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What Do I Need In My Home Theater To Watch 3D?

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Question: What Do I Need In My Home Theater To Watch 3D?
Answer: You need four things to be able to watch 3D at home on a TV or video projector.

1. A 3D-enabled Television or 3D-enabled Video Projector:

This includes LCD, Plasma, and DLP Televisions, as well as DLP and LCD-type video projectors. All 3D-enabled Televisions and Projectors will be able to work with the 3D standards now approved for Blu-ray and over-the-air, Cable, and Satellite transmission.

2. A 3D-enabled Blu-ray Disc player, HD-Cable, or HD-Satellite Box:

This gets a little more confusing than it is on the TV side. As it stands right now, manufacturers will be marketing Blu-ray Disc players specially designed to handle 3D content. However, there are indications that some current Blu-ray Disc players can be made 3D-capable, with some caveats, via a downloadable firmware upgrade. See my initial report on this. So far, the Sony Playstation 3 and the Sony NSZ-GT1 Blu-ray Disc Player have been upgraded to 3D in this fashion. It looks like that although additional Blu-ray Disc players currently in use could technically be made 3D compatible, manufacturers would rather make money selling new players.

By the same token, if receiving 3D content via HD-cable or Satellite, you may need a new 3D-enabled Cable or Satellite box. However, just as in the Blu-ray Disc player scenario, in some cases you may need a new box, or it may be possible to provide an upgrade to your current box, depending your service provider. See my initial report. For more details, contact your cable or satellite service provider.

3. 3D Content (Blu-ray Discs, Cable, and/or Satellite programs):

Of course, having a 3D TV, 3D Blu-ray Disc player, or 3D Cable/Satellite Box doesn't do you any good without content. With the recent adoption of the 3D Blu-ray Disc standards, there should be some releases available at the same time that 3D TVs and Blu-ray Disc players and, I would hope, the firmware upgrade for many existing players) become available.

Also, if you have 3D TV, and receive some, most of your programming via the internet streaming option, Vudu offers a 3D channel viewing option that features select movie trailers, shorts, and feature films.

4. 3D Glasses

Yes, you will need to wear glasses to watch 3D. However, these are not the cheap paper 3D glasses of yesteryear. The glasses that will be used will most likely be one of two types: Passive or Active.

Passive Polarized glasses look and wear much like sunglasses and have enough front space to place over existing eyeglasses for those than need to. These type of glasses are inexpensive to manufacture and would probably cost consumers $5 to $25 for each pair depending on the frame style (rigid vs flexible, plastic vs metal).

Active Shutter glasses are slightly bulky, since they have batteries and a transmitter that synchs the rapidly moving shutters for each eye with the onscreen display rate. These type of glasses are also more expensive than passive polarized glasses, ranging in price from $75 to $150 depending on the manufacturer.

Depending on which brand and model TV or video projector you buy, will determine which type of glasses (passive polarized or active shutter) you will be required for use with that TV or video projector. So far, manufacturers appear to be taking the Active Shutter glasses route to their 3D products, at least with regards to LCD, Plasma, and DLP televisions.

Some manufacturers may provide glasses with the set, or they may be an accessory that must be purchased separately. It is anticipated that those manufacturers that do end up providing glasses with their sets will provide one or two pairs, with the option of purchasing additional pairs as desired. Prices for the glasses will vary, at both the manufacturer's discretion and what type they are. As mentioned above, active shutter glasses will be more expensive (probably $75-$150 a pair) than passive polarized glasses ($5-$25 a pair).

Also, another factor to take into consideration is that glasses branded for one manufacturer may not work another's 3D-TV. In other words, if you have a Samsung 3D-TV, your Samsung 3D glasses will not work with Panasonic's 3D-TVs. So, if you and your neighbors have different brand 3D-TVs, you will, in most cases, not be able to borrow each other's 3D glasses. For more details on why 3D Glasses for one brand 3D-TV may not work with another 3D-TV, check out the report from Big Picture and Sound.

However, there are now several companies that now make 3D glasses that can be used on several brands of TVs and video projectors. One example is XpanD, a third party company that makes 3D glasses for both commercial and consumer applications, now offers Universal 3D Glasses that can work on most currently available 3D TVs that use the Active Shutter system. For more details, check out the XpanD Universal 3D Glasses product page.

3D and Home Theater Receivers

Another thing to take into consideration is that if you have your home theater set-up where your send both your audio and video signals through a home theater receiver, on the way to your TV, then your home theater receiver also needs to be 3D-compatible. However, there are some workarounds that I discuss in my article, which uses a 3D-enabled Blu-ray Disc player as an example: How to Connect a 3D Blu-ray Disc Player to a non-3D Home Theater Receiver.

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