You have to give DirecTV and Panasonic props for launching a full-time 3D channel when there were considerably fewer than 1 million 3D TVs in people’s homes. That move helped the industry avoid the traditional chicken-and-egg act, where TV makers cry for more programming to sell new-format TVs, but content companies say they need the installed base to grow before making the jump. That’s why we often see hardware companies subsidizing programming during the launch of a new format.
n|3D offered the most 3D content at the time of our viewing (though it appears 3net is intent on closing the gap), carrying a pretty diverse range of programs, from documentaries and travelogues to music events and comedy shows.
I tuned into Guitar Center Sessions, featuring artists such as Jane’s Addiction, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Joe Bonamassa, and The Cult. It was great seeing artists in an intimate session — and the 3D did add to the sense “being there” during the performance, though too often foreground performers looked like cardboard cutouts pasted against the amps and guitars in the background. Rock Gala: Eric Clapton, a recording of a Prince’s Trust concert, fared a bit better. Shots taken from above and to the side of the stage presented a good perspective of the theater, the size of the stage, and the distance between the players and the backline equipment, though sometimes the dark venue, combined with the dimming action of the active-shutter 3D glasses, presented a too-dark picture.
Wildlife travelogues and documentaries — including Wild Safari: A South African Adventure, African Adventure: Safari in Okavango, and S.O.S. Planet — ranged in quality from very good to jarring. The safari adventures suffered from exaggerated 3D effects, with Okavango bordering on downright awful. The combination of exaggerated geometries (in several scenes where a jeep was heading toward the camera, the driver's left leg looked to be about 20 feet long ) and shaky camera shots sent my wife and son out of the room after about 10 minutes.
More fun for my family was Encounter in the Third Dimension, a compendium of snippets of old 3D movies and animated material that manages to be both educational and entertaining — a good intro to 3D for the uninitiated. Both also liked S.O.S Planet, a show narrated by Walter Cronkite that looks at environmental issues, including some very good computer-generated sequences (monkeys throwing fruit at the screen; a giant tentacle that seemed to reach into the room) that evoked strong responses from my son.
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