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

One issue with the current, limited number of satellite and cable 3D sources is that they have reduced resolution. That is, they are, by our strictest definition, not full high definition. The same will likely be true of any future over-the-air 3D broadcasting. Blu-ray is at present the only 3D source available to the consumer that provides a full 1080p high- definition image to each eye.

No one is even talking publicly about 3D downloads at this time, but there’s no reason they wouldn’t be possible, particularly in the same reduced-resolution formats used for 3D satellite and cable transmissions.

3D Playback Chain
There’s more to your system than a source and a display. You have the cables that connect them, plus additional devices that may be in the path of that connection, most commonly an A/V receiver or surround processor.

3D video in the home can only be carried over HDMI cables. No other video connection, not even analog component, will do. The HDMI cables you’ll need to transmit 3D will normally be of a type labeled as “High Speed,” which merely means that they have the bandwidth to carry 3D material. HDMI cables that aren’t so labeled (or are so old that you don’t know what they are) might or might not work for 3D. If you already own a variety of these mystery HDMI cables, you should try them out between your new 3D HDTV and 3D source before you invest in new ones.

The latest version of HDMI is HDMI 1.4. While it offers a variety of new capabilities, it has been designed to meet the requirements of 3D. The previous version, HDMI 1.3, offers the same maximum bandwidth as HDMI 1.4, but 1.4 can carry additional data that better accommodates Java-intensive discs. HDMI 1.4 can also carry the data imbedded in a 3D source that tell your 3D HDTV to automatically switch to the correct 3D mode. HDMI 1.4a is identical to HDMI 1.4 except that it adds compatibility with the mandatory 3D broadcast standards.

All new Blu-ray 3D players (except the PS3) will be HDMI 1.4, and all new 3D sets can receive HDMI 1.4 or 1.4a sources. But only the newest 2010 AVRs and surround pro- cessors are at those HDMI levels. If you pass your 3D source through an HDMI 1.3 AVR or processor, you might see a 3D image, but (as with the PS3) some of the Java features may not work, and the set may not automatically switch to 3D.

The only way around these limitations would be to connect the HDMI from the source directly to the display. But this means that you’ll need a separate audio link to the A/V receiver. If you’re new to all of this, HDMI is a digital connection between devices that carries both audio and video on one cable. The audio alternatives to HDMI are either the legacy TosLink optical or coaxial digital connections (neither pass the new high-resolution lossless audio formats: Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio) or a cumbersome set of multichannel analog cables. This isn’t a problem with cable or satellite 3D since they only offer lossy Dolby Digital audio, but it will be an issue with Blu-ray.

Short of a new AVR or surround processor, your best bet is a Blu-ray 3D player with two fully functional HDMI outputs. One can connect directly to the TV, the other to the AVR. As I write this, only Panasonic and Samsung offer such players.

But if you’re ready for a new A/V receiver or surround processor to go with that 3D set and Blu-ray 3D player, you’ll likely avoid this complication. However, most manufacturers don’t use the HDMI 1.4 terminology in their promotional literature. Look for wording such as “3D-capable” in the specifications or features lists. Most AVRs launched since late spring 2010 will be ready for 3D, but always check with the manufacturer and dealer to be certain. You don’t necessarily have to pop for a higher-end AVR to get good 3D video performance. We’ve already tested a new $600 model from Onkyo that does a pristine job of it.

Be aware that as you add more components into the source-to-display HDMI link, the potential for problems increases. But with a 3D source, 3D display, 3D glasses, competent HDMI cables, and (possibly but not necessarily) a 3D-capable A/V receiver or surround processor, you should be set.