me: Your Complete 3D Setup Guide Page 2

The 3D glasses sold by each set maker are also unique; that is, there’s no guarantee that they will be compatible with another manufacturer’s 3D set. There is one source of 3D glasses that are claimed to be universal, a company called XpanD. However, 3D glasses introduce a color shift in the image, and a set that’s calibrated for one manufacturer’s glasses may not produce an optimum color balance with another make. That can be the case even if, like the XpanD designs, their shutter action works properly. For more on the use of shutter glasses for 3D, see the “3D Formats” sidebar.

3D Sources
At present, the premium format for 3D is Blu-ray. It provides full 1080p HD resolution to each eye. But you can’t get 3D out of just any Blu-ray player. You must use a player that’s specifically designed for Blu-ray 3D. These players are also backward-compatible with other optical discs, such as 2D Blu-ray, DVD, and CD. Some offer the same features you’ll find on most new 2D players. The starting price for a brand-name Blu-ray 3D player is $200.

In general, 2D Blu-ray players cannot be updated to play 3D. But there’s one exception. In September, Sony released an update that added 3D capability to all PlayStation 3s in the field (both the older models and the newer slim version). Because the update is firmware only, with no new hardware involved, an updated PS3 may have some shortcomings with Blu-ray 3D Discs, including limitations on playing Java-intensive features and possibly a need to manually switch your set to 3D mode. But it should play the program’s main 3D video and audio seamlessly.

Why is such an update not possible with other 2D Blu-ray players? Simple: The PS3 has far more inherent processing power than any other disc player.

So far, the number of Blu-ray 3D releases has been very limited, and many of those releases are exclusive to a given 3DTV/Blu-ray 3D player manufacturer. For example, to get the Blu-ray 3D version of How to Train Your Dragon, you must buy a Samsung 3D HDTV and Blu-ray 3D player bundle. (It’s confirmed too that the Shrek movies will also be Samsung exclusives although no dates had been set at press time.) Panasonic’s 3D bundles have so far included Blu-ray 3D versions of Universal’s Coraline and Fox’s Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, and of course the big new exclusive on Avatar. We expect—hope—that as the exclusive contracts expire, these exclusive titles will become widely available to owners of any 3D set. And the list of wide-release titles is growing. Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans, Despicable Me, and A Christmas Carol will all be in wide release on Blu-ray 3D by the time you read this.

While movies will be a big part of the 3D mix, the elephant in the room is video games. Home Theater doesn’t cover it, but video-gaming is huge, and the 3D game experience could be compelling. Sony definitely lucked out (or was it the luck of canny foresight?) when its PS3 design left room for a future 3D update.

We’ve found that some Blu-ray 3D Discs will play back in 2D on a 2D Blu-ray player and a 2D set. But we’ve received at least one report indicating that separate 2D and 3D releases may be required to ensure full compatibility and the best overall quality. It’s too early to know for certain.

Blu-ray won’t be the only source of 3D content. On July 1, DIRECTV, in conjunction with 3DTV manufacturer Panasonic, announced the launch of four 3D channels: n3D powered by Panasonic, a channel dedicated exclusively to 3D programming; DIRECTV on Demand; DIRECTV Cinema; and ESPN 3D (the latter launched in June). Discovery also has plans for a 24/7 3D channel sometime in 2011. DIRECTV offers a free software upgrade for its set-top boxes to enable reception of these 3D channels.

Cable sources have dipped a toe into the 3D waters, but their efforts so far (and their announced plans) have been far less ambitious than DIRECTV’s. Verizon’s FiOS and AT&T’s U-verse have announced plans for 3D, and U-verse has already provided some 3D sports programming. Comcast and Time-Warner have offered limited 3D programming on cable. However, information on plans for regular 3D cable-casting from them and others remain fuzzy. As with all cablecast matters, the cable 3D story will differ dramatically with both the cable company and your location.

It’s the old chicken-or-egg situation. Once there’s enough 3D content out there, the sets will start selling briskly. Once there are enough sets out there, broadcasters will provide more 3D programming. Sound familiar? The same was true of the HDTV transition. That worked out, but it took time.