3D: Nein Danke

[A nostalgic nod to all those cars, usually Citroën 2CVs, which we used to see in the 70s being driven around with “Nuclear Power: Nein Danke” window stickers.]

Upgrading hardware can be contagious, can’t it? Before our spring migration to France this year, my ol’ mum fancied throwing out her massive cathode ray tube television in favour of a larger modern technology beast. She had her fading sight (she’s 94) set on the Olympics and thought, quite correctly, that a modern TV set would give a clearer picture. The old set weighed a ton and filled the corner of her room, so it was a good idea all round. You’d need an Olympic weightlifter just to move it, never mind throw it out. Anyway, we dragged her over to John Lewis to see a few potential replacements and, since modern tellies waste less real estate around the edge of the screen, she settled on a Panasonic Viera 37” Smart TV. She didn’t need the smart bit but it was a good picture so what the hell?

Our existing TV was already modern-ish technology but quite small – we don’t want a telly to dominate our room. However, the picture on the Panasonic Viera 37” Smart TV certainly was very good so we thought we’d go up a size; we managed to talk ourselves into one, too. Since we also now had a decent fibre-optic broadband connection, the BBC iPlayer application built in to the telly meant that we probably would use the smart bit and it would save us hooking up a laptop, on the rare occasions when there was a programme worth watching that we missed first time around.

Both sets arrived and I set about installing them, practicing on ours first. Once unpacked, it seemed huge. It turns out that we had thought our older set was a 32” but it was actually only a 28” – we’d jumped up two sizes. Oops! Never mind, after the initial shock we got used to the slightly-more-dominating-than-intended effect of a 37” rectangle and it certainly is a good picture. On the bigger screen, I could begin to see some benefit to HD transmissions.

The set is also 3D. Double yikes! I put the four pairs of included 3D eyewear (not glasses?) in a drawer and ignored them.

Then along came our wonderfully staged Olympics. The dear ol’ BBC transmits a daily highlights programme at 11:00 PM in 3D. OK, we’re game for a laugh, if we could stay awake until 11:00 PM one night, we’d give it a go. Eventually, we managed to stay awake for some 3D swimming coverage. Out with two pairs of 3D eyewear and onto the BBC HD channel. I set about figuring out how to smash the two completely separate, side-by-side pictures into overlaid but slightly out of alignment pictures. I presume the two images are like the old photographic stereoscope idea, two pictures taken from slightly different angles to produce a sort of binocular effect. I put my 3D eyewear over my glasses and the misalignment magically vanished to be replaced by a single image with some depth perception.

Observation: wearing 3D eyewear on top of regular prescription glasses is not the most comfortable of things.

I remember many years ago going to my first (maybe only) classical concert. This is when I realized that what we like to call hi-fi, high fidelity, is not actually highly faithful to the sounds produced by live concerts at all, it is more like FES or Falsely Enhanced Sound. The clarity and stereo separation of our so-called hi-fi systems are simply unreal.

3D TV seems to me to be the visual equivalent; it’s FEV or Falsely Enhanced Visuals. Most of the 3D effect seemed exaggerated. In the Olympic swimming pool, the blazered officials hanging about poolside as the competitors made their turns or touched at the finish, appeared to be much too far in front of the swimmers. We tried again yesterday for the eagerly anticipated Men’s 100m final; Usain Bolt seems to jump off the track at you. Mind you, he pretty much does that anyway. :)) It felt like watching many separate layers at multiple depths rather than there being a seamless transition to the depth. Not that pleasant, I thought. The 3D eyewear darkens things a little, too.

Watching 3D seemed tiring, in addition to being vaguely uncomfortable. We stuck it for about 15 minutes then decided it was far too much like hard work, not at all relaxing, and reverted to plain old BBC 2D coverage which was much more enjoyable. I put the 3D eyewear back in the drawer.

Still a darn good picture, though, in 2D.

[Incidentally, I’m not sure if it is possible to watch a 3D transmission in 2D. It would be a bummer if we were forced to watch 3D eventually. Must investigate.]

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