3D mythbusters

Here at Pocket-lint, we're very excited about the imminent launch of Sky 3D on Friday (1 October), meaning that three-dimensional television is finally coming to our homes. But will it really work? And are the rumours about headaches and health risks true? In the following round-up, we set out to debunk the myths surrounding 3D and give the facts instead.

Myth: 3D uses cardboard specs with blue and red lens

Is it true?
Let's get the most obvious one out of the way first. Most of you probably know this already, but for those of you that haven't been blessed with the facts, 3D TVs use technology that has previously been unavailable for home cinema systems and it doesn't involve cardboard specs with blue and red lenses. Although there have been some some films (such as Coraline) that have had proper 3D releases at the cinema, when they came to DVD they were bundled with a pair of the flimsy cardboard glasses for a thoroughly disappointing and strangely coloured 3D experience at home. Used in comics since the 1950s, that's what's known as anaglyphic 3D - and that's not what we're talking about here. Thankfully things have moved on a bit since then - what we're talking about now is 3D that uses passive technology (like the plastic glasses that you get in the cinema), or active shutter technology, where the glasses are a bit more bulky. And neither of the new technologies have brightly coloured lenses.

Myth: 3D is bad for your health

Is is true?
Probably not. Many manufacturers launched their 3D products with terrifying warnings about not watching 3D if you belong to certain groups such as pregnant women, the elderly, children, drinkers and those with medical conditions that could suffer side effects. Reading between the lines, it's not too hard to see that the groups mentioned could potentially cover the vast majority of the population, suggesting that the manufacturers are simply covering their legal bases. But, as with anything, there are always exceptions to the rule and there have been a few reports of people blacking out or suffering convulsions after watching 3D films at the cinema. It can be slightly disorientating, and those who are prone to headaches could suffer. So while there doesn't seem to be any firm evidence to suggest that it does harm your health, if you feel uncomfortable when watching 3D, just use your common sense and take the specs off - maybe it's not for you.

Myth: 3D won't work if you wear glasses

Is it true?
Yes and no. Tricky one this, as some people who wear prescription glasses will have no problems, but for others it won't work at all. Most of the 3D specs available have been designed to be worn over your normal glasses but if, for example, you're partially sighted in one eye, then it's not going to work as the image on the screen shows one image to your left eye and one to right eye in order to approximate depth. Even with people who are merely a bit short-sighted, some can see the 3D images clearly and some can't. The best way to find out is to ask for a demo in the shop before you buy anything.

Myth: There isn't any 3D content

Is it true?
So far, there has been been very little to watch in 3D apart from a couple of animated movies on 3D Blu-ray (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Monsters vs Aliens), but all that is set to change with the launch of Sky 3D this week. Although details have yet to be confirmed, you can expect to see a mix of sports and films including games from the Premier League, action from golf's Ryder Cup and Hollywood films such as Alice in Wonderland.

Virgin Media has also just announced the launch of its 3D Movies on Demand service, available to anyone with a Virgin HD or HD+ box. There's only one film on offer at the moment - StreetDance 3D - but more titles will be on the way soon. What's more, there's also a steadily growing selection of 3D Blu-rays lined up for release in the near future.

Myth: 3D is very expensive

Is it true?
Well, it's not cheap. Obviously you'll need to kit yourself out with a brand new 3D telly and the cheapest one on the UK market - Samsung's LE40C750 - can be found for as little as £875 online, while a non-3D telly of the same size will cost about half that. LG's 47LD950 TV uses passive technology and is supplied with four pairs of inexpensive glasses, but all of the other 3D TVs currently available use active shutter technology meaning bulkier and more expensive glasses. As most TVs will be supplied with only one or two pairs of 3D specs, you may have to get your wallet out to kit out the whole family, or simply replace glasses that have been trodden or sat on. Spare pairs will cost £60-100, depending on the brand.

If you're going to watch 3D Blu-rays then your existing player won't cut the mustard. You'll need a 3D-capable deck (from around £170) or a Sony PS3 with the latest software update.
Content-wise, you'll either need to shell out for some 3D Blu-rays (around £16 each), Virgin HD (from £6.50 a month and £49 activation fee) or Sky 3D (prices TBC).

Although it's relatively expensive at the moment, 3D in the home is still in the "early adopter" phase, so we'd expect to see prices coming down in the future, just as they did with HD TVs and Blu-ray decks.

Myth: 3D broadcasts won't be full HD

Is it true?
Yep, this one's true. While 3D Blu-rays offer a full HD image to each eye, Sky broadcasts in a half-resolution side-by-side format which uses less bandwidth than if it were to use a full HD image. This is no great surprise, as all non-3D high-def broadcasts are currently transmitted in 720p resolution, rather than the bandwidth-devouring full 1080p, that you get from Blu-rays. Although this technically means that the 3D image that you get from Sky isn't full HD 3D, it offers a great three-dimensional picture with plenty of depth.

Myth: You'll only be able to watch in 3D

Is it true?
Not a bit. All of the 3D TVs currently on the market operate as conventional TVs as well, so you'll only need to get specced-up when you've got the 3D mode turned on.

Keep your eyes peeled for Pocket-lint's comprehensive guide on How to go 3D, coming later this week.
We'll also be reviewing Sky 3D in the near future so watch this space.