Blu-ray 3D good news, and very bad
Chris Forrester

Last week the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) settled the full specification for 3D on Blu-ray players and similar devices. That’s the good news. But there’s bad news as far as viewing 3D content is concerned.

The BDA specification, which represents the work of the leading Hollywood studios and consumer electronic and computer manufacturers, enables the home entertainment industry to bring the stereoscopic 3D experience into consumers’ living rooms on Blu-ray disc (BD), but will require consumers to acquire new players, high-definition TVs and shutter glasses.

“Throughout this year, movie goers have shown an overwhelming preference for 3D when presented with the option to see a theatrical release in either 3D or 2D. We believe this demand for 3D content will carry over into the home now that we have, in Blu-ray Disc, a medium that can deliver a quality Full HD 3D experience to the living room,” said Victor Matsuda, chairman of the BDA global promotions committee.

The specification allows every Blu-ray 3D player and movie to deliver full HD 1080p resolution (1920x1080, progressive scan) to each eye, thereby maintaining the industry-leading image quality, which further distances Blu-ray from high-definition options provided by internet-based services. The BDA spec is display agnostic, meaning that Blu-ray 3D products will deliver the 3D image to any compatible 3D display, regardless of whether that display uses LCD, Plasma or other technology and regardless of what 3D technology the display uses to deliver the image to the viewer’s eyes. The compulsory thing for stereoscopic 3D is that those screens should support 120Hz or higher refresh rate.

The specification supports playback of 2D discs in forthcoming 3D players and can enable 2D playback of Blu-ray 3D discs on the large installed base of Blu-ray Disc players currently in homes around the world.

The BDA spec comes nicely ahead of January’s giant CES technology show in Las Vegas.

The bad news, and we might learn more at CES, concerns the cost of viewing Blu-ray discs. While Sony, Panasonic and LG have all promised they’ll have 3D sets available shortly in 2010 (LG says it expects to sell 400,000 3D sets next year), it seems that suitable 3D specs will cost users in the region of $75-$150 each!

XpanD, a 3D specs manufacturer, says two sets of its 3D glasses will be bundled in with most 3D TV sets, which is sensible. But they are fragile beasts, and sofas being what they are we humans will sit on them, or the dog will chew them up. XpanD’s models are active shutter devices which need re-charging after about 250 hours (via a USB connection). But lose one, or have friends over and it could be an expensive evening’s viewing.

While few manufacturers are actively promoting retail sales of the rival Polarising specs, they can be ordered in bulk (1000 sets) for as little as $15 a unit.

© Rapid TV News 2009