3D TV has come a long way since it first gained popularity in the 70’s. Gone are the days of watching ‘The thing that lived in the swamp’ at your local cinema with those lovely green and red cellophane and cardboard glasses which meant that you watched a film with a nice mish-mash of green and red, and distorted vision afterwards.
We are now seeing a whole new dimension of 3D content all delivered to us on our digital TV’s including films, sporting events, programming and even video games now becoming main stream in the next big phase of digital TV’s evolution. Manufacturer’s such as Samsung, LG, and Panasonic are all lining up to get their brand new digital 3D enabled TV’s onto market and with providers such as Sky and BT Vision all lining up content, the 3D TV revolution has truly arrived.
What is 3D TV?
Put quite simply 3D transforms your two dimensional flat image into an image with depth. The best analogy we could think of was by looking at a square, pretty flat and uninteresting, but if we stopped looking at our square and looked at a cube, you can see that our minds have perception of depth, or the ‘third dimension’ (cue Twilight Zone music).
Why do we care about this? Well traditionally on a TV screen we look at flat images which can be great depending on what we are watching. High definition took this a step further so we have crystal clear flat images on our TV that we love, but what if we could take this a step further so it felt like there was a depth to the picture that we are watching, almost like you were in the picture itself, and that is what 3D TV can do, enhancing your viewing experience so that the image on the screen actually makes you feel like you are part of the picture.
How does it do this?
Surprisingly the whole creation of 3D films and content is quite straightforward to give the illusion of depth perception. Derived from stereoscopic imagery (that’s the scientific bit), special cameras are used to film an image in two perspectives. This means that our image is filmed in one view, and then in a slightly different view. When the two images are interlaced (that’s the flash word for ‘mashed up’) and the special 3D glasses are worn to tidy up the image the picture is given the illusion of having depth, or in simple terms, our square now looks like a cube on the screen.
Great so I’m a 3D TV expert, what do I need to get this new technology?
If you want to start enjoying 3D content in your home, you will need the following:
- A 3D digital TV, Samsung, LG and Panasonic have all started manufacturing these.
- Some 3D glasses, these are usually bought with the TV.
- A 3D Source, when we say 3D source, we mean something that is able to deliver 3D content, so for example a Sky+ HD set top box, a BT Vision Vision Box, or a 3D compatible games console such as Sony’s Playstation 3 or Xbox 360.
- A subscription to 3D content, applicable to services such as Sky and BT Vision.
Glasses eh? Do I really have to look like a geek?
Settle down, 3D TV glasses have come a long way now from the old ones you used to get down at the Cineplex. Today’s 3D glasses look more like sun glasses and there are 2 different types:
- Passive 3D Glasses – These usually don’t require a power source to view 3D content, they are available in two forms anaglyph and polarised (don’t worry about this too much for the time being glasses are glasses). With Passive 3D glasses, because both of the overlaid images are displayed at the same time the number of frames (the still images that when combined make a moving picture) is not halved meaning that you will get a slightly better image. However the main thing we’ll say about Passive 3D glasses is that they don’t cost as much as the alternative which is:
- Active 3D Glasses – These do require a power source to operate, usually in the form of a flat cell battery like you get in digital watches. This power source powers the lenses to switch on and off whilst you are watching the image, it does this to show the eye a different image all in nanoseconds and create the illusion of depth to the viewer. Active 3D glasses are the type of glasses most people at home will use and can set you back from around £35 to as much as £80.
Ace so I have my Digital 3D TV, and my glasses, what about a 3D source?
As we said earlier, people can get a games console such as a Sony Playstation 3, or an Xbox and these will be able to show 3D content, which you can purchase from the Playstation Network/Xbox Live services that exist. However if you want something a little bit extra it may be worth considering one of the following:
Sky TV – Sky were one of the first people to start pioneering the 3D TV technology, starting off with a big marketing campaign in 2010, they were the first company to broadcast a live Barclays Premier League football match in 3D. Since then, they have started to show a wide range of sports, films, and general entertainment content in 3D. If you want to get 3D with Sky, you will need to sign up to Sky World, which includes all 6 of the Entertainment Base packs (Variety, Knowledge, News and Events, Children’s, Style and Culture, and Music), get all of the premium Sky Sports and Sky Movies channels and also sign up to high definition, meaning that you will also need to buy a Sky+ HD box from Sky. Once you have all of this you can activate Sky 3D for free. Sky world packages start at around £59 per month, and you can also get Sky Broadband and SkyTalk to bundle all of your services together.
BT Vision – BT Vision is the digital TV service from BT that uses a combination of obtaining digital TV through your aerial, and via streaming content through your broadband connection, which must also be purchased from BT. At the moment the main content you can obtain on BT Vision in 3D is films via the BT Vision Box office service. When you purchase a film from BT Vision Box office, due to the superior picture quality, it will download the whole film to your BT Vision set top box through your BT broadband connection. Once this has happened you are ready to start watching the film you have purchased. BT Vision packages start from around £18 per month, and each film you purchase will cost extra on top of your monthly subscription.
So now you have everything that you need to start enjoying 3D content in the comfort of your own home.