The 6 Best 3D Televisions
Seeing the Future: The 3D TV
If you want a more realistic media experience than the one you get with a great 3D television, you'll have to go outside and look at the real world. But it's unlikely that the world just outside your door boasts the same level of action, adventure, romance, and comedy that a 3D TV can make dance before your very eyes. The image clarity, faithful color reproduction, and immersive, three-dimensional experience that this type of hardware creates represents the culmination of decades of technological development, and will dazzle any viewer.
When you are considering the purchase of a 3D television, you must be prepared to spend a large sum of money; that fact cannot be avoided. However, almost every 3D TV offers top-of-the-line image clarity that is unlikely to be notably surpassed for years to come, so your investment should last you for a number of years. Ideally, you can find a unit offering crystal clear 4K ultra high definition resolution (that's a screen with 4,000 pixel resolution across its horizontal access and 2,000 pixels on the vertical axis), as at this level of clarity, the human eye perceives a clear, complete image without any pixelation. While televisions with ever better clarity are sure to be released in the future, on the scale of even the larger consumer TVs currently available, more detail would not even be perceptible.
Next, consider all the other functions and options you'd like your 3D television to offer. Most current televisions in the category offer several HDMI and USB inputs; some have three of each, while some have four HDMI inputs. As the HDMI -- or High Definition Multimedia Interface -- cable is ever more commonly used for everything from gaming systems to Blu-ray players and other media hardware, this number of such inputs your TV allows is an important aspect.
The physical design of a 3D television is also an important factor, especially if you have a specific place you intend to put the unit. Many 3D TVs are slender and lightweight and can be easily mounted on a wall. Others are thicker, heavier, and must be rested atop a sturdy piece of furniture or a reinforced shelving unit. A third category of 3D TVs uses a curved screen; these televisions create stunning imagery, yet they make wall mounting less viable (and often have a narrower effective viewing range, as well).
Finally, there is simply screen size to consider. Some 3D televisions measure 48-inches from opposing corners, while others have screens nearly double that size. Keep in mind that bigger does not always mean better: for a 50-inch 3D TV, you will ideally be seated approximately nine feet from the screen. At 65-inches, you should be as much as thirteen feet away. It follows that one can easily purchase a television that is simply too big for the room in which it will be watched.
The Surprisingly Long History of 3D Media
While your initial incredulity can be forgiven, the fact remains that the first 3D film was released in theaters during the Silent Movie Era. The Power of Love was the title of the first commercial 3D film, and it premiered in September of 1922. Viewers donned glasses with one red and one green lens, while the film was shown using two different projectors run simultaneously. Though reportedly a technical success, apparently the film was not a commercial success in its 3D format. It was never shown again, though another version was released in standard two-dimensional format.
3D films were popular in the 1950s, and became a mainstay of various genres, especially suspense and horror movies. Relatively poor image clarity led to such productions falling out of favor, and by the 1960s the film industry had largely turned away from the format.
In fact, it was not until the early years of the 21st century that three-dimensional media again saw mainstream popularity, with the shining example of James Cameron's Avatar signaling 3D's return to relevance. That groundbreaking film grossed more than 2.7 billion dollars during its long theatrical run (in both 3D and 2D ticket sales) and proved once and for all that high definition 3D images had arrived.
While primitive forms of 3D television technology have been around since then 1930s, it was not until the second decade of this century that 3D TVs entered the mainstream marketplace. Aficionados of the medium may have several years more to wait before there is a truly wide range of hardware and brands from which to browse, however: adoption of the technology has been slow in the consumer marketplace, and many companies are even turning away from 3D television, in favor instead of smart-enabled hardware.
How Does 3D Work, Anyway?
Three-dimensional media works by tricking the brain into seeing an image that is not truly there; in most cases, your eyes are seeing two different images, in fact, that are sightly different than one another but which when perceived at the same time through the right viewing hardware synthesize an image with depth.
The principle at work is called stereopsis. A specialized camera captures two slightly different angles of the same scene (or a computer program later creates this effect), and these divergent images are then shown on the television at the same time, though polarized so that each can only be clearly seen through a corresponding lens type. When you are wearing the right glasses, each differently polarized lens will let you see one aspect of the image per eye, and your brain does the rest of the work. This is the process used for passive 3D viewing.
Active 3D televisions rapidly display frames that are alternately coded to be seen by the left or right eye of the viewer, one after the other. Specialized glasses communicate with the TV, rapidly blocking and then clearing the view of each eye in time with the frames projected. This allows for a crisp, clear view of 3D images, but also requires your viewing glasses to be regularly charged.
A third category of 3D TV requires no glasses at all: auto-stereoscopic televisions use a minute physical barrier -- a slit on the screen itself, in effect, to limit the view of each eye. When a viewer is positioned at the right angle and distance from the screen, a three-dimensional experience is created. These units require very specific positioning, however, and are thus implausible for any shared 3D experience.