The New Reality Of 3D TV
Television just got that little bit more invasive. Henry Northmore enters the new reality of 3D TV
In the face of falling box office receipts 3D has been a godsend to the film studios. It seems any movie screened in 3D has both a longer shelf-life at the cinema and a better chance of making its money back at the multiplex. It’s still a novelty that viewers and producers are keen to tap into, and until recently, it’s been an experience that couldn’t be replicated in the home.
But, in the wake of HD TV, Blu-Ray and home cinema systems, Sky are now planning on bringing their latest innovation in viewing to your living room, hoping to roll out their new 3D TV technology by the end of 2010.
Sky unveiled the system at the recent Edinburgh International Television Festival. As soon as you don your glasses it’s instantly impressive. And while it’s not the 3D hologram predicted by Star Wars and Star Trek it really does add the third dimension with exceptional precision, representing a far bigger technological leap than the advent of high definition.
3D TV uses the same principle as recent 3D cinema outings but produces the effect with more clarity. The results are astounding: sport looks spectacular with events crashing into your front room while arts and live music coverage quite literally take you to another dimension. And yes, you will be able to watch all the current 3D movies clogging up the cinema (from My Bloody Valentine and The Final Destination to G-Force and Ice Age 3) as Sky will beam them direct to your Sky+HD set top box.
Sky have also demoed a live camera that enables users to see themselves in 3D on the screen. It’s not only hard to drag your eyes away from yourself in sharp three dimensional imagery but this neat trick proves just how simple it has become to transmit realtime footage of live events in 3D format.
While it’s an enticing prospect there are two drawbacks. Firstly you have to wear polarised glasses that decode the 3D images, and not everyone will relish the thought of sitting about in their own home with 3D glasses on for extended periods. What may seem fun and gimmicky at the cinema isn’t quite the same on the sofa. Secondly, while no new infrastructure is required – Sky can beam the 3D images to your home using their current system and Sky+HD decoder – you will need a new TV. That brand new HD jumbotron you’ve just purchased won’t cut the mustard. The big question is whether it will reach beyond the early users; will enough people be happy to upgrade their television sets to make it a realistic next step in home entertainment?
There’s certainly evidence of a demand. 3D TV has been a staple sci-fi vision since the 50s, but its success really depends on the quality and quantity of content. In the past Sky proved their commitment to HD broadcasting long before HD TVs became the norm. However, the take up rate of HD TV and the popularity of 3D at the cinema has to be encouraging. Plus, we can’t ignore what’s been dubbd the ‘Avatar effect’. James Cameron’s first foray into 3D cinema has been heralded in some quarters as changing the way we view film, and could prove what 3D is really capable of, popularising the concept and creating a hunger in the public to replicate the experience in their own home.
TV manufacturers will be looking for a new product to sell once HD has reached saturation point and if 3D is what they latch onto the resultant advertising push will help catapult 3D TV systems to the top of telly addicts’ wishlists. However, it might not need this hard a sell. The biggest twist of the arm will be seeing it in action – it’s simply stunning.