I have now entered the world of stereoscopic 3D at home.
Er, scratch that, I’ve been in the world of 3D full-time since the launch of the 3DS. I’ve now branched out to a bigger screen.
I’ve made no qualms that I’m a 3D junkie. I got spoiled as a kid on a trip to the EPCOT center in a Kodak tech demo (freaky juggling clowns…IN 3D!!!) and ever since I’ve been attracted to depth on a flat screen. I firmly believe there’s an art form to harness in the technology, and filmmakers like James Cameron – and recently Martin Scorsese with Hugo – are paving the way from stageshow gimmick to mainstream storytelling tool.
And just like the directors embracing 3D, I’ve made small steps in getting it into my day-to-day. My set-up is modest and affordable: Panasonic’s 42 inch 1080p Plasma hit a sweet spot for me at less than 700 bucks, and though I had to put up an additional hundred to score two pair of active 3D glasses (the first-gen XpanD universal lenses) it was an investment that wasn’t hard on the wallet.
It also helps that Costco’s fantastic return policy made it a lot easier to pull the trigger – if I wasn’t happy with it I could just take it right back to the store….even though I got it online. And that, my friends, is one of the key reasons why I pay 50 bucks a year to that warehouse superstore.
I’ve already done the Plasma vs. LCD debate years ago. For me, I’m still a plasma guy, and I’ve already bought into a Panasonic plasma TV a few years back as my main living room television that’s still there today. Panasonic makes some great panels and with my previous experiences I already felt that the company earned my repeat business for when I went forward for my next set. Also, I’ve already backed my horse over Active and Passive 3D – while the passive tech works fantastic in theaters, it’s not something super awesome on current generation TVs since it uses an interlacing technique that leaves tiny horizontal lines throughout the picture. Cheap as those glasses are, I don’t like the horizontal lines.
Even after a day I knew I got myself an awesome second-room set with this Panasonic. It’s taking the place of a very good, utilitarian Samsung 720p LCD I purchased at the same price about four years ago and the difference is, obviously, striking.
As for the stereoscopic 3D support, it works and I’m very happy to now have the ability to play movies in games with depth. It’s not without its issues, though.
Theatrical quality 3D. The depth is as good as what you get in the movie theaters using the passive lenses of Real3D. I’ve got a PS3 so I’m ready to go with Blu-Ray 3D movies like Tron: Legacy and 3D supported games like Uncharted 3…and the content list is slowly growing.
The brightness. Yes, it makes the viewing experience a bit dimmer. It’s not “dark,” just noticeably darker.
Movie framerates. I hate upconversions in movies like “3:2 pulldown” or “motion smoothing,” so I turn it off whenever it’s set as default on televisions. But in the case of 3D movies, I may be stuck with a bit of smoothing in the output. Why? The active shutter lenses. The television has the ability to play 3D movies at their native framerate of 24 frames per second, but I’m guessing this speed for 3D isn’t as friendly as a faster 30 FPS is. 24 frame movies convert to a 48 hertz refresh rate for each eye. And just as the warning says on the screen, at this rate the “jitter” of the lenses flickering open and closed (the technique it uses to ensure the left eye only sees the left frame and vice versa) is very noticeable. It’s probably something I can get used to, but I have to pick my battle: native framerate and noticeable flicker, or no noticeable flicker but a slight “soap opera” like playback in my movies?
Game downgrading. Now, obviously to get depth in games, the output of a game has to double up its rendering time to give each eye its unique angle…and that certainly will cut into the processing. Currently, I’ve only tested two games so far: Super Stardust HD and Uncharted 3. Super Stardust looks absolutely stunning and, while I can tell a handful of compromises were made to make this explosive game run in stereoscopic 3D and at silky smooth 60 FPS, I think it’s worth the tradeoff for the amazing depth. Uncharted 3 is a stunner in non-stereo3D, and definitely a looker in 3D – but you can see the hacks a lot more easily. Character models have less smoothing – bald heads look “angular” now, for example, and there’s a bit of “jitter” around them due to less antialiasing. Scenes also have a bit of “cross talk” ghosting, meaning both eyes are seeing content from the frames they’re not supposed to. I see this on a handful of games on the 3DS and occasionally in theatrical 3D films so it’s just the nature of the 3D tech thus far…but in Uncharted 3’s case I think it’s simply due to a rushed conversion and the developers developing scenes with characters in front of colors that don’t play nice with “cross talk.”
I will still be testing out my set-up over the next few weeks, but I’m stoked that I can now check out 3D content on a much larger display in my house. This is already an outstanding 2D set with great colors, blacks, and resolution…and the added benefit of 3D gives me much more to play on it.