How to go 3D at home

Get your glasses on and prep the popcorn because Sky's new 3D service is finally here, including films, sport and a range of original programming. If you're thinking of taking the plunge into the the third dimension, but you're not quite sure where to start then have a read of this first...

 

Do I need a new TV?

Yes, you'll need to get a 3D-capable TV, currently only available from a handful of manufacturers including Sony, Panasonic, LG and Samsung. Most of the 3D TVs on the market are already fully set up for 3D images, but some are only 3D-ready meaning that you'll need to buy a separate 3D tuner and glasses to make the jump into the third dimension. Be sure to check with the retailer when you buy.

What's the difference between active and passive 3D technology?

Passive polarized 3D systems use cheap glasses that are similar to the ones that you get in the cinema. This means that each eye sees a slightly different picture, which your brain then combines into one image, creating an illusion of depth.

Active shutter 3D glasses are battery-powered and cost around £60-100 per pair. The idea here is that the display for each eye flickers quickly so that each eye sees alternate frames of 3D content.

Although down to personal choice, active 3D systems are widely considered to offer superior picture quality. Passive 3D tech is currently only offered by LG (on its 47LD950), while all of the other sets available use the active shutter system. Sky's 3D TV service will work with both formats.

Will I need a new Blu-ray player?

Yes, if you're planning on watching any of the new Blu-ray 3D discs then you'll need to get yourself a 3D-capable player. You can play 3D Blu-rays on a standard deck, but they'll only play in the conventional 2D format.

Will I need a new HDMI cable?

As long as you've got a high-speed HDMI version 1.3a cable, then you should be fine. Although the latest HDMI 1.4 cables have been designed for 3D compatibility, Sky's hardware doesn't currently support them so it wouldn't make any difference anyway. HDMI 1.4 will probably take some time to roll out, so that most AV equipment won't be compatible for a while yet. If you can, it's probably best to save your pennies for now and stick with your current HDMI lead.
 

Do I need to buy the glasses separately?

Most 3D TVs will be supplied with at least one or two pairs of compatible glasses and for those that are not, most retailers will probably be offering a deal to bundle these with the TV. If you need extra glasses, either for when friends come round, or to keep the whole family happy, then you can buy these separately.

Where can I get 3D stuff to watch?

As 1 October, you'll be able to watch 3D broadcasts on Sky with a line-up including sports and movies. We picked out some of the highlights that you can expect to see and the good news is that if you're already signed up to Sky World with an HD subscription, then you won't need to pay any extra for the new 3D channel. If you're a newbie then you can get the Sky World pack with Sky+HD from £61 per month.

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 - with more titles coming soon. It'll cost £5.99 for a 24-hour rental.

You can also make use of the new Blu-ray 3D format, although there's not that much available yet we've pulled together a selection of titles that are coming soon.

Can I get 3D on Freeview?

Not at the moment. There are currently no plans to introduce free-to-air 3D broadcasts, but this could be a possibility in the future depending on the success of Sky and Virgin's 3D platforms.

Can I use my 3D glasses to watch my friend's TV?

It depends on which TV they've got. If your pal has LG's 47LD950 - the only passive 3D TV currently available - then you're in luck. Chances are, they'll have a spare pair of specs for you anyway as the TV comes with four sets. If not, then you can pick up a pair yourself for next to nothing.

When it comes to active 3D tech, you can only use glasses that match the brand of TV that you're watching. So, for example, you can't use a pair of Sony specs on a Panasonic screen and vice versa. Most of these TVs only come with one or two pairs of glasses, so you might have to buy extra (around £60-100 each) if you and mates intend to descend mob-handed on your new best friend and his lovely new telly.

There are also a few brands, including Xpand and Monster that have launched universal 3D glasses that will supposedly work on any manufacturer's set. Out advice is to try before you buy.

Will older films be converted to 3D?

Yes - just as many older films have been given a high-def makeover, it is also possible to convert them to 3D. However, not everything is well suited to three-dimensional viewing so while some things could look great, a film with a lot of fast cuts and rapid shifts between long shots and close-ups probably won't fare so well.

Lucasfilm has just announced that all six films in the Star Wars saga are set for a 3D release, starting in 2012. As the films will be released in order to match the narrative timeline, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace will be first. Following a cinema release, it's only a matter of time before the films turn up on Blu-ray 3D.

Can I watch 3D TV without special glasses?

Not yet, no. Although glasses-free (autostereoscopic) 3D is already in use in some hand-held devices such as the Nintendo 3DS, it's not really suitable to TV in it's current form as you need to be perfectly central to the image to get the 3D effect and the image quality tends to be quite low. If the boffins at the big manufacturers do manage to come up with some way of displaying 3D images effectively on a TV, it certainly won't be ready for use in the home for some time yet.

First Look review: Sky 3D

Are you thinking of taking the plunge into 3D or do you think it's all just a big gimmick? Let us know...