Panasonic 3DHD: Decent 3D Video That's As Impractical As Any 3D Ever

After the press conference blitz of today, I snuck off to Panasonic's booth (still under construction) to check out their 3DHD technology—a 3D plasma screen that runs in true 1080p.

Before you read any further, I'll answer that nagging question. Yes, you need to wear special glasses.

The demo system starts with a retrofitted 103-inch Panasonic plasma. Coupled with active shutter glasses, a Blu-ray player feeds a 120fps 1080P signal to the television. 60fps are for the right eye while the other 60fps are for the left. IR syncs the glasses to the Blu-ray player to the TV, and presto, 3D magic is made.

So how's it look?

Good. It is sharp, I'll give Panasonic that. 60fps per eye means that the 3D image isn't created through some cheap interlacing effect that would kill the resolution. Watching highlights of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies (captured on dual lens 3D cameras), I was really impressed by the endless lines of drummers popping off the screen without the hokey feel of most 3D. A basketball game was equally impressive. It was like watching a perfectly photo-realistic NBA video game, minus the canned animations.

But I never really felt connected to the image. I blame the shutter glasses. There's something imperceptibly distancing about that technology to me—which was only exacerbated by a greasy smear on one of the lenses. It was work to watch these short clips.

Panasonic hopes to commercialize the technology by 2010, something I believe with their huge push with Hollywood types like James Cameron endorsing the technology. And while I can see the appeal of 3D imaging for everyday video content, I really don't think that it will be popularized with shutter glasses, regardless of Blu-ray and fancy plasmas.