Although 3D has popped up regularly at tech shows for years, it was only in 2010 that it suddenly exploded - chiefly on account of a system being developed that allowed 3D to be delivered with a full HD resolution rather than with a much reduced resolution as was the case previously.
That system involves delivering alternate frames of full HD pictures to each eye, rather than presenting two ‘stereoscopic’ images on screen simultaneously. And there’s no doubt that this approach suddenly brings 3D kicking and screaming into the 21st century, thanks to its potential for delivering truly mouthwatering and immersive results.
For yes, we really do actually like 3D. When it’s done right, it can not only increase your immersion in certain types of source material, but it can actually enhance your appreciation and understanding of what you’re watching. Especially as the new HD 3D system can make 3D worlds look so detailed and crisp.
The problem for us is that 3D just wasn’t ‘done right’ nearly enough throughout 2010.
One problem was the stupidly short-sighted decision by some film-makers to simply post-master films shot in 2D into 3D, rather than shooting them from the start with 3D in mind. The results - Alice In Wonderland, for instance, and especially Clash of the Titans - were mostly an ugly looking, unnatural pseudo-3D mess.
An even bigger problem, though, was the now infamous issue of crosstalk on the first generation of 3D TVs. Every single LCD TV we saw that used alternate frame HD 3D technology suffered to some extent with this issue, which finds some objects in 3D pictures suffering with double ghosting. This means 3D pictures can look out of focus and makes 3D viewing tiring, as your eyes continually try to refocus the ghosting go away. For us, this is a really serious problem that hugely undermines 3D’s enjoyability and success in the home, and is something the TV makers need to get their heads round for 2011.
Thankfully for 3D, though, while LCD TVs struggled with 3D in 2010, plasma models made a much more convincing fist of it. All the plasma models we saw suffered much less with crosstalk than the LCD models, with Panasonic’s 3D plasmas hardly suffering with it at all. This made plasma 3D’s greatest ally in 2010.
There was a catch, though, namely that plasma TVs struggled to deliver 3D with as much vibrancy and colour richness as their LCD counterparts. So there’s still plenty for the plasma brands to work on in 2011, too.
Other issues presenting a block to 3D’s widespread adoption in 2010 were the cost of the necessary active shutter glasses you need for HD 3D (usually £100 each), the fact that you have to wear glasses at all, the premium pricing of many 3D TVs, and the frankly stupid decision to have almost every one of the first swathe of 3D Blu-ray film releases only available as exclusive ‘bundles’ with different brands of 3D electronics.
Arguably, the single biggest success story where 3D is concerned was Sky’s 3D channel. For while this doesn’t play for many hours yet, is very repeat-heavy, and doesn’t deliver Full-HD 3D, much of its content - original and third party - is both impressively well shot and focussed on content that genuinely benefits from a 3D treatment. Um, apart from darts.
A potentially interesting side-note to Sky’s bullishness about 3D is that it keeps open a small window of hope for passive 3D technology - as in, 3D tech that puts pictures side by side on the screen simultaneously with reduced resolution. 2010 saw only one passive set aimed at homes, LG’s 47LD950. But while this struggled with 3D Blu-rays, it actually felt very natural with Sky’s 3D footage, and can be used with simple, electronics-free glasses that cost peanuts. Plus, of course, it’s the 3D TV tech preferred for pubs and clubs wanting to put on Sky 3D sporting events. So it will be very interesting to see if further attempts are made to push passive 3D TVs into homes in 2011.