What About Compatibility?
Wherever different display and source formats exist in a relatively new sphere of the AV world, there has to be a concern that one won’t work with the other. But everyone we’ve spoken to about this - a number of the key manufacturers, and Brian Lenz - all agree that the latest 'passive' 3D TVs will be able to show Active 3D content, and vice versa.
Interestingly (well, I found it interesting, anyway!), 3D TVs won’t/can’t adapt their output to suit the 3D format they’re receiving. In other words, a 3D TV like the upcoming models from Sony and Panasonic that uses the Active 3D approach will always display any 3D image using alternate frame technology. And any TV that uses the 'passive' 3D system will convert incoming alternate frame 3D images into passive ones for display.
The conversion process used to achieve this is allegedly quite straightforward. In the case of a TV with an alternate frame 3D output, for instance, if it receives Sky’s side by side 3D signals, the TV stretches the images across the screen, and then takes the left-hand image and displays it as frame one, and the right hand frame becomes frame two. While this sounds simple in principle, though, I can’t help but wonder if the 'stretching the image' bit might result in a reduction in picture quality when watching Sky’s 3D broadcasts on an Active 3D TV... Only time will tell I guess.
One thing that’s absolutely not in doubt, though, is the fact that Sky’s side by side approach will mean it can’t produce a native Full HD 3D image, since the two frames that make up the 3D image have to share the 1,080 lines of a Full HD screen. However, Brian Lenz is adamant that the combined image you see through your glasses will still look HD, not standard def. Again, time will tell on this. But to be fair, the images I’ve seen at Sky demonstrations certainly look markedly crisper and more detailed than the standard definition 3D broadcasts I’ve seen in the past.
Right, I’m wracking my brains to see if there’s anything currently known about the Sky 3D platform that I might have missed, and I’m coming up blank (though that’s nothing new). So I guess I’ll wrap up here, and set about waiting impatiently for Sky to shift its 3D plans out of the pubs and into our living room, so we can start putting some picture quality meat onto all these theoretical 3D bones.
Certainly from everything I’ve seen so far, Sky’s 3D sports footage – especially footie - has the potential to excite people about the technology more than any number of 3D movies (well, apart from Avatar, I guess!). So while I’m still to be convinced that 3D will become the revolutionary force the AV world so desperately wants it to be, I honestly hope that Sky’s finished service manages to live up to its current potential and makes 3D something that genuinely adds to our viewing experience, rather than just being a wacky alternative to high quality HD.