While 3D experiences in cinemas and other public venues will do doubt keep growing in popularity, will people really want full-blown setups in their homes? What will the 3D TV experience be like? First of all, everyone’s going to have to buy new TV sets, even those who have spent several lakhs on the latest, slimmest, most high-end models. When the wave of hype over HD swept over us a few years ago, people were enthusiastic about shifting from huge boxy TV sets to slim LCD panels anyway, and no matter if the picture quality didn’t instantly improve, people were happy to buy them for the various other advantages they represented. It hasn’t been long at all, and people are now supposed to believe that a whole new generation is upon us. Other than 3D, these new TVs won’t offer anything different to regular flat TVs at all. Even if people love the experience, convincing them that it’s worth the cost to bring it home will take a lot of work.
The compulsory polarized glasses are going to be extremely awkward and invasive. This will likely be the main reason that families won’t gather around the TV to watch their mainstream entertainment programs in 3D. People are used to leaving their TVs on while doing any number of other chores. You can’t comfortably work, eat, talk, lie down, cuddle with loved ones, or do anything other than concentrate on the TV while wearing dark glasses. Channel surfers will be irritated if they have to constantly put on and take off the glasses just because only a few shows here and there require them. Any ambient lighting in the room will spoil the effect, and besides, many bedrooms and living rooms might not be able to fit everyone sitting in the ideal position in front of the screen. Imagine inviting friends over and not having enough glasses for everyone to watch a program together.
The glasses are expensive, so most families won’t have more than one extra set lying around. In fact if you want to invite a large group over to watch a movie, you’ll have to specify that each one should bring their own glasses! Unfortunately, the technology doesn’t allow for those wearing glasses to experience 3D while those without get to see a regular 2D image; they’re left with blurry, superimposed images. It’s either all with or all without.
And where’s the content? Viewing will be limited to Blu-ray movie discs for a very long time (which will of course require a new Blu-ray player and even new HDMI cables). Broadcasters in some parts of the world have announced they will roll out a few 3D channels during 2010, but the status in India is completely unknown. These channels require much higher bandwidth, so it’s only going to be our DTH services that will offer them. If this becomes the next weapon in the DTH wars, subscribers will be limited to only those channels that the providers offer. Even then, it will most probably be expensive and could even require fresh internal cabling and a set-top box upgrade. At the rate things are changing, the second and third generations of 3D TVs might be on the market before there’s enough content reaching them!
When 3D does come to TV broadcasts, it will be only for limited types of content. Not all types of programming will benefit either. Sports and movies will probably be the first to embrace it, followed by educational content such as science and wildlife shows. There could be smaller segments or single one-off shows on general entertainment channels, but there’s not much scope for compelling action in most sitcoms, family dramas or cartoons. Even the news channels won’t be able to ensure that every camera crew has the required cameras and transmission capacity to file reports.