3D Basics

If you want to watch 3D at home you will need the following:

A 3D capable TV or projector
A 3D capable Blu-Ray player
A 3D capable receiver (if using a separate sound system).
3D glasses for everyone watching.
3D movies on Blu-ray.

Here is some information about each item.

TVs:
Most TVs above entry level models have 3D capability and it is offered in both LCD and plasma sets with plasma having a slight edge in performance. 3D movies are shot with two cameras placed close together creating a slightly different image for each eye. For the 3D effect to work each eye has to see only the image intended for it and the brain puts the two images together to form a three dimensional field like you see in real life. There are two different types of technology to make the 3D effect work on TV.

Active shutter glasses are used by Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and some others. The image for each eye is flashed on the screen very rapidly (60 times per second) and the TV transmits a signal to the glasses. Liquid crystals in the glasses twist in sync with the image on the screen so each eye only gets the image intended for it, while the other eye (hopefully) gets nothing. Your brain then puts together the two images forming the three dimensional image. The advantage of active shutter technology is that each eye gets full HD 1080×1920 resolution. The disadvantages are that the glasses are expensive (averaging about $100 per pair) and must be recharged. Some people may be bothered by the active shutter effect. You can’t usually see the flicker but some people sense that something is happening. Also the image can be affected by viewing angle and head position more than with the passive technology.

Passive technology is used by some TVs by LG and Visio and works very much like digital 3D movie theatres. Both images are shown on the screen at the same time and polarized glasses are used to separate the images and make sure each eye only sees the image intended for it. Your brain then puts the images back together forming the three dimensional image. The disadvantage of passive technology is that because both images are shown at the same time the resolution for each eye is cut in half. The advantages of passive tech are that the glasses are inexpensive and easily replaced and don’t need to be recharged. This can be a big advantage if you have children. Children love 3D but often break glasses. Head position and viewing angle tends to be more forgiving and many people find watching passive 3D easier on the eyes and more relaxing because it lacks the active shutter effect.

Blu-ray players:
With the exception of a few cable or satellite channels Blu-ray is the only way to watch 3D at home. DVD doesn’t have 3D capability. Not all Blu-ray players can play 3D discs. Most current players above entry level models do, but older players and many inexpensive players don’t. Look for the 3D symbol on the front. Also take note that HDMI is the only type of connection that will carry 3D.

Receivers:
All current receivers I know of will pass a 3D signal through their HDMI outputs but many older models will not. Look for the 3D symbol on the front of the receiver. If your receiver will not pass a 3D signal you have the following options.

Replace the receiver- this may be the best option especially if your receiver doesn’t have any HDMI inputs and doesn’t decode the uncompressed surround sound available on Blu-ray.

Get a Blu-ray player with 2 HDMI outputs like those made by Oppo (oppodigital.com)
Run one HDMI cable directly to your TV and the other to your receiver.

Run a HDMI cable directly from your Blu-ray player to your TV and a separate digital optical or coaxial cable to your receiver. Sound quality will be somewhat reduced by this hookup since you can only get regular Dolby Digital or DTS with these type of connections (the uncompressed sound available on Blu-ray requires a HDMI connection to your receiver). However sound will still be very good and you won’t have to buy any new equipment. If your Blu-ray player has a analog 5.1 or 7.1 channel output and your receiver has a 5.1 or 7.1 channel input you can always make analog connections for sound and get the improvement of uncompressed sound that way.

3D Glasses:
Be sure to get the glasses that are made for your TV. They are not usually interchangeable between brands, especially for active shutter glasses.

3D Blu-ray discs:
Most 3D movies are available in 2D or 3D versions. Make sure you get the right one. Although many TVs can convert 2D to 3D this usually looks pretty bad. If you want 3D get the 3D version.