Vudu, the video on demand movie service, has fulfilled its promise of streaming 3D movies to network media players, media streamers, networked TVs, Blu-ray Disc Players the PS3, and the Boxee Box. At CES 2011, Vudu announced that it would have 3D movies available before the end of January, and indeed, 3D movies and trailers are here.
While the initial offering is sparse -- limited to 3D movie previews, a few documentaries and older animated features -- 3D streaming movies have arrived and show great promise. Vudu has brought high-quality audio and video to movie streaming with its HDX format, and now has upped the ante with 3D.
UPDATE 2013: Since the following review was first posted, Vudu offers a growing number of 3D movies and programs on its service (See the full list of current offerings).
How to Get Vudu 3D
While Vudu was initially offered on its own streaming video device, the company has made deals with many manufacturers to make it readily available on a number of devices. A Vudu app can be found on current Samsung and LG smart TVs and Blu-ray disc players, and on networked TVs and home theater components from Panasonic, Vizio, Sharp, Sanyo, Funai, Oppo, Magnavox, Sylvania, Philips, RCA, and Toshiba. For a full list of models you can check the Vudu's device page.
You can also get Vudu on the Playstation 3 and the Boxee Box by D-Link.
Note that the original Vudu boxes and not all networked Blu-ray players and home theaters do not support 3D. We are awaiting comment from Vudu as to when it will roll out for all Vudu devices.
What You Will Need to See 3D Movies
Here is what you need to stream and watch Vudu's 3D movies:
- 3D capable TV or 3D video projector.
- 3D glasses that work with the TV or video projector.
- High-speed HDMI cable rated to handle 3D.
- Device with Vudu 3D (again, note that some Blu-ray disc players and the original Vudu device do not yet support 3D).
- Direct connection from device to TV (or a 3D capable home theater receiver).
- Vudu account -- there is no subscription fee; you will pay about $4.99 or $5.99 to rent and view full-length movies, but previews are free.
- Fast internet connection with speeds over 9 Mb/s.
- Choose a movie or preview that is labeled "3D".
Streaming 3D Movies in Quality that Rivals Blu-ray
I was able to test Vudu 3D on a number of devices.The results were consistently outstanding. Vudu has been known for the highest quality of video and audio delivery with its HDX format, which rivals the quality of Blu-ray discs. Likewise, Vudu 3D rivals the quality of 3D Blu-rays. This is amazing when you consider that the media is streaming to your device in a digital format rather than physical media.
Of course, the 3D effects are only as good as the 3D effects of a Blu-ray disc. With a few exceptions, most 3D creates a behind-the-screen depth rather than that jump-out-of-the-TV-and-into-your-living-room action. The "Christmas Carol" animated preview was one exception. Twirling snowflakes indeed floated out into the room.
Here is a tip: If others are noticing objects floating into the room and you don't see it, relax and unfocus your eyes. If you are trying to hard to see 3D, the best effects often elude you.
Streaming 3D requires an internet speed of 9 Mb/s or more, so be sure you have a fast connection before attempting to stream in 3D. It's a good idea to take up your player's offer to test your connection prior to streaming the movie or preview. I am blessed with an internet download speed of 65 Mb/s through our local cable provider, Bend Broadband, so streaming during testing was seamless and without artifacts or buffering.
Different Players Offer Different Movies and Previews
In Vudu's 3D offerings, there are only a few full length 3D movies and fewer than a dozen previews. Curiously, even though all devices are using the same version of Vudu software, the movies offered on some devices are not the same as those offered on others.
Boxee's Vice President of Marketing, Andrew Kippen explained that Boxee is in talks with Disney to bring its movies to Boxee's Vudu app. The currently list of Vudu 3D movies on Boxee is limited to a 3D preview of "Drive Angry" and two full-length documentaries, "The Enchanted Hill, Hearst Castle," and "Wealth on Wheels: Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance."
The Samsung TV Vudu app and the Playstation 3 Vudu app do include the Disney 3D films and previews. "Bolt" and "Chicken Little" are available in addition to the two 3D documentaries found on Boxee. 3D Disney previews including: "Tron," "Tangled," "A Christmas Carol," "Toy Story 3," and "Alice In Wonderland."
Expect new movies to be added as they become available.
Vudu 3D on Boxee May Require Additional Setup
The first time I chose to play a 3D movie on Boxee, it did not recognize that the connected TV was 3D capable. I had to go into the Display settings and check the "3D Frame Compatible" option. In subsequent tests I had to turn on the over/under or side-by-side options on the TV's 3D menu to turn on the 3D. In other words, the TV did not always receive instructions from the Boxee that the content was 3D. It works after choosing the options and will probably be fixed in the future.
Final Words and Recommendations
If you have been looking for content to enjoy on your 3D TV, Vudu 3D streaming looks like it will fill the bill. While there may only be a few titles now, the previews show us what will be available in the coming months. As 3D Blu-rays are released, you'll be able to stream the Vudu 3D versions--typically you will be able to download and buy the movies first then rent them after 28 days.
Still, the Vudu rental fee of $5.99 for a high quality 3D movie experience is a great alternative to the paltry choice of 3D Blu-ray discs on the retail shelves that cost $40 each.
As more streaming services offer follow in Vudu's footsteps and start to stream 3D content, it will spark a greater demand for more content to be made available. The greater demand will also fuel speedy innovations to improve the 3D TV experience.
Vudu has had the best quality online video on demand service especially when you compare it to Cinema Now and Amazon on Demand. And 3D movie streaming is definitely a great reason to be sure you have the Vudu app on your TV or device.
More information on Vudu, alse read our companion article: What is Vudu?