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3D or Not 3D? (Or... why that is the multi-dimensional question)

Posted on Oct 3, 2011

Last Friday morning as I walked my kids to school, I noticed that my son was hiding something under his sweatshirt.

I realized immediately what it was and it made me laugh.  Never mind that he’s 7 and already getting sneaky (like his Mom).

Child Watching 3D Movie

“What’ve you got under your sweatshirt, buddy?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he replied trying to be nonchalant. The smirk spreading across his cute little mug gave him away instantly.

I flashed him a look – the  one when I know something’s up and he knows it’s time to ‘fess up.

He reached under his sweatshirt and pulled out the surprise I had given my kids the evening before.

It was the still unopened 4 Disc Set of the animated movie, Rio.  The set includes 4 discs – a 3D Blu-Rio 3D Blu-RayRay, a 2D Blu-Ray, a DVD (what’s that?) and a Digital Copy for playing on iTunes, iPod, iPad, etc.

I had bought it the night before as an impromptu reward for my kids for doing well on their homework during these first weeks of school.

Netflix, Blockbuster and iTunes do not yet support renting or streaming of 3D movies.  Vudu does, but Rio is likely to be one of those movies my kids will watch over and over (4 times and counting) and might make for some good demonstration house material, so I decided to take the $30 plus tax plunge.

My son was very excited about watching the movie (it was planned for Friday night) and he was escorting it to school with him to show his friends.

What is significant about my little sneaky-puss hiding this gift under his shirt and wanting to show it off is not that it was the movie Rio or that it was new or that it was a gift or that it was a Blu-ray.

It was 3D.

It’s only been a few months since we added 3D capability to our house (the Interior Technologies’ Demo House).  I’ll admit, I’ve been a hold out. (As I recently Tweeted).  All my investigation of 3D when it first came to the home market a few years ago kept me from wanting to get involved.  The fact is that 3D is a trick of the brain.  And like most tricks, if not pulled off well, you end up seeing behind the curtain and the whole thing is ruined. For 3D to really be done well, you need a large screen, a very bright display and glasses that don’t suffer from all the issues many people use as legitimate excuses to avoid 3D such as the annoying flicker, eye-strain, blurriness, batteries dying, etc.

The only way to overcome all of the above and achieve quality home 3D has been (and sort of still is) in a dedicated home theater with a bright projector and large screen.  A year or so ago, when we made the decision to upgrade our Demonstration house to the Runco 3-Chip DLP LS-10i projector, we chose not to go 3D because we felt the market and technology were not yet mature enough.  We also would have suffered a loss in 2D quality if we didn’t make significant modifications to the room and system.  But that’s for another blog, as this entry is not meant to be a technical dissertation on 3D.  Suffice it to say, that until recently, pulling off 3D in a home theater usually required having two screens –  1 for 2D and 1 for 3D.  So we chose fantastic quality 2D over a comprised 3D & 2D mix.

Without a large screen space to for 3D,  I stayed out of the game and recommended the same to my clients.  Wait.  It will improve…

Top 5 Reasons I Waited to Get 3D:

  • Small screens kill the 3D effect unless you are sitting very close.
  • Big screens required special screen material and projectors.
  • Not enough content worth the effort/expense.
  • Glasses are annoying to wear/deal with.
  • It’s a gimmick.

Well… we’re just about there.  For dedicated rooms with large screens there are now not only a healthy choice of 3D projectors and technologies, but there is an ever improving selection of content including sports, movies and video games.  More importantly, the technology has improved and single screen installations that maximize both 2D and 3D now exist as do passive glasses systems (less bulk, no battery).

Top 5 Reasons I’m glad I hoped on the  3D train:

  • Done right, it is beautiful and fun.
  • My kids, love it.  (Did I mention they love it?)
  • Passive 3D glasses are easy, battery-free, no flicker.
  • Sports/Video Games.  (Very cool and angles enhance the experience).
  • 3D TV’s have improved processing power and make 2D even better.

But what about Rio and my kids?  As I mentioned we did not convert our theater to 3D.

They do not watch 3D in the theater.  They watch it in the Gym/Playroom on a 55″ LG LED display.  I chose this model specifically because I had seen it in pre-release at CES last year.  I was stunned then (and now) that LG had pulled off 3D at a quality that I found better than in most others and they were using plastic, passive glasses to do it.  Less fuzz, no eye-strain and crisper dimensionality.  The display comes with 4 pair of glasses (enough for our little family) and if they need replacing or you need more they are about $12.00 each.  No batteries to charge or replace.  They even fit pretty well over regular glasses.

The results are great too.  My kids love, love, love watching 3D on this TV. It is a special treat to which they look forward. They are the 3D generation as just about every movie we go to see in the theater is presented in 3D.  Watching that way at home is a natural extension for them.  And the quality feels almost as good as what you get at a decent digital cinema.  What they love even more about the LG 3D display in the playroom is the built-in 2D to 3D converter.  As my son erronesoly brags to his friends, “My Dad invented 3D TV and can make any show we watch into 3D!”   Naturally, I corrected him and explained to his friends that I didn’t invent 3D, but my wife said she wished I had.

The 2D to 3D converter seems like it would be a gimmick and truthfully I”m not sure I would watch any grown-up content that way, but my kids dig it and can’t get enough.  They even watched the recent feature length television move “Phineas and Ferb Across the 2nd Dimension” in converted 3D.  Ironically that’s a 2D movie who’s very title was meant as a play on words to mock the recent 3Difying of everything.

So the 3D train has finally left the station, we’re on board and and it is heading out of the screen and right at you.

If you’re like me and you’ve been hanging back, waiting to see if it is worth it, now might be the time to hop on board.

We’ll be glad to help you navigate your way through the variety of technologies and options and make sure you have a space, display size and viewing distance that is required to take advantage of and enjoy 3D content.

Given how much my kids love it and that my wife and I would enjoy watching movies like Avatar again in 3D at home, it will not be long before we transition our dedicated theater into 3D capability.  Though I will have to make sure when we upgrade the projector, my son doesn’t try to sneak it into his book bag to show his friends at school.

If you already have a 3D TV or Projector at home or you are considering one and have ideas, thoughts, questions, join us on Facebook and Twitter and let us know what’s on your mind.

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