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3D TV Newbie: Setting it Up, Watching the Wife

I’ll be the first to admit, I thought the world of 3D TV was more of a pipe dream than the stuff real dreams are made of. But technology is bound to evolve, so the time was right to become an early adopter of something other than a game console. 3D TV it was. I’ve espoused the virtues of all sorts of newfangled home entertainment, most notably D-BOX and its literally “moving” experience, but 3D TV was a tough pill to swallow. I’ve lived through the red and blue glasses. I’ve lived through polarized lenses. “Now they’re trying to sell me on active-shutter glasses that cost $150 a pop?” Yes they are, only this time, they (being the TV manufacturers and movie studios) hope they can finally deliver us to the 3D promised land.

Too bad my first steps into the world of 3D TV weren’t leading me down that path. In fact, for all the hype you see online, in stores and on TV, I was surprised at how many barriers to entry the 3D TV scene actually presented.

Sony was incredibly gracious to send along four pairs of active-shutter glasses and a Bravia 55HX800, a full review of which will come in the next few weeks. You’d better believe I’m going to get some serious 3D Blu-ray reviews out of this set, but for the love of all that’s good and pure, how on Earth can securing a 55-inch 3D TV be easier than tracking down a $40 3D Blu-ray movie? And then, when I finally had both in hand, why did setting it up have to be so difficult? Well, maybe “difficult” is a relative term.

The Bravia 3D TV is incredibly lightweight and intuitive, so getting it installed and connected was a piece of cake (again, full review later). Before heading into the world of 3D, I was able to watch the Oregon Ducks smash the USC Trojans in HD, and I watched some HD television and a non-3D Blu-ray movie. Having verified that the set was in working order, I ventured out to procure one of the fabled 3D Blu-ray movies. That’s where the speed bumps began.

Only a few 3D Blu-ray movies are currently available, but a metric ton will ship in mid-November and through the holidays. We have multiple 3D Blu-ray reviews already lined up, and I’m hoping that 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. will help me fill the site with reviews of their upcoming 3D Blu-rays as well. But right now, with the current state of retail 3D Blu-rays, the selection is rather limited. Just ask my local Suncoast, which didn’t have any in stock. Or my local Fred Meyer (Kroger), whose home electronics department actually laughed at my inquiry. Or the first Best Buy I visited, which triple-checked its inventory and came back negative each time. Finally, a last-ditch stop into another Best Buy location yielded a single 3D Blu-ray, Monster House, which I promptly snatched up. Each location had 3D TVs to sell, but the actual 3D Blu-rays to watch on them? Not so much.

Well, $35 and a trip back to the DailyGame “batcave” later, and I finally had what we needed to properly review the 55-inch 3D Bravia. Presuming I could get it hooked up, that is. The glasses, 3D transmitter and settings all seemed simple enough, and I don’t think Sony could have made their manuals any more clear. I still couldn’t get it to work. 3D transmitter plugged-in? Check. Glasses turned on? Check. 3D Blu-ray player plugged directly into the TV rather than the non-3D receiver? Check. Still, the 3D settings wouldn’t recognize, and thus the movie wouldn’t allow me to play it in 3D. And yes, I read the instructions. Now that’s desperation.

I tried unplugging absolutely everything, powering-down every component and then plugging-in all the hardware again before turning on a single element (3D Blu-ray player, 3D glasses or 3D TV). Hell, the lights in the room were even turned off. Magically, it worked. You know how sometimes your phone acts weird and you have to power-cycle it to get it to cooperate? Well, I used the same logic here and it worked. Maybe it did take me about 15 minutes to come to that realization, but it got the job done. After firing it all back up, the 3D worked flawlessly.

I suppose somewhere in this whole experience lies a social commentary about my frustration that setup took 15 minutes. Maybe an insightful half-joke about living in an “instantaneous” Internet society where any delay — either perceived or real — is seen as a flaw. Heck, it takes longer to fill up at the gas station than it did to setup this 3D TV, but I still found myself frustrated at this new world. Then again, I went into this whole thing with months-old skepticism about 3D TV. I went into the setup doubtful that 3D TV would actually work well or be worth the $3,000 price of admission. Perhaps I was predisposed to be a Debbie Downer about any hiccup I encountered. Maybe I was even subconsciously looking for something to complain about.

But a funny thing happened when it all started working: I became a believer. My wife — the ultimate non-techy — watched the first 10 minutes of the Monster House 3D Blu-ray and said “woah” out loud at something as simple as Sony’s 3D logo spinning on the screen. She smiled as fall leaves tumbled down the digital sidewalk. She flipped her glasses up and down to compare the 3D visuals she saw with what someone who wasn’t wearing special glasses would see (it’s rather fuzzy). Suddenly, this non-technical 30-something mother was engaged and awestruck by the most technically advanced TV Sony’s created. Suddenly, this husband wasn’t just a geek with cool toys, but a provider of cool home entertainment. Suddenly, watching a movie at home was “new” again — even if it was a three-year-old film.

I’m still a visitor in the world of 3D TV, but so far I like the trip. I need to walk around and see some more sights before I make a final judgment on whether this is a permanent destination, so I’ll do as many 3D Blu-ray and game reviews as possible. I’ll write them from an “everyman” angle, because specs and techno babble don’t really matter in this case. If the 3D TV manufacturers and 3D Blu-ray studios need to prove one thing, it’s that this new technology is entertaining, fun and effective. Those simple things are crucial, arguably even more than technical specs, because 3D home movies haven’t succeeded in the past. But, if my wife’s reaction and engagement is any indication — and mine was identical, just for the record — then 3D TV and 3D Blu-ray might just be here to stay. And this curmudgeon, with all his skepticism about the world’s recent 3D craze, might just be staying with them.

— Jonas Allen

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