Right. Down to business. And since it gave me the very first 3D experience I’d ever had in the comfort of my own test room, I’m going to start with the Monsters Vs Aliens Blu-ray.
The first thing to say is that this is a classic 'preview' affair, containing no menu structure, and carrying a series of four (presumably selected for their 3D show-boating potential) scenes that just play in a loop. Don’t confuse this new 3D version with the old passive 3D Blu-ray version released last year, by the way.
The second thing to say is that my initial response to what I was seeing was far from ecstatic. In fact, it was more a combination of bewilderment and nausea. Oh dear.
There were, so far as I could figure out, two main reasons for this, one arguably fair enough, the other really alarming.
The 'fair enough' reason is that watching 3D content is so different to watching normal 2D content that it simply takes a bit of time for your eyes and brain to adjust to the process. Initially your eye is drawn all over the place, as you try and figure out where to look now that you’ve got depth to take in, with objects that move genuinely toward and away from you as well as from side to side.
Trying to follow the action in this way is, of course, both tiring on your eyes, and detrimental to your connection with what you’re watching, since your experience becomes more about your relationship with the technology than your immersion in the narrative.
Just as well, then, that the longer you watch 3D, the more you learn how to watch it properly. Which effectively means just relaxing. You stop trying to follow every individual image cue and every slight depth of field shift, and just let your vision settle onto the main content of the picture, with the 3D depth then becoming less a distraction and more a tool for making the film world look more natural. In other words, yes, with the right sort of content, as I’ll discuss later, the extra depth actually can enhance, or at least bring something new, to your viewing experience.
Even after your eyes and brain have got together to figure out how to approach 3D content, though, the alarming and rather obvious problem remains with the Monsters Vs Aliens Blu-ray: quite serious amounts of ghosting, particularly over distant objects.
The worst example of this can be seen during the film’s Golden Gate bridge sequence. During the shots that look straight down the bridge, from one end to the other, the various struts and cables of the bridgework are joined by ghostly echoes of themselves to the left and right sides of the 'proper' image element.
It’s as if something about the 3D mechanism - so-called crosstalk interference from the TV; the shuttering of the glasses; or maybe simply the extreme depth of field on show - is preventing the offset 3D frames from coming together quite right. This problem really is quite unfortunate, for it can leave backdrops looking soft and indistinct. Plus really extreme examples can draw your eye toward the ghosting and away from the main action you’re supposed to be watching.
The impact of these ghosting artefacts is also exaggerated if there’s a lot of motion in the picture, and if the TV has only just been turned on.
Yes, you read that right. The Samsung preview TV I was using for this feature actually has to warm up - for at least an hour, I’d say - before it starts to deliver anywhere near its best 3D pictures. Blimey. That’s hardly the sort of thing you’d expect from state of the art new technology, is it?! It makes the loading times of the original Blu-ray decks look like Usain Bolt.
The way the ghosting reduces over time with the edge-LED Samsung TV also lends credence to the possibility that the ghosting is indeed crosstalk noise, caused by response time issues with the LCD screen. But I won’t be able to say for sure until I get a chance to spend quality time with faster-responding 3D plasma TVs instead, like Panasonic’s VT20 range - and, indeed, final production samples of Samsung’s TVs.