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CEATEC '09 - Entering The Third Dimension

Entering the Third Dimension

Five of the six main AV brands with a significant presence at the show - Panasonic, Sony, Mitsubishi, Toshiba and Sharp - all had 3D wares occupying pride-of-place positions on their stands. (Only Hitachi did not, and they scarcely have a UK profile now, anyway.)

This level of focus on a single, new technology should, of course, have inspired loads of enthusiasm in me for the dawning of a brave new AV era. But for the most part I have to say CEATEC's 3D showing left me feeling a bit nonplussed. Partly because I remain unconvinced that people really want to invite 3D into their living rooms, but mostly because of the extremely different levels of 3D quality on offer.

Sharp's 3D offering, for instance, looked really quite poor.

The signs as I queued up to check it out were promising; the 3D material was being shown on a special new 60in LCD TV with LED backlighting. Cool. But sadly the ridiculously amateurish 3D showreel Sharp was showing - featuring cheapo dinosaur animations and bland nature footage - really stopped me in my tracks.

Seriously, for much of the time the picture was borderline unwatchable, with severe blurring whenever there was any motion going on, scenes where there was so much activity in the frame that it made your brain melt, and far too much 'showboating' of that old 3D trick where stuff jumps out of the screen at you. This latter feature might seem a good party trick, but the extreme depth of field it creates invariably looks totally unrealistic as well as being tiring on the eyes.

Sharp admits its screen is very much at the 'concept' stage rather than being a commercial product yet, but it seems the brand has a long way to go before it catches up with the best the 3D world has to offer already.

More surprising/alarming was how unimpressive Sony's 3D showing was. An entire side of the brand's large stand was given over to 3D booths, showing a variety of footage from animated films to nature videos and computer games. But little if anything of what I saw looked at all convincing, with a tendency for moving objects to lose focus or twitch, some noticeable stuttering, and lots of ghosting - or crosstalk interference, to give it its proper technical title. More on this little 3D issue in a minute.

Mitsubishi's 3D efforts were marginally better for clarity than Sony's, but the 3D effect still felt rather uncomfortable for much of the time. And anyway, Mitsubishi doesn't sell TVs in the UK anymore, so their efforts are pretty moot, really.

Toshiba was showing 3D on a concept version of its new Cell Regza TV (more on Cell Regza in Part 2 of this report!), complete with natty 3D menu system. And actually, while its 3D footage still suffered with flickering and blurring with fast motion, Toshiba's overall 3D effect was genuinely engaging at times. It helped, too, that the footage it was using suggested at least some understanding of how 3D really requires a different filming aesthetic to 2D.

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