Is 3D Here to Stay?


Written by James Connors
22 Monday 22nd February 2010
Following Panasonic's unveiling of their flagship 3D plasma screen in Munich, James Connors of The Unstoppable Voltron of Entertainment takes a look at whether the technology is here to stay… or if it's just this years big marketing gimmick.

3D has always been a long desired concept when it comes to television and movies, from the blue/green glasses of Jaws 3D to the RealD films appearing in cinemas currently. When it came to developing the technology suitable for the home, it's not been a particularly easy ride.

In the cinema, recent animated features have been exported to 3D with relative ease, but in order to create realistic live action pieces, innovative new camera systems have had to be developed. James Cameron's 'Avatar' has been the main proponent for using the technology on huge big budget movies, and despite some criticism from film fans it's visuals were without doubt the principal reason it did so well. Naturally, those who enjoyed it at the cinema will want a similar experience in their living room.

The main issue that has always prevailed are the glasses. Unfortunately, with the first generation of true 3D televisions this isn't something that is going away quite yet. The glasses differ to the RealD pairs as they are synced to the television over IR, and are powered by a small battery. This is beneficial as they don't darken the image like their cinema equivalents, and the lack of a polarised screen ensures a cheaper manufacturing process. However, these glasses currently cost £100 a pair, which can be a financial dent for large families or replacing breakages.

Whereas the outbreak of HDTV seemed beneficial for moderate sized panels, 3D is a whole different story. The minimum screen size being developed for currently is 50", and those who've previewed this size have advised it might not be big enough. The larger unit is the 65" version of the VT20 which will cost an estimated £4,000, however even this allegedly fails to deliver the desired immersive effect . There's no doubt that the technology is currently aiming at a very niche market, and due to the quality of screen required is unlikely to come down in price soon.

If you decide to purchase one of these sets, you'll need to make sure you can actually feed it a 3D image. Currently this will be done either via 3D Blu-Ray discs, which will need a capable player such as a PlayStation 3, or Sky HD. Sky jumped very early on the bandwagon, but it's currently unknown how much content they will actually be able to provide this early on. Recently several pubs across the country trialled the system for a Premier League football match. One of my friends who was able to locate a local showing simply said "Honestly, it was amazing".

The one thing Panasonic have in their favour is their new range includes the much coveted Kuro technology, inherited from Pioneer. Their high end plasma range has much been lauded as the best consumer sets available, mainly down to the black level that no competing panel has been able to match. The main caveat was the price tag, but if Panasonic can match their output at the lower price range discussed, it will be possible to pick up a 3D capable set for a lower cost than the current best 2D set. If this is the case and the VT20 is able to outperform it's 2D-only sisters, then there's little doubt they will shift units, even if it's only to a dedicated community.

3D is an old concept, but truly only getting it's real big domestic push from this point on. With Samsung and LG also putting out 3D sets this year, there's definitely competition for the new format to take off. That said, the high prices and enormous screens required mean it's not going to be a staple in every home for a long time, by which time it might no longer be flavour of the month."


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