3D TV has been available in the UK since 2010, mainly on Sky Digital, who have a dedicated 3D channel, but also from Virgin Media and BT Vision, who both offer on demand content (mainly movies) in 3D. It’s hard to say how far 3D TV will catch on – Sky reached 70,000 3D customers by the end of January 2011 – but it has a definite attraction for fans of sport and movies.
3D TV Packages
When it comes to 3D TV packages there is really only one so far – Sky Digital is the only provider with a 3D channel which is only included in the Sky World HD package. This is the top Sky package and consists of the following -
- The Sky Entertainment Pack – over 40 channels, including 9 out of the 10 most watched paid-for channels on Sky, including Sky Atlantic, Sky1, Sky Living, FX, SyFy, Comedy Central, Sky Arts and Watch
- Sky Sports complete pack
- Sky Movies complete pack
- Sky Broadband Everyday Lite – 20Mb broadband
- Sky Talk Freetime – included evening and weekend UK landline calls with Sky line rental £12.25 a month
Virgin Media and BT Vision customers can access 3D content on demand but don’t need to be on any particular package to do so. All three of the Virgin TV boxes – the V HD Box, the V+HD Box and the TiVo Box – are 3D ready and the BT TV box the Vision+ Box is too.
What Equipment Do I Need for 3D?
To watch 3D TV you will need a 3D television with 3D glasses. The 3D glasses are not quite so outlandish-looking as some of their predecessors, looking more like a pair of decent shades, and some can be worn over a regular pair of glasses too. They are powered by a small battery or rechargeable via a USB port and cost somewhere in the region of £50 a pair. Samsung produce glasses to be sold alongside its range of 3D TVs which are available in adult and child sizes and in both battery and USB versions. They estimate a battery life of 25 hours for the USB goggles and 50 hours for the battery powered version.
The centrepiece of your set-up, the 3D TV, will be much more of an investment – we’re currently looking at price tags starting around £700 for a 32 inch model but this will come down all the time. The main players in the market – Samsung, JVC, LG and Sony – are all bringing out new 3D TVs all the time, and Sky have stated that although you can watch 3D TV on a screen as small as 26 inches, the larger the screen the better.
3D TV with no glasses is available in Japan at the time of writing in the Toshiba Regza range and is quite impressive, although when we tried it there were two things off-putting about it – firstly the recommended position is 80cm from the screen which just feels too close and secondly the price. This will come down of course but we compared a 20″ glasses-less 3D TV to a 46″ Sony with glasses and the quality was better (and the screen size more than double) on the Sony for less money.
How Does 3D TV Work?
The 3D technology adopted by Sky is based on polarisation, where filming is done with two cameras at approximately the same width apart as the eyes and produces a separate stream of images for the left and the right eye. The images are then projected from an LCD screen using polarised filters which, in conjunction with the polarised 3D glasses worn by the viewer, time the images in such a precise way that they are seen only by the eye for which they are intended.
What content is shown in 3D?
One of the initial problems with 3D TV was, of course, lack of content, but since then we’ve seen the FA Cup Final shown in 3D. When Sky rolled out the service to domestic customers (after a trial in pubs) it featured selected content from their Sports, Movies, Arts, Music and Entertainment channels as well as pay-per-view movies and events.
History of 3D TV in the UK
3D TV officially launched on Sky 1st October 2010 – Virgin Media pipped Sky by a day but there wasn’t a lot of content to be seen, just a couple of on-demand movies. Sky’s first experiment took place in April 2009 when they broadcast a gig by Keane from Abbey Road studios in 3D, and then in January 2010 a match between Arsenal and Manchester Utd was seen in 3D by fans in nine selected UK pubs (although trivia fans should note the first football game Sky shot in 3D was Fulham vs Sunderland on December 5th 2009).
In 2011 another 3D channel called 3net was launched as a joint venture between the Discovery Channel, Sony and Imax but only in the USA, and in June 2010 the sports channel ESPN also entered the world of 3D with a channel dedicated to live sports events (rather than repeats) – again in the USA.
Here is a selection of 3D TVs on the market…
Digital TV Packages
- Sky+ HD Starter
- Sky+ HD with Sky Movies
- Sky+ HD with Sky World
- Sky+ HD with Sky Sports
- Virgin TV L + Phone M
- Virgin Media TiVo Starter Bundle
- Premiere Collection
- Top Up TV Favourites
- Top Up TV Complete Sports Pack
- BT Vision Gold Pack
- TV Essential + Broadband and Anytime Calls
- TV Unlimited + Broadband + Anytime Calls
Sky TV Starter Deal
Only £21.50 a month
Sky+ TV, broadband and calls £21.50 a month. Free Sky+ Box and set-up, up to 2GB broadband usage and included evening and weekend calls.
Virgin Classic Collection
£18 a month
Over 55 TV channels with 5 in HD, TiVo, On Demand & Catch-Up, 30Mb Broadband plus Phone with unlimited weekend calls! £18 a month plus line rental.
BT Vision Starter Deal
£17 a month
£25 Sainsburys Gift Card > Free Vision+ Box > 16Mb Broadband – 10GB usage > Freeview, Catch-Up & Pay per View > Anytime calls > Online only offer
Top Up TV Favourites
£11.99 a month
Library of popular TV – over 700 shows to choose from each month including Life on Mars, Little Britain, Lost and many more. Box from £39.99 – £20 set-up.