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Potential Passive Pros

At this point, we would love to have discussed the situation regarding Sky’s side-by-side broadcasts. But for some reason the pre-production passive set we were using refused to play ball with Sky’s signals.

Based on the tests we could carry out, though, the more we tried to understand the apparent phenomenon of people feeling that passive viewing feels more natural, the more we began to feel that it was merely a short-term impression created by the fact that the passive 3D picture lacks the depth of the active HD one. In other words, it just takes longer for your brain to acclimatise to active 3D’s greater depth.

LG's passive 3D TVs will launch in the next month or two

Ultimately, we actually found passive 3D viewing less rather than more ‘easy’, for the simple reason that the picture enthusiast in us struggled to tolerate the amount of compromises to 3D image quality the passive screen persistently forced us to swallow.

Despite all this, while we have severe doubts about some of the marketing claims being made for passive technology, we still fully acknowledge that there’s a potentially big market for passive 3D TVs. For instance, if they’re cheap enough, they could seem just the ticket to anyone who expects 3D viewing to only take up a relatively small amount of their overall TV viewing time. Plus, of course, there are people with large families or social groups who don’t want or just can’t afford to cough up for countless pairs of active shutter 3D glasses.

Philips' passive 3D 7000-series TVs are due to launch in May/June

However, there’s one final issue we had with the passive 3D TV that potentially scuppers even these pro-passive arguments. For it’s an inescapable truth that the application of the filter film across the passive 3D TV’s screen also damages its 2D performance, especially on a screen as large as the one we were working with, thanks to the horizontal black line structure effect already noted during 3D viewing.

We’ll need to live with a few finalised (as opposed to pre-production) passive sets for much longer than we had for this head to head, and we’ll need to try them with Sky’s side-by-side footage, before we can be absolutely sure of our feelings about the current 3D war. Plus, of course, passive TVs’ final pricing might also prove very important; the cheap and universal glasses situation might still be compelling to many; and it’s possible some brands’ passive performance will be better than others.

But based purely on the experience we’ve just had, our two overwhelming performance-related impressions are as follows. First, 2011‘s active Blu-ray 3D pictures are clearly superior to 2011‘s passive 3D Blu-ray pictures. Second and more alarmingly for advocates of the passive 3D approach, while we might understand people feeling OK with compromising their 3D pictures to save money, we’re much less confident they’ll still feel OK losing fidelity in their 2D viewing.

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