The Main 3D Contender?With even Toshiba's respectable 3D showing only ultimately feeling like a fun gimmick, though, it fell to Panasonic to save 3D's bacon.
Panasonic has become 3D's most vocal supporter over the past couple of years, and this year its early adoption of the new format paid dividends in two ways.
First, it actually had some 'real' - rather than mere concept - 3D products to show. These included the latest version of Panasonic's 3D-modified Blu-ray player and, more intriguingly, the brand's first commercial 3D-capable TV. This set is an all-new 50in plasma model, scheduled to launch in 2010, that's able to show Panasonic's preferred sequential frame 3D system, where the left and right eye images appear very rapidly one after another and get 'brought together' by a pair of actively shuttering 3D glasses.
The other big benefit of Panasonic's devotion to 3D was that the quality of its 3D images was comfortably ahead of the competition.
Every 3D source the brand had on show, from some eye-catching shots of F1 racing to an exclusive trailer reel for James Cameron's 3D 'event' film, Avatar (hitting cinemas in December), looked a model of stability and clarity versus all the other 3D engines on show. The absence from Panasonic's 3D images of the really quite nasty ghosting phenomenon witnessed so regularly elsewhere around the CEATEC floor is particularly welcome.
So how come Panasonic's 3D pictures are so much better than anyone else's at the moment? Because, I presume, the R&D dosh the brand has clearly been throwing like confetti at their 3D ambitions has enabled it to come up with three key 3D-friendly technological innovations.
Perhaps the single most important of these developments is a plasma panel with a much faster discharge time rate than anything Panasonic has produced before. New phosphors combined with improved adaptive control of the image's luminance mean that plasma cells suffer less 'afterglow' and can thus cope much better with the very rapid image cycling demanded by the sequential frame 3D system.
Next up is a crosstalk noise reduction system, while finally Panasonic was claiming - with some justification, so far as I could tell - that its Active Shutter glasses also reduce crosstalk thanks to a new shutter timing system optimised to coincide with plasma's illumination methods.