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3D TV Is Dead—What You Need To Know

It’s important to understand why the whole thing started before we can get into the “why it all went wrong” part. This is what the “Avatar Effect” does.

While 3D movie viewing dates back decades, James Cameron’s Avatar was a game-changer. The worldwide success of 3D movie production meant that movie studios began to pump out 3D movies into theaters. TV manufacturers, starting with Panasonic and LG, also made 3D available for home viewing via 3D TV. But that was only the beginning of many mistakes.

Now, what happened?

Before 3D TV was even born, a lot of things conspired to end it. These can be summarized by these three factors.

  • Unfortunate Timing
  • Expensive, incompatible glasses
  • Extra Costs

Let’s look at these and other problems that have plagued 3D TVs since the beginning.

Lifewire / Theresa Chiechi

Poorly Timed 3D TV Introduction

Its introduction was delayed, which was the first error. With the implementation of DTV Transition 2009, all over-the air TV broadcasting was switched from analog to digital, the U.S. had just experienced a major consumer disruption.

Millions of people bought new HDTVs between 2007-2009 to meet “new” broadcast requirements, or analogue-to-digital converters to keep their old analog TVs running for a while. When 3D TV was first introduced in 2010, many consumers weren’t ready to throw away their newly purchased TVs and open their wallets to buy 3D.

The Glasses

Bad timing wasn’t the only mistake. Special glasses were required to view 3D effects on TV. You also had to wear special glasses in order to see the 3D effect on a TV.

A system known as the “active shutter” was adopted by some TV manufacturers, led by Samsung and Panasonic. To create the 3D effect, the system required viewers to wear glasses with shutters that could alternately open and close. This was done in conjunction with alternately displayed left-right eye images on the TV. Other manufacturers, led by Vizio and LG, adopted a system called “passive-polarized”. This means that the TV displays both left and right images simultaneously, while the glasses required use polarization to create the 3D effect.

The problem with this system was that the glasses were not interchangeable. Passive glasses could not be used with 3D TVs that required active glasses. Even worse, while you can use the same passive glasses on any 3D TV with that system, it is not possible to use the same glasses with 3D TVs with active shutter systems. Because of the different sync requirements, glasses for Panasonic 3D TVs may not work with Samsung 3D TVs.

The cost of 3D glasses was another problem. Passive glasses are very affordable, but active shutter glasses can be quite expensive (sometimes as high as $100 per pair). The cost of active shutter glasses was very high for families with 4 or more members or those who hosted movie nights regularly.

Additional Costs (You Needed to Have More Than a 3D TV).

More costs! Consumers will need to purchase or lease a 3D-enabled cable/satellite, as well as a 3D TV with correct glasses. To enjoy a truly 3D viewing experience, they must also invest in a Blu-ray Disc player that supports 3D and/or a Blu-ray Disc player that can support 3D. You should also ensure that your 3D TV is compatible with all internet services offering 3D streaming.

A new receiver is required for anyone who had a system that routed video signals through a receiver at home. It must be compatible with 3D signals from any 3D Blu-ray Disc player or cable/satellite boxes.

The 2D-to-3D Conversion Mess

Recognizing that not all consumers want to buy the necessary gear to experience true 3D viewing, TV manufacturers decided to add the ability for 3D TVs with real-time 2D to 3D conversion.

This allowed consumers to view existing 2D content in 3D straight out of the box. However, the 3D viewing experience was far less than actual 3D.

3D is Dim

3D TV has another problem: 3D images can be darker than 2D images. To compensate, 3D TV manufacturers made the huge mistake of not including increased light output technologies in their 3D TVs.

Ironically, however, HDR technology was introduced in 2015. TVs now have a higher light output capability. While this would have been a benefit to 3D viewing, the TV manufacturers decided to eliminate 3D viewing and instead focus their efforts on HDR implementation and improving4K performance, while keeping 3D out of the mix.

3D, Live TV and Streaming

It is difficult to use 3D for live TV. Two channels are needed to offer 3D TV programming. This is so standard TV owners can still view a program on one channel and those who want to see it in 3D on the other. It was more expensive for broadcast networks to offer separate feeds to local stations and for local stations maintain two separate channels to transmit to viewers.

Multiple channels are simpler to operate on cable/satellite. However, many consumers didn’t want to pay extra fees so the options were limited. ESPN, DirecTV and other 3D satellite and cable offerings were discontinued after a limited number.

Vudu and other streaming services still offer 3D content. But, it’s not clear how long this will continue.

Problems at Retail Sales Level

The poor experience in retail sales was another reason 3D failed.

There was initially a lot hype surrounding 3D TVs and 3D demos. However, once the initial push had ended, you would find that the salespeople were less knowledgeable and 3D glasses often went missing. Active shutter glasses also didn’t charge or were missing batteries.

