Bright House Networks visit proves 3-D TV still a novelty...for now
And you jump as if the sand pellets were about to hit your legs.
That's the most impressive moment I witnessed while sampling 3-D television technology at Bright House Networks' offices, where the cable company has one of the area's few 3-D capable television sets to show off its on demand collection of clips from the Masters golf tournament.
Bright House will be offering these bits to digital HD customers until the end of the month. And if you don't have a 3-D set and glasses handy, there's three units set up at the Outback Pro-Am in Lutz until the day's end Sunday.
As the company's engineering VP Sabrina Calhoun explained, the three dimensional image is created by filming the live action with two cameras capturing slightly different images. The images are melded by the 3-D system, which requires viewers to wear clunky powered glasses with special shutters.
The effect was something less than Avatar-perfect, as backgrounds and certain features looked blurry, usually because one of the cameras providing the images was out of focus. And no disrespect to Phil Mickelson and Tiger, but it seems there must be more scintillating sports to try capturing in 3-D; watching Arnold Palmer swat a ceremonial tee off to start the Masters is just about as boring in three dimensons as it was to watch in two.
There's other complaints: the camera people don't yet know how to frame shots to maximize the 3-D effect, so much of the footage seem unexceptional. And the kind of group TV viewing which makes watching sports really thrilling isn't easy in this format, because everyone needs special glasses which cost upward of $150 each (at least they fit over my regular glasses easily).
There's also some weird warnings out there about 3-D technology: it can cause epileptic seizures, isn't recommended for people under the influence of alcohol or sleep deprivation -- there goes your sports viewers! -- along with pregnant women and the elderly.
In fact, tally all the costs -- about $2,400 for the TV set, $150 each for the glasses and $400 for a 3-D capable Blu Ray DVD player (which provides two sets of battery-powered glasses for free) and you've got a pretty hefty price tag for programing right now mostly limited to Bright House's 3-D excerpts, the recent release of Monsters vs Aliens and the upcoming release of Avatar.
There's 3-D channels coming from Discovery Networks and ESPN, but even those channels will only offer a handful of 3-D shows.
So while 3-D remains an interesting possibility, seems there's some significant hurdles left before it spreads beyond the techno-geek early adopters.