Testing the First 3D DirecTV Broadcast: Surprisingly DecentS

I've seen 3D on every type of TV/glasses combo, but up until now, the video feed itself was always streamed from Blu-ray. So with DirecTV announcing three 3D HD channels arriving in 2010, I just had to try it out.

My verdict: After about 5 minutes of watching the feed on a 50-ish inch Panasonic plasma (using shutter glasses, of course), I think DirecTV's broadcast is about as good as any 3D I've seen for the home theater market.

Really, while I despise the low quality of my HD DirecTV channels at home, the 3D stream gliding to the floor of CES is not nearly as compressed as the crap subscribers have been looking at. It's actually quite sharp—as sharp as any 3D I've seen.

But that's not to say the same issues I have with shutter glasses 3D aren't there—I still feel an inherent distance from the screen, and frame rates tend to get choppy on sports—choppier, I suspect, than the sports footage I've seen on 3D Blu-ray. Skin tones, too, seemed to be lacking that extra bit of color data that makes them pop—and color information is the first thing to go in video compression (but without a side-by-side of the same TV with the same video clip, it's tough to control for the testing).

Footage of Toy Story 2, meanwhile, was fairly brilliant (and colorful!), as were the crashing white caps of a waterfall from some nameless nature documentary. As sharp as Blu-ray (for all intents and purposes), I have to say, DirecTV sure can make a pretty picture when they're trying.

It's just too bad that DirecTV needs the pressure of 3D to do it, and 5 minutes of the experience gave me a headache that's still bothering me even now.