It didn't take the psychic powers of Mystic Meg to predict that 2010 is going to be a big year for 3D. And, sure enough, Panasonic recently invited us to Munich to sample the three dimensional delights of its new 3D Blu-ray players and 3D TVs. After donning our specs and giving a goodbye wave to our 2D friends, this is what we discovered...
The DMP-BT300 3D Blu-ray player (above) is expected to go on sale in the UK in May and is capable of spinning 3D Blu-rays as well as standard 2D discs. But is it any good? While it's still a little too early to answer that definitively, it certainly marks the point where 3D home cinema has come of age.
Unlike previous attempts at 3D – including Sky's recent 'polarising' broadcasts – it treats both of your eyes to a Full HD image by firing slightly varying images to each in quick succession. Your active shutter glasses (£100 a pair, although you get two pairs with its 3D tellies) then block the right and left views alternately so you get the video in 3D.
The downside of this system is that you need a TV with a very high refresh rate (at least 120Hz) for it to work. Naturally, Panasonic also announced two such sets – the 50in TX-P50VT20E (top image, £2000 from May) and the 65in TX-P65VT20E (£4000 from July).
This is some pretty aggressive pricing from Panasonic; Sony's new 40in 3D TV (the KDL-LX903) costs £2000 and Samsung's 40in C7000 3D TV £1800, with the latter not coming with any active shutter specs. Then again, Samsung's 3D Blu-ray player costs an impressively cheap £350, so we'll have to wait and see what price Panny slaps on the DMP-BT300.
As for 3D itself, the demos left us in two minds about bringing it into our lounge. Some footage works incredibly well in 3D – close-up sports clips and scenic films really benefit from the added depth (unlike most football matches). In particular, we were mighty impressed with a demo of the Avatar PC game in 3D – a few minutes with arrows whizzing towards us confirmed that today's 2D first person shooters will soon look as advanced as Manic Miner.
The Full HD active shutter tech – thankfully also adopted by Samsung and Sony – also kept things crisp and sharp, with no sign of the headache-inducing 'cross talk' that has been a problem with previous 3D tech.
But there are issues. When the DMP-BT300 launches there will only be around 15 3D movies available to buy. The Active Shutter glasses' battery also only last 100 hours (after which they'll need to be recharged) and we couldn't get confirmation that Panasonic's glasses will work with Samsung and Sony's 3D gear (or vice versa).
And then there's the cost – an investment of over £2000 on new gear might even be too much of an ask for early adopters like us. Of course, prices will start to come down and as the number of 3D Blu-rays starts to rise. The question is whether this will convince enough of us to invest before auto-stereocopic tech – which serves up 3D without the need for glasses and could only be 5 years away – arrives to rain 3D drops on active shutter's parade.
Will you be a 3D early adopter or are you planning to wait on the 2D sidelines? Scribe your thoughts in the comments box below.