First Look at DirecTV's 3D Service

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Las Vegas — Panasonic is featuring a live DirecTV 3D channel on the CES show floor, showing a smattering of 3D video on 65-inch plasma HDTVs that use active shutter glasses.

The demo is a preview of DirecTV’s three 3D channels — a PPV channel, a VOD service, and a free “sampler” channel — set to debut in June, with Panasonic as the exclusive sponsor for one year (see DirecTV Set To Launch Trio Of 3D Channels).

I checked out the demo, which loops a mish-mash of different stuff, including a Michigan vs. Ohio State football game, trailers for Disney’s Toy Story 2 and Alice and Wonderland, an underwater scene, motocross and speed skating.

So, cool? Yeah, but I’m definitely not going to run out and buy a 3D set based on what I’ve seen here. The field-level shots of the Michigan-OSU game were very engaging, with a penalty flag that gets thrown down right in front of you. The seascapes were visually impressive, too.

But to me, the glasses are an impediment. There’s no way around it: They’re bulky, distracting and dim (see Is 3DTV Just a Gimmick?). Elsewhere here at CES, Samsung is showing a fairly good demo of a glasses-free 3DTV prototype, but it’s still not ideal because if you move your head slightly the 3D effect vanishes.

Perhaps most technically interesting about the Panasonic/DirecTV demo is that it shows DirecTV doesn’t need to make any major changes to deliver 3DTV. The DBS operator is delivering the 3D channels in a “side-by-side” interlaced format, using RealD’s technology, in the same amount of space as an MPEG-4 HD channel. Panasonic says its HDTVs deliver 60-Hz refresh rate for left- and right-eye images.

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