It was the result that many consumers who were interested in purchasing a 3D television would walk out of the store without knowing anything about it, how it worked, what the best optimization was for a 3DTV to provide the best viewing experience and what they needed to enjoy 3D movies at home.

Sometimes it wasn’t clear that all 3D TVs could display images in standard 2D. If 3D content is unavailable, a 3D TV can still be used in the same way as any other TV. However, if 2D viewing is more suitable or desired, it can still be used.

Not everyone likes 3D

3D is not for everyone. If 3D is not something you want to see with your family or friends, the only thing they will see are two images that overlap.

Sharp glasses could convert 3D back into 2D. However, this required an optional purchase. If the reason the person didn’t want to see 3D was that they don’t like wearing glasses, then having to wear a different type to view 2D TV while others are viewing it in 3D is a no-starter.

3D viewing on a TV is not the same as using a video projector

The 3D viewing experience on a TV does not compare to going to the local cinema, or using a home theatre video projector and screen.

While not everyone enjoys 3D, there are many consumers who accept 3D as an acceptable way to watch movies. A video projector and large screen are more suitable for home 3D viewing. A TV screen that is not large or close to the viewer is similar to looking through a small window. The 3D experience is less desirable if the view field is smaller.

4K 3D is not available

Another problem was the refusal to include 3D in 4K standards. As a result, when the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc format came out in late 2015, there was no provision to implement 3D on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disks and no indication that movie studios would support this feature.

What is the Future of 3D TV?

In the short-term, 3D TVs are still in widespread use in the U.S. (and around the globe). 3D TV is also popular in China and Europe. Movies and other content will continue to be available on 3D Bluray in the near future. Even though 3D is not part of Ultra HD Blu-ray disc format, most players still enjoy 3D Blu-ray Disks.

You can still play all your discs if you have a 3D Bluray player or Ultra HD Bluray disc player and a 3D TV. There are approximately 450 3D Bluray Disc movie titles, with more on the horizon. The majority of top 3D Bluray Disc movies come with a standard 2D Bluray version.

Paramount and Disney have stopped marketing 3D Blu-ray Disc movies in the U.S. However, they are still available in select markets. You may need to buy them from overseas sources. You may need to purchase them from international sources.

3D TV may make a comeback if we look long-term. If TV producers, content providers and broadcasters want it so, the technology can be re-implemented and modified for HDR, 4K and other TV technologies at any time. The development of 3D with no glasses is continuing, with ever-improving outcomes.

If TV manufacturers had given more thought to timing, market demand and technical issues regarding product performance as well as consumer communication, would 3D TV have been a success? It is possible, or not, that 3D TV made several serious mistakes and may have lost its way.

The bottom line

Consumer electronics are constantly changing. There have been many innovations in consumer electronics such as BETA and Laserdisc and HD-DVD and CRT, Rear Projection and Plasma TVs. Curved Screen TVs are showing signs of slowing down. The future of VR (Virtual Reality) is not yet firmly established. This is because VR requires heavy headgear. But, it is possible that vinyl records will make a surprising comeback. Who’s to say 3D TV won’t be revived at some point?

Keep everything running in the “meantime” for those who own 3D content and products. If you are looking to buy a 3D TV, or 3D Video projector for your home, there may be some 3D TVs that are still available on clearance. Most home theater video projectors still offer 3D viewing.

The 9 Top TVs in 2022

Additional Bonus for 3D Fans

The Samsung 85-inch UN85JU7100 Ultra HD 3D TV is a 2015 model. It may still be available at a few retailers.

At this time, no Samsung 2016 model (models having a K), 2017, or 2018 model (models featuring an M) is 3D-capable. If Samsung does not announce otherwise, whatever 2015 model supply (signified with a J), is available is what is left. The Samsung UN85JU7100 is a limited-time offer if you have an 85-inch TV and are a fan of 3D.

The 65-inch Sony XBR65Z9D Ultra HD TV with a 3D viewing feature is another option. It is a 2016 model and is still available in limited quantities.

If you’re a true 3D enthusiast, be sure to check out the Bluray.com website for the latest 3D Bluray Disc reviews. You can also network with other 3D fans at the 3D Bluray Movie Enthusiast Group Facebook.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the working principle of 3D TVs? 3D TVs create a 3D theater experience by using multiple images and signals. Special 3D glasses can help convert these signals into one image. Some 3D TVs can support 3D content, while others convert 2D video into 3D depending on the model.
  • What is the best way to watch 3D content on non-3D TVs? You could use a 3D projector if you are interested in 3D viewing but don’t own a 3D TV. An 8K HDTV with glasses-free 3D is another option.

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