These are just some quick thinking on all the announcements coming out of CES this week about 3D channels that will be launching beginning this year.
I played around quite a bit last year with 3D both on my television and computer. And I was pretty surprised at just how good some of the demonstrations were, especially on the big screen TV.
What's not to like?
For one, the glasses. I'm not real fond of the notion of having to wear glasses to watch things. However, when the 3D is good, it's even worth the glasses (think Avatar).
One of the biggest issues of why 3D broadcasts on TV have always disappointed people is because they've almost always been done in such a way that the content was still easy to watch for someone who didn't have the glasses. In order to do that, they had to greatly minimize most of the 3D effect.
That's why I'm really enamored with the notion of dedicated 3D channels. They can take full advantage of 3D. If the content isn't watchable by people who don't have the glasses, so what? They are dedicated 3D channels for people with the glasses!
Needing a special TV (though I'm not really sure that is necessary)
But while I am very enamored with the concept of dedicated channels, I'm not enamored at all with the notion of needing special TVs. And I have not yet decided whether that's just a sham or not. For one thing, it's already possible to do pretty amazing 3D on a high definition television set.
All of the announcements so far have referenced new TVs, but, if ESPN launches its channel for World Cup and it requires a new TV, you can count on almost nobody watching the new channel this year. In fact, I'm not sure how many will watch even if it works perfectly well with existing HDTVs, but it will certainly be more than the number of people who'd watch otherwise.
I'm not yet sure how this shakes out, and my guess is though glasses are necessary, it will work just fine with existing HDTVs. Today's TVs already do a lot of things you can't really take advantage of for TV. Like 1080p, for instance. While that will work fine with Blu*Ray, almost nothing is broadcast in 1080p, and my cable set top box (Comcast) doesn't offer 1080p. And I'm not sure my eyes could tell the difference between 1080p and 1080i (and many networks broadcast in 720p) anyway. This is why I have not upgraded my now 6+ year old 61" Samsung to a 1080p set yet.
No Standard Set Yet
This is either a very, very big deal, or just an annoying deal (which probably winds up a big deal if it's too annoying). If there is something special the TV sets must be able to do, the lack of a standard is a very, very big deal and a complete non-starter when it comes to buying an expensive big screen TV set.
But, even if there isn't anything special the TV set must do, the lack of standards make it an annoying deal. Here's why...
It always gets back to the glasses, doesn't it? Let's say you don't need a brand new big screen TV to make it work, that's good news. But then let's say there are three or four standards out there and different dedicated 3D channels using those standards. What's that mean? Probably that you're going to need three or four pairs of glasses to watch the content, and worse (at least for me) you're going to need to remember which glasses are for which channels. That's probably too big of a barrier for me to overcome at my advanced age.
If I can get the ESPN 3D channel at no extra cost, and watch it on my existing TV, and ESPN will send me the glasses -- I'm really not sure I'd be willing to pay for them yet -- I will certainly check out this year's World Cup in 3D.
Otherwise, I'm waiting it out. And probably for a long while. Avatar was sweet in terms of the experience, but things like that don't come along often, and that is something to be enjoyed on a huge screen. I'm willing to pay extra for that at the theater but when it comes to at home use, I'm not yet sold.