3D: The Home Theater Revolution
If 2009 was the dawn of the latest 3D revolution, 2010 is certainly shaping up to be the same for the home theater. The 2010 Consumer Electronic Show held in Las Vegas in January, was the opportunity for consumer electronics companies including Sony, Panasonic, LG, Toshiba and Samsung (amongst others) to convince retailers, press and consumers to believe in their glasses-wearing 3D future.
For the most part, journalists were rather kind to the technology, but the overall feeling was "do we really need it?" - Demand is certainly there, but consumer interest might not translate into actual purchases; that will hang on over factors that we shall look at later. First, let's take a look at what equipment you will need to enjoy the extra dimension.
The biggest financial plunge will be for a new Television. Yes, no matter when you bought your nice new LCD or Plasma, you will need to buy another. The specification changes are far more advanced than a simple firmware upgrade can provide, which calls for 120Hz (100Hz in European/ Australian PAL territories) images to be fed to each eye to eliminate ghosting. TV manufacturers will at their discretion include one or more pairs of 3D glasses with each Television.
Obviously, every member of the family whom wishes to watch a film in 3D will need to purchase a pair of 3D glasses. This will incur additional costs, depending on manufacturer. Depending on which technology you decide to buy into, LCD or Plasma, the glasses designed for each brand may not necessarily work with other brands. So don't think you can save some cash by bringing over your friends pairs. The indication from Sony Australia is that an additional pair of glasses will be between $200 and $300 Australian dollars. Another specification necessity is HDMI 1.4, which 2010 3D capable Televisions will also sport. HDMI 1.3 was the previous version employed.
A new Blu-ray player will probably be in order, unless of course your Blu-ray player is the PlayStation 3, which will be upgraded for 3D playback in June. One may question how it is that 3 year old PlayStation 3 hardware which only features HDMI 1.3 can play such a pivotal part in the 3D revolution.
The answer lies in the powerful hardware that the PlayStation 3 features. In conjunction to heavy lifting that can be completed by the CELL processor and SPE's, the HDMI chip can be upgraded to enough of the HDMI 1.4 specification to qualify. Blu-ray players sold from mid year will be labelled suitable for 3D playback; however, most stand alone players on store shelves will not be 3D capable - so buyer aware. If you need to buy a player now, your best bet is the new slim PlayStation 3.
Finally, the last link is the home theatre receiver/ amplifier. For users whom use their receiver as a 'repeater'; that is, to send the signal onto your display device, will need to also replace the device. However, if you don't want to do this, you can run the HDMI direct to the television and then back to the receiver for audio.
3D: The Home Theater Revolution - Continued
So, there is a fair investment necessary to buy into the 3D revolution, but it's all for nothing if there is no content. Starting in June, PlayStation will start to release games and updates of previously released games to feature 3D images. I fully expect that Microsoft will react with 3D offerings themselves. However, right now there is no 3D content available on Blu-ray. This is due to change before the end of the year.
Unfortunately, a disturbing trend that has developed over the last few weeks is making content exclusive to certain manufacturers. For instance, Samsung have signed an exclusive agreement with Dreamworks, which will see certain films, including popular titles The Shrek Trilogy and Monsters vs. Aliens Blu-rays which will be bundled with their hardware. These movies won't be available to buy at market separately for a year. With so little content ready to go in 3D, making certain family favourites exclusive to certain brands will not help the industry as a whole. No doubt, the contract finances involved would be more than had the movies been available open slather, making for an economic decision on the part of the studios. All rather anti-consumer stuff.
The word is that unnamed manufacturers are offering Twentieth Century Fox stupendous amounts of cash to offer Avatar as a branded exclusive. No real guesses as to who they are.
So there are some hurdles to overcome for this fledging technology, not least a fairly hefty financial cost for the consumer. However, when the technology is widespread in around July 2010 and due to hit a critical mass before Christmas 2010, you'll be sure to hear a lot more about this technology.
Be aware that the TweakTown Digital Lounge will be at the forefront of 3D Blu-ray reviews. Until then, hold onto your hats!
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