Having just gotten back from the CEDIA trade show in Atlanta, one of the strong themes of the show was how 3D HDTVs are really the best 2D HDTVs. Panasonic is the leader of this movement, as they have been promoting how good their 3D sets are for 2D since the very beginning of 3D. Others are now jumping on the bandwagon. The price of 3D sets have dropped into lower product lines, thus 3D is more affordable. Good 3D projectors were being shown with prices as low at $9,995 at the show, yet most of the demos were in 2D and for good reason.
3D content is not ready for prime time. The killer application for 3D is James Cameron's Avatar, but that title is out on 3D Blu-ray reportedly in November. There really are only a handful of movies out on 3D Blu-ray including Monsters vs. Aliens and Sony's Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. That's not enough for most consumers to pop for a new HDTV, a new receiver and a new Blu-ray player - let alone the cost of $160 per pair of glasses. Factor in the lack of meaningful programming from upstart channels like ESPN 3D and you have a worse-than-DVD-Audio/SACD situation on your hands with 3D. There's simply nothing to watch and what's out there for all but the biggest projector screens isn't really that immersive for the viewer. Yes, items tend to pop off of your screen, but 4K video has better, more realistic "pop," if you will, and that's 2D video. I know 4k is a future technology but it's hard to explain to mainstream customers why they need to wear glasses to watch sports and movies in 3D. They all want auto stereoscopic 3D - meaning they don't want to wear glasses.
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Please be sure to read our other articles, including Star Wars Returns to the Theaters - This Time in 3D, Panasonic and CBS Sports Announce First 3D Broadcasts of US Open, and the Samsung UN55C7000 3D LED HDTV review by Adrienne Maxwell. You can also find more information in our 3D HDTV section.
The great hope for 3D is video games. The Sony demo of Playstation 3's video games was pretty impressive. Their audition of a baseball game title showed a pitcher hurling a curve ball and you could see the seams on the ball as if you were in the batter's box. Granted, this was on a 25-foot screen using a $165,000 Sony Cine Alta projector, but it was still impressive. The gamer market is about the most willing to adopt new technologies and I have heard that the PS3 has the ability to upgrade to 3D via firmware. Not bad, considering it was one of the first Blu-ray players on the market and has been upgraded all along.
The compelling thing about the idea that 2D is the new 3D is that the 2-dimensional sets truly are better. They have the best, latest panels. They have the fastest refresh rates. They tend to be the thinnest sets with the best form factors. Would I buy a 3D set today? Yes I would, and in fact I am trying to pick one out for my living room, but the 3D performance isn't really a factor whatsoever. I don't want to watch TV with glasses on. The same goes for watching sports such as MLB baseball and NCAA football. I just want to watch the best possible, biggest video picture that I can fit into my room (and budget). Ironically, that is likely to be a set that can do 3D.