The good news: if you’ve been jazzed about the idea of watching the kind of 3D content that has taken movie theatres by storm (think Up!, Monsters Vs. Aliens and this weekend’s hotly anticipated Avatar), it won’t be long now before you’ll be able to pick up a 3D TV and Blu-ray player that will make this concept a reality.
The bad news: If I just described you, you have probably already made big investments in home theatre tech and are sitting in front of your 1080p HDTV and Blu-ray player as you read this, and both of these purchases just became obsolete.
Which is – of course – exactly what the major manufacturers had hoped to achieve. As the Wall Street Journal points out, the past year or so has not been kind to companies like Sony and Panasonic who have seen their profits quickly eroded amidst price wars that have consumed the market. Suddenly affordable flat screens have been a boon to consumers who have been buying them up at record rates, but it has made it difficult for the manufacturers to re-coup their significant investments in these technologies.
Thus, 3-D represents a holy grail of sorts.
It turns out that the process by which they make traditional flat-screen technologies like LCD and plasma 3-D capable, isn’t that expensive. And with the Blu-ray Disc Association’s announcement that they have reached a formal standard for 3D content, that is compatible with *any* 3D display, the content hurdle seems to have been effectively removed.
But neither of these advances are upgrade-friendly with older tech, in the sense that existing HDTVs cannot be made 3D, and existing Blu-ray players cannot be converted to output a 3D signal. New purchases must be made if you are going to go 3D.
But there might be a bright side. The WSJ reports that, “a Sony executive said it might be looking at charging an extra $200 for its 3-D televisions—mainly to cover its costs and the price of the specially made glasses.” That’s not a major premium for such a significant feature. When you look back at the price difference between 720p and 1080p HDTVs of similar size, there was often a 100% price bump for the 1080p model. I still maintain that at many reasonable distances, you still can’t appreciate this difference enough to warrant the extra dollars. Of course, both 3D TVs and Blu-ray players promise to be backward compatible with all 2D content.
For folks who have already bought both pieces of equipment, the situation is obvious: 3D is going to mean an expensive trip to your local big box electronics retailer. But for those of you who have resisted the call of HDTV so far, you may be rewarded by your Luddite cautious instincts. You now have the choice to buy-in to current technology at rock-bottom prices, or wait a little longer and be the first on your block to grab the 3D bull by the horns, without having to convince your parents to buyCraigslist your old HDTV and Blu-ray player.
Speaking of cautious instincts, I have been less than enthralled by this whole prospect of in-home 3D. While I have enjoyed the 3D movies that I’ve seen in theatres, the fact that they were 3D was of way less importance to me than the fact that they told a good story. My favourite movie of 2009 – Star Trek – wasn’t 3D, and though watching it in 3D might have made it more visually thrilling, it was the superb script, casting and cinematography that made it the incredible experience that it was.
Film and TV industry, if you’re reading, take note: I’m not going to watch 3D for the sake of 3D. But if you happen to have a great production on your hands, and it can be made even better with the use of 3D, go for it… but I’m still not rushing out to upgrade any time soon.
Related: Check out the WSJ’s graphic on the two competing in-home 3D display systems.