Films like the ground-breaking Avatar and the classic House of Wax, or even the Michael Jackson short Captain EO shown at Disney World and Disneyland thirty years ago, left generations of viewers wishing they could replicate the 3D video experience in their own homes. Today, they can.
Believe it or not, the first “stereoscopic,” or 3D TV, was demonstrated in 1928 and the first rudimentary unit was sold for home use in 1935. It wasn’t until 2010, though, that the first generation of modern 3D televisions hit the market. There were expectations that sales would explode, but 3D HDTV never captured the public’s imagination. After five years of tepid sales, some disappointed manufacturers like Vizio stopped producing new 3D models or scaled back support of their product lines.
3D home video is still very much with us, however, and it can look spectacular with the right technology and content. If you are one of those who has wished you could have it your home, here’s what you’ll need.
3D HDTVs and Projectors
A complete home theater installation isn’t required to watch 3D video at home. A 3D-enabled HDTV will do the job just fine as long as you have the right accessories. However, a home theater with surround sound will complete the experience and is highly recommended; be aware, though, that if you use an A/V receiver to distribute signals it will have to be 3D compatible.
Manufacturers such as LG, Samsung and Sony still offer top-notch 3D HDTVs, particularly their Ultra HD models. But for the best 3D video in a home theater, a projector system is the way to go and a number of outstanding units are on the market, with Sony a leader in 3D video projection. All 3D TVs and projectors from reputable companies will work with universal 3D standards.
It’s important to know that all 3D televisions are fully capable of displaying standard 2D movies and television, so you don’t have to choose one or the other when buying a new HDTV.
There are two different types of 3D home glasses. Passive glasses are somewhat similar to the old cardboard ones; they look much like sunglasses, can be metal and rigid or plastic and flexible, and cost around $10-$20. Active “shutter” glasses contain batteries and electronics to synchronize their blinking shutters with the TV picture, and as you would probably expect, they’re larger, bulkier and often cost $100 or more. The majority of manufacturers only support active glasses.
Not all 3D glasses work with all 3D televisions or projector systems, so it’s important to check before buying. Many TVs come with one or two sets of glasses, but some require the purchase of glasses separately.
3D Source Material and Players
The first thing most people think of when they think about 3D – is movies. The selection of titles available in 3D is nowhere near as vast as you might hope, but there are more than 300 3D movies on Blu-ray currently available. In order to watch them, you’ll need a Blu-ray player which is enabled for 3D (which will alo play standard Blu-ray discs).
For a few years, a number of 3D cable or satellite channels were dedicated to providing 3D video material. They’ve just about all gone off the air, although Dish Network still has a couple of 3D channels which you’ll need a 3D satellite box to watch. Your better alternative is streaming Internet video, with Netflix, Vudu and 3DGO! the best sources to investigate.