3D TV: the sets heading your way in 2010
13th Jan 2010 | 11:00
But are we ready to upgrade our TVs already?
The year of 3D
Before the release of Avatar in December, nerves must have been high in the AV industry about their upcoming 3D announcements at CES 2010.
Sure, there were a number of 3D-related movies on the roster. But while UP, Monsters Versus Aliens and A Christmas Carol were all a successes, they gently rocked the box-office boat rather than setting it on fire.
To break box-office records, it would need somebody who was well aware of creating big movies. That somebody was James Cameron.
Now that Avatar is the second biggest movie of all time – with Cameron's Titanic still in number-one spot – the proliferation of 3D announcements at CES makes complete sense to the mainstream media.
But look beyond the deeply flawed idea that whatever 3D success is happening in the cinema at the moment can be echoed in the home and what you have is a nervous TV industry looking to 3D as a saviour.
The AV industry has been pushing the idea of 3D in the home for some time now (both Sony and Panasonic chose IFA 2009 to pledge allegiance) but CES 2010 will be remembered for its 3D slant.
But why 3D and why now? A lot of it has to do with the muted response to Blu-ray by consumers, and the industry looking for the next big thing after HDTV.
Yes, HD is bigger than ever and more people have HD-ready sets in their homes, but prices have hit rock bottom. You only have to look in your local Asda to see the results of this.
Rock-bottom prices are not great for TV manufacturers. Although they always want TVs to be 'affordable', there needs to be enough space in the pricing to make a profit.
3D TV is perfect for money-making. Sony, one of the big guns in the 3D world, is to start making 3D-Ready badges for its upcoming range of TVs. Each TV with one of these badges will cost significantly more that a non-3D version being released.
Even though there will be a significant lack of 3D media to play on your 3D TVs, you have to remember that this hasn't stopped consumers buying an HDTV before they have anything that pipes out HD content to plug to the telly. Consumers love a bit of future proofing now and again.
3D at CES 2010
The TV companies who talked up 3D the most at this year's CES were: Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba.
Sony and Panasonic had already announced at IFA they were looking to 3D for the future, so they garnered little headline space because of this.
This is a shame, as Panasonic's VT25 series of 3D plasmas offer up the best picture quality we have seen for 3D, putting in a great case for plasma's future in the market.
Sony debuted its new Monolith-design LCD 3D TVs, the LX900 series, which looked great but its press conference didn't exactly impress.
Sony's CEO Howard Stringer did bring on US country singer Taylor Swift on stage to show off the company's 3D technology but, acting like the proverbial Kanye West, Samsung's announcement of the slimmest 3D TV on the market – the 9000 series – was way better, and this was all because the technology packed into its waif-like frame is jaw-droppingly stunning.
But, if it were all based on technology innovations, rather than money spent on booths and celebs, then Toshiba's Cell TV is a television on another level (tech and price-wise) of all its peers.
As it has been so long in the making, though, Toshiba felt if needed to push the television in another way and showcased the 3D benefits of the Cell TV at CES 2010, calling the technology inside it True 3D.
To market the TV just on its 3D abilities is doing it a disservice, considering the telly can manage 4K picture quality, record eight streams at once and has twice-as-bright LED technology, but this is the way the industry is inevitably going and to not follow suit would be commercial suicide.
Hence the reason that Sharp showed off some prototype 3D technology and JVC demoed its 3D LCD tech, which makes use of passive 3D. This means that the glasses are cheap but the images are cheaper.
And then there's poor old Mitsubishi, a company which has been peddling its 3D wares since 2007, and it did again at CES 2010 to small-ish crowds, proving that getting in early to 3D doesn't exactly put you in good steed for becoming a market leader.
Creating a 3D home
Perhaps those destined for 3D greatness are the manufacturers poised to create a full 3D infrastructure in your home.
Sony is claiming its PS3 games console will be 3D-ready after a firmware update, (despite not brandishing an HDMI 1.4 connection) while also debuting the 3D-compatible BDP-S770 at the CES 2010 show to go alongside its 3D range of HDTVs.
Panasonic showed off its DMP-BDT350, which is the only Blu-ray player to host dual HDMI 1.4 outputs, to complement its 3D-Ready plasma screens.
Both Toshiba and Samsung also debuted 3D Blu-ray players: the BDX3000 and BD-C3900 respectively.
Samsung is touting its new launches to be part of a 3D home ecosystem, while Panasonic and Sony are still arguing over who has got the best end-to-end system, with both launching 3D cameras and boasting of their ties to many 3D movies in the pipeline.
For 3D to succeed we are going to need another 100 Avatars to come along and floor us with picture innovation and filmmaking nous Cameron's epic brought to the genre.
And while there are rumours that everything from James Bond to Spider-Man 4 will be shot in 3D, these box-office movies won't translate well in a home environment unless you have the biggest TV set (50-inch plus is what the industry is looking at), the best sound system and money which burns a hole in your pocket.
The television industry has now set the bar higher than ever before by announcing that 3D is coming to the home at CES 2010, let's just hope it delivers its promise and brings content which warrants 3D and technology which blows our mind.
However, far from the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, and back in the UK, where all of us still watch the most popular programme on TV, EastEnders, in standard-def, 3D in the home still looks to be a very long way off.
Liked this? Then check out Is 3D television just a great big swizz?
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