As an avid gamer and film fan, I desperately want to enjoy 3D, but so far it's been a massive letdown. So where better to try and boost my enthusiasm, than a huge arena packed with the latest TV sets and 3D games? Gadget Show Live, time to wow me.
First of all I head on over to the games area and get stuck into a bit of Killzone 3 on a Sony Bravia. When I played an early demo of the game last August I wasn't impressed with the 3D at all. Six months later though and the game has rocketed past my expectations.
The most impressive scene I witnessed was the early level where you're inside a mech-walker, scouting out a route through the broken Helghan Capital. The depth of the mech's cockpit was incredible, it really added to the feeling of scope and made me realise how big the mech actually was. Bullets fired directly at you seem to be more realistic too thanks to the extra layer of depth they travel through. Errant bullets to your left and right lose the effect a little though.
Considering the PS3 has to create duplicate images to create 3D, I couldn't fault the framerate or the crispness of the graphics. The picture didn't seem to be darker either which is usually a problem with most 3D images thanks to the tinted lenses. In short, brilliant.
Sony were also showing off their new HDR-TD10E 3D camcorder, priced around £1160. It comes with two lenses, two processors and 64GB of on-board storage. The flip-out viewfinder shows whatever you're shooting in 3D without the need for 3D glasses. This little screen is amazing, not only does it batter the 3DS, it looks better than the 3D coming from the same camera, plugged into a nearby Sony Bravia, which still requires glasses. There's no doubting the 3D capabilities of the camera though as we tried the most scientific way of testing the 3D, poking our fingers towards the lens to see them come to poke us back from the Bravia. We know science.
The Panasonic Viera 3D TV range varied somewhat. Avatar looks impressive enough running on a 3D TV as far as HD quality's concerned, but a lot of the action seemed flat. When there is a brief flash of 3D, it often left the impression of being super-imposed over the scenery behind it, ruining the illusion somewhat. Another screen showed footage of a snake in a wildlife documentary which fared much better thanks to the camera-curious snake craning its serpentine head out of the screen. Crysis 2 was running on a third screen. If I'm honest, if it wasn't for the depth of field of the gun at the bottom of the screen, I wouldn't have believed there was any 3D going on at all apart from the floating ammo-counter display. Fantastically sharp picture, just not a lot going on 3D wise.
While the content and quality varied across the Panasonic range, LG looked to be way ahead with the three models they had on display which included the LW450U, the LW550T and LW650T. The showreel of football, boxing, darts, ballet and wildlife scenes was an excellent range of quality examples of 3D. No games were on display, but if you can make darts look good, you're doing well.
The ballet scenes showed off the depth of field with the various lines of dancers on stage. The shots of a butterfly flexing its wings on a leaf were the biggest gasp moments. If you looked from a decent angle, it looked like the wing had actually left the edge of the screen and TV itself. The viewing angle range was much wider for these sets too. Hell, it may have been even better at an angle. Usually you have to be facing dead-on centre to get anything out of 3D TVs.
Another impressive element to the LG screens is that they only require passive lens glasses. None of that electronic active-shutter nonsense. Standard, cheap glasses like those you'd get at the cinema. Great if you're likely to sit on them or want the family to watch along with you without breaking the bank. You're looking at £750-£1200 minimum for one of these beauties, but considering you're not going to have to spend £90 a pair on glasses for each family member, it may be a better choice if you're itching to get involved with 3D.
The cheap, standard specs are much more comfortable than say the Sony and Panasonic active shutter ones, which feel heavy on your face and have a large rubber grip around the nose that reminds me more of swimming goggles than glasses. I generally find the viewing lenses are too narrow too.
3D at home is clearly the next big step, as long as we can get a regular supply of quality to make it worth the pricey investment of a new TV. The problem is deciding which type of set to invest in. One with fancy electronic glasses, or one like the new LG range that only need cheap semi-disposable glasses? Or do you want to wait until glasses-free 3D becomes the norm? If you wait for 3D TV without the glasses though, chances are it will cost a hell of a lot more than the sets that need glasses. That's all on top of the ridiculous amounts of money Sky are charging for 3D programmes; and if you've been to your local cinema and been shafted for 5 seconds of 3D in a film, do you care anyway? Ask any cinema staff today, and they'll tell you 3D is becoming less of a draw as it used to be especially with families when they're given the choice of the same kid's film in 2D or 3D. Or do you buy a high-quality 50-inch HD plasma for the same price as a basic 32-inch 3D TV?
Gaming has a lot of responsibility heaped onto its shoulders to make 3D at home a success, it's fair to say that the PS3 and Xbox 360 are widely responsible for starting the initial transition into HD TV becoming the norm and they will be vital in pushing more people towards 3D.
The game developers are going to have to start to think about what they can actually add to the experience by using 3D though. Crysis 2 looked great, but mainly because it's a great looking game anyway, the 3D was very forgettable. The 3D might have been better in Killzone 3, but how much will you appreciate it after the first half hour? Could motion controlled games be the answer? PlayStation Move and Kinect are full of potential to immerse us into the game world, Child of Eden in 3D anyone? First-person 3D Fight Night or FIFA perhaps?
Enough from me for now. Have a look at a second opinion on 3D, including the latest 3D laptops, at The Gadget show Live from our very own Carl Phillips.
Carl Phillips: I'll start this off by stating I’m not the biggest supporter of the current 3D technologies. As far as I’m concerned you’re still separated from the action by a window that is your screen, and to me the 3D effect just looks like various flat images going back and forth in the distance. That’s not to say there aren’t some devices that do look impressive, but the worthwhile options for 3D entertainment in the home, in my view, is generally lacking. However that didn’t stop me from testing out the latest offerings from the world’s leading manufacturers and I was a little surprised by what I found.
A lot of the televisions on display were using the powered glasses with Active Shutter Lenses, such as the Panasonic and Sony brands, and while they did achieve the 3D effect I found the image ended up looking too dark once I put on the glasses, and the actual 3D effects ranged from “quite nice” to lacklustre, never really delivering anything spectacular which is really what we’re all looking for. In addition, I would like to stand up for the spectacle wearers amongst us all and state that the ASL glasses have never been user-friendly to those that need to wear glasses, and the trend still continues (which baffles me.) In the end it was LG and their plastic stereostopic glasses that produced the best 3D images of the show, giving off a crisp image whilst not darkening the on-screen image.
I also had some time to test out some of the latest 3D-enabled laptops at the Razor and Nvidea stands, both of which used ASL glasses, and both produced less than stellar results. Sure, seeing Starcraft II and James Raynor in 3D would have been a treat, but the constant flickering of the image made it impossible for prolonged enjoyment. In my opinion, 3D enabled laptops may seem like a great idea but it just doesn’t translate well in execution. My advice for all the devices, be it TV’s or laptops, is to try before you buy to avoid potential disappointment, but I personally think it could be another year or two before we see something amazing with 3D technology, and until then my money is staying firmly in my pocket.
What about you guys? Got a 3D TV yet? Thinking of getting one? And what do you expect from 3D games?