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3Dtv: Grab your glasses ... experts think new TV picture is no fad

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Samsung 3D television
A Samsung 3D television through the special glasses at Don’s Maximum Sight & Sound in Waterloo.

Televisions may be slimmer, but their pictures are getting deeper. Once a novelty, 3D television is catching on. Almost all brands of high-end models now come with a 3D option.

"If someone's looking for a nice TV, 3D comes with it," said Brian Shaw, operations manager at Don's Maximum Sight and Sound. Manufacturers are banking on the trend catching on. In fact, manufacturers like Sony no longer offer internet-capable, high-resolution televisions without the 3D option.

"They kind of clump the features all together," he said.

Industry analysts are confident 3-D will take off.

DisplaySearch predicts that shipments of 3-D televisions will rise from 3.4 million in 2010, or 5 percent of flat-panel TV sales, to 42.9 million, or 37 percent of sales, in 2014.

Although televisions that have 3D capability can also be watched in conventional, flat picture mode, what aren't clumped with those televisions are unlimited glasses viewers need to get the 3D experience. Each pair costs about $100 to $150.

Needing glasses to watch 3D television is one of the biggest reservations people have about the technology. "Some people aren't too thrilled about that," Shaw said.

Glasses that bring the picture to life on one screen may not work on another. Some glasses aren't compatible with other brand televisions because different brands use different types of encoding to make a 3D picture. Some glasses need a battery to stay in sync with the television's 3D encoding.

Jim Pingel of Sound Advice Vac & Video said some people can skirt around spending a fortune on glasses. Polarized sunglasses and standard movie 3D glasses can give a 3D effect for a few 3D television models set to 3D mode.

Some companies have worked on creating a 3D picture without the glasses. Toshiba has introduced such a model earlier this year that could hit stores in a couple of years.

A lack of 3D specific programming also is cooling some customers to the concept. A few 3D channels have already been launched, including ESPN 3. Some television manufacturers have teamed with companies that have produced 3D movies and provide copies of Blu-ray 3D DVDs with the purchase of the TV. Other companies are going a step further. Sony teamed with IMAX and Discovery for Discovery 3D that is to start broadcasting next year.

Shaw said the 3D Blu-ray movies have the deepest pictures compared to broadcast 3D. To experience the movies, viewers need a 3D television, a 3D Blu-ray player and the 3D version of the movie. Even standard programming has some depth in 3D mode.

Pingel and Shaw agree the 3D picture isn't a fad. Movie theaters are putting resources into technology to offer 3D movies. Interest in 3D television has picked up significantly in the last year. Shaw has more than a dozen models on the floor this year. Last year, Pingel sold only one 3D model.

"It will pick up speed," Pingel said. "I think the price will come down as it becomes more mainstream."

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