The release of 3D smash hits like Avatar has led many television manufacturers to begin producing 3D-ready television sets in order to enable them to watch movies in 3D at home. While the use of 3D technology in broadcast television is still in the planning stages, it is hoped that by 2015, 3D television technology will be widespread enough that most people will watch movies in 3D, especially blockbusters and documentaries where 3D technology is at its finest.
The first and most important thing to understand about a 3D ready TV is that it operates on the same mechanical principles as a standard flat-screen TV, only that it has the necessary processing power and upgrades for showing effectively two images at once, since this is how the 3D effect is created. Most people are familiar with traditional 3D setups as they experienced in the movies, which used coloured or polarized glasses to allow each eye to see a different image, resulting in a 3D effect. However, the effect is limited because the glasses interfere either with the colour or the position of the screen, meaning that the screen must be very large and very bright in order for the effect to work properly. This was not considered a problem in theatres, especially since it permitted the use of 3D glasses so cheap as to be disposable should theater patrons break them or take them home.
3D Ready TVs get around this problem by using very advanced and expensive glasses that use what is known as an "LCD shutter". This method basically allows the separate halves of the glasses to become completely opaque and completely transparent at an incredible rate, much higher than the human eye can detect. By syncing the glasses with the film, the 3D TV is then able to show the left eye an image, then the right one, and then the left again, so that the 3D effect can be generated. This means that the glasses are expensive, usually about seventy-five pounds or more each. Luckily, most 3D TVs come packaged with two or more glasses. Additional glasses may be purchased, and it is hoped that their price will decrease as more methods are found to reduce the cost.
This means that the television needs to be able to display images twice as fast as normal however, so it must be capable of rendering images at 120 frames per second as opposed to the 60 frames per second present in most TVs. This need to be extremely fast accounts for most of the increased cost of 3D TVs, of which even the cheapest costs two thousand pounds or more. It is hoped that these costs will go down as efficiencies of scale and improved technologies are developed.
The high speeds and qualities demanded by 3D TVs also mean that they require very high resolutions. All 3D TVs are inherently high definition, but the demands of 3D mean that they must be able to receive and display massive quantities of information through high-end cables such as HDMI or composite cables. Luckily, cables are one of the least expensive parts of any 3D setup, as almost all cables are of equal quality. The electrons that travel down a cable go at the same speed no matter what, so purchasing thicker or gold-coated cables has a minimal increase in quality.
It is also important to note that the immense amount of data in a 3D movie, since it has twice as many frames as a regular movie, means that 3D technology will be limited to high-density discs such as 3D Blu-Ray for the time being. It is hoped that advancements in science will allow for additional disc formats to be used, and many companies hope to one day be able to stream 3D movies directly to televisions using advanced transmission technologies. Anticipating this, almost all 3D televisions have some basic ways of connecting to the Internet, although currently this usually involves the use of peripherals.
Although 3D TV technology is currently in its infancy, Samsung, Panasonic, Phillips and LG have all begun the production of 3D TVs and their models are already widely available for purchase in high-end electronics shops. While these initial models will no doubt look primitive in a decade or so, they currently represent the finest that modern television technology has to offer. Most electronics companies have declared that 50% of their production and sales will be nothing but 3D TVs as soon as 2012, and the fact that 3D TVs are backwards compatible makes them highly desirable. Many movie studios are anticipating this demand by shooting their latest blockbuster releases with 3D cameras, ensuring that even early adopters will have lots of films to watch. With the entire summer of 2010 slated to come out in 3D, and Avatar already available in the format, even those who buy a 3D TV today will have plenty to watch.
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