Sunday, December 27, 2009

3D TV - a personal view

With all the recent hype about James Cameron’s recent film “Avatar”, together with the recent 3D Week on Channel 4, its easy to get excited about the prospect of 3D TV.

At the beginning of the year, I mentioned to some friends at work that I expected the introduction of 3D TV around the end of the year, in other words, about now. My wisdom at the time was informed by developments at Philips, who were advanced in the development of glasses - free 3D TV. However, it transpires that Philips has now adopted a less proactive approach responding to its perception of when the market will be ready for it’s glasses free technology.

I sat and watched some of the Channel 4 3D programs, squinting through the blue and amber glasses picked up at my local branch of Sainsbury’s. I sat transfixed for a while watching old films of our Queen’s Coronation celebrations which only served to remind me that the ability to watch films or stills in 3D is an old technology. The 3D effect was very striking, but it wasn’t long before the novelty wore off, as staring through the bi-coloured glasses made my head somewhat squiffy.

It seems to me that as long as we have to watch 3D through glasses then we haven’t moved along very far since the 1950s and before. Granted, the quality of what is seen and promised now is far better than before, the encumbrance of having to wear the glasses gets in the way of what should be a more naturalistic experience. I do not think this is such an issue in the cinema, as when you pay to watch a film, that is what you do - you sit and concentrate on the film with no other distractions competing for your attention save a gulp of Coke or another mouthful of popcorn. Also, the technology behind 3D at the cinema is somewhat different to the TV in your lounge. Because the image you see on your TV is self-radiant and not reflected as at the cinema, it holds out the possibility of alternative 3D imaging technology which does not require the use of glasses. In the Avatar film, there are many scenes depicting people working on glasses-free 3D computer monitors, and this, from my point of view really has to be the future for TV before I can get particularly excited about it. Why is this an issue? Well, if I said that as I am typing this in my favourite recliner I am also half-watching and half listening to the TV as well as the fact that my wife has just shown me some animal pictures which appealed to her in the Sunday newspaper. Now, if I had to wear 3D viewing glasses, this would kind of restrict my activities away from the multi-tasking I am engaged in at the moment, and hold me hostage to staring at the TV screen and nothing else, unless I am happy to keep sliding the glasses from my eyes to the forehead and back again at each activity intersection involving the TV!

Now, 3D TV is set to arrive in 2010 and Sky TV and other networks have the technology in place to wow our sensitivities and hopefully, for them, make millions/billions of dollars/pounds/euros of additional profit into the bargain. However, I am a little doubtful as to how successful this first foray into 3D broadcasting is likely to be remains an issue. For me, glasses dependent 3D TV is not the real deal and I am unwilling to spend any more of my hard earned dosh on another TV unless I can see the 3D image naturally, and without the aid of glasses. I would guess that the TV retailers are likely to find themselves with a lot of expensive obsolete stock on the shelves when glasses free real 3D finally arrives, as I am sure it will, and in rather short order behind the glasses dependant variety. The reason for my confidence in this is that Philips are not the only company working on glasses-free technology, but a number of other companies besides, Mitsubishi being one of them. The claims made for the quality of the images and the viewing experience are extremely encouraging. Of course, price will be an issue, but like all consumer electronic appliances, the price will plummet once the sales increase and the desire and acceptance takes off. I believe that once seen, the appeal will be irresistible to the viewing public.

As for me, I will not be buying a glasses dependant 3D TV. I would much rather wait a little longer for the real deal to arrive, as it surely will - its just a question of when.

No comments: