How to bring 3D into your living room

Posted: November 18th, 2010 | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

The following guide was written while on a work placement in Guardian Money. It was spiked but some of the information might come in handy in the run-up to Christmas so I have reposted it here. All information and prices were correct at the time of this blog post.

Thanks to 3dstereopics of Flickr

The UK faces another telly revolution as the 3D bandwagon begins to pick up speed. Content in the new format is already available by satellite, cable or disc and the BBC has plans to film parts of the 2012 London Olympics in 3D for future airing. And for budding James Camerons, digital camcorders capable of capturing 3D film are now on the market. Getting your living room ready for 3D is not cheap though and there are myriad options so here is our guide to what you need and the costs involved.

Getting 3D content

There are three ways of getting 3D content at present. The first is Sky 3D, the broadcaster’s 3D channel, which to date has shown looped preview programming. The channel launched at the beginning of October and is Europe’s first 3D TV channel. It is only available to Sky World subscribers with the HD pack.

Sky World is the top-tier package at £51 per month and includes the premium Sky TV, Sky Movies and Sky Sports channels. The HD pack costs an extra £10 per month and a Sky+HD box is also needed. The recorder is free for new customers but subscribers wanting to upgrade will need to pay a varying fee dependent on how long they have been with Sky.

Virgin Media grabbed headlines last week by launching what it claimed was the first 3D “digital TV service to be commercially available to millions of UK homes”. This service is actually an on-demand channel called 3D On Demand. Films cost £5.99 to rent and once purchased can be watched without limit in 24 hours. A V HD or V+ HD set top box is necessary to receive the films. The selection has been underwhelming so far. The inaugural film was Brit-made follow-your-dream youth saga StreetDance 3D while Garfield Pet Force 3D will soon follow.

3D may be cutting-edge but it can still be delivered by disc. A number of Blu-ray film releases include 3D conversions and these can be played on a growing number of 3D-enabled Blu-ray players. The PlayStation 3 is also ready as Sony added 3D support last month.

Playing 3D content

To play 3D content, you need a 3D television. It sounds simple but not all 3D televisions are alike. Manufacturers are divided into two types when it comes to development – active and passive televisions. The difference between them is in the specs and price. Active televisions require viewers to wear expensive battery-powered glasses that house LCD shutters. The shutters are synchronised to the television wirelessly, which gives high quality 3D images. Passive televisions only need cheaper polarized glasses – like those worn at 3D cinemas – but only offer up to 1080i viewing.

According to Charlie Ponsonby, CEO of impartial advisory service Simplifydigital, there are five main manufacturers currently selling 3D TVs in the UK: Samsung, with a range of LED and plasma screens, Sony with the Bravia range, Panasonic’s Viera series, LG and Philips.

Best top of the range television

The Samsung UE55C9000 3D LED TV is the best 3D television money can buy at the moment. This 55-inch widescreen is one of the slimmest in the world at 7.98mm thickness, thanks to the latest backlit LED technology inside. It has full 1080p HD capability, an integrated Freeview HD tuner, four HDMI connections and two USB ports. It is also web-enabled for Samsung’s new Internet@TV service, which allows access to BBC iPlayer, Facebook and Twitter from the comfort of your sofa. Two pairs of active shutter SSG-2100 specs are included.

Available from Currys for £4,999

Available from John Lewis for £4,999

Best mid range television

For this category, Simplifydigital recommends the Panasonic Viera TX-P50VT20B television. This 50-inch 1080p plasma screen has scored highly across tech media, thanks to built-in Freesat and Freeview HD tuners. Wireless internet is provided by a dongle that plugs into one of two USB ports and there are four HDMI sockets too. Two active EW3D10 glasses are included but extra specs cost £99 a piece.

Available from John Lewis for £1,999 with a Panasonic DMP-BDT100EG 3D ready Blu-ray player

Available from Dixons for £1,716.90

Another decent option for early adopters wanting value for money is LG’s 55LX9900. This 55-inch LED television is 3D ready and has a built-in Freeview HD tuner for 1080p content. It also features LG’s online platform NetCast, which allows access to the likes of YouTube, Picasa photo gallery and even video calling via Skype (webcam sold separately). A pair of active glasses is included.

Comet is also running an enticing deal for the Panasonic TX-P42GT20B, bundling the 42-inch plasma television with a Panasonic DMP-BDT100EG and a pair of EW3D10E active 3D glasses. The 3D ready television includes a Freeview HD tuner and already comes with two glasses.

Best low range television

People with tighter budgets can still get in on the 3D action. Samsung has cut the cost of entry to less than £1,000 barrier with its LE40C750 model. This 40-inch 1080p LCD has a built-in Freeview HD tuner and four HDMI connections. Web content is provided through Samsung’s Internet@TV service. Active 3D glasses are sold separately.

Available from Comet for £899.99

Available from Richer Sounds for £749.95

Available from John Lewis for £899

A thousand pounds also buys you the Samsung PS50C680G5KXXU, a 50-inch plasma that is 3D ready and has an integrated Freeview HD tuner. A pair of active 3D glasses is included.

Available from Comet for £999

Best top of the range 3D Blu-ray player

The BX580 is LG’s first 3D-enabled Blu-ray player and is packed with features. Although 1080p capable, it can also upscale any standard definition content to HD. Built-in high speed Wi-Fi means you can access LG’s NetCast and stream media from computers to the television wirelessly.

Available from Amazon for £177.40

Available from Comet for £299

Available from Currys for £299

Another option is the new Sony BDP-S570B. This 3D-enabled Blu-ray player plays 1080p and can upscale older material. It has built-in Wi-Fi that lets you watch YouTube with a single click and 1GB of onboard memory for digital storage. There’s even an iPhone/iPod touch app that lets you operate the player remotely.

Available from Amazon for £174.99

Available from John Lewis for £229

Available from Currys for £229

Best mid range 3D Blu-ray player

Samsung’s BD-C5900/XEU player is bundled with the manufacturer’s LE40C750 model at Comet. But it is an excellent player to consider on its own. It plays 3D HD content straight away and has an optional dongle that provides wireless internet services.

Available from Comet for £180

Available from Currys for £180

Best low range 3D Blu-ray player

The Sony BDP-S470B is just as capable as its big brother above. With a two-inch tall profile, it is fully 3D and HD compatible, and Wi-Fi ready. The £70 adapter is sold separately though. If you think that’s an obscene price to pay, don’t despair for there is an Ethernet jack along with one HDMI port. Once connected, the BRAVIA Internet Video suite provides access to BBC iPlayer, YouTube and LoveFilm.

Available from Comet for £179

Available from Currys for £199

The world’s first 3D camcorder

Will 3D home movies make You’ve Been Framed more or less entertaining? We’ll soon found out as as Panasonic has launched the world’s first 3D-capable consumer camcorder. The HDC-SDT750 camcorder has a special 3D conversion lens that records right-eye and left-eye HD images simultaneously. It also has image stabilisation to eliminate shaking and an advanced 3MOS system to keep video as sharp as possible.

On sale now at John Lewis for £1,148.55

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