How to Show Off Your 3D HDTV

A 3D HDTV can set you back anywhere from $1000 to $6000--and that's not including the active-shutter glasses, the 3D Blu-ray disc player, or media--so you'd better be able to show that baby off. Our guide will take you from step one (setting up your screening room) all the way to the end (choosing what to watch).

Set Up the Room

Sony Bravia 40HX800 3D HDTV
3D HDTVs are not for the faint of heart--and by that I mean anyone who's young, old, pregnant, drunk, or tired (thanks for the warning, Samsung). However, you can minimize the possibility of your 3D TV giving people epileptic seizures and/or nausea, by arranging your room with 3D feng shui in mind.

Dim the Lights

Your TV is the main event, so you'll need to place it carefully. Any excess light will detract from the viewing experience and potentially make your viewers queasy. Looking through the glasses in regular ambient room light, for example, will cause you to see a flicker from the "shuttering." This flicker is amplified if you look directly at a brighter light (such as a phone screen or a blinking LED), and the quick movement can cause motion sickness in some viewers. So be sure to position your television away from any windows (and especially not against a window), other screens (such as computers or fancy alarm clocks), and any electronics with LED lights.

Also, purchase a TV that doesn't have an illuminated logo or light bar at the bottom (or that has one you can turn off). If your television is hooked up to a cable box or a multimedia player that has blinking lights, put the box or player in a cabinet with doors that you can close. While that might seem a little excessive, remember that the ideal viewing situation--a movie theater--also lacks light.

Arrange the Furniture

Once your TV is in place, and you've stowed all of your electronics safely out of sight, arrange the furniture. Ideally, no more than four people should be viewing the television at once--because four people sitting side by side are about as much off-axis viewing as a 3D TV can handle. Once you get too far to either side of the TV, the picture will begin to flatten. And once you get to about a 45-degree angle, the picture is almost completely flat.

It's important to set up your furniture with that in mind. If you're going to have more than four people watching TV at once, it's best to have some people sitting behind others. The perfect situation would be theater-style graduated seating, but assuming that you can't afford to turn your living room into a minitheater, the next best arrangement is cushions on the floor, a couch, and barstools.

One more thing to note: If your group is watching material with a lot of movement (sports or action films), viewers sitting at an angle might start to feel queasy. They can mitigate the effect by moving farther away from the TV--the larger the angle, the farther away the viewer should be. Remember this when you set up seats for your Super Bowl party.

Grab Some Glasses

To watch 3D TV programming, you'll need a pair of active-shutter 3D glasses. They're called shutter glasses because they "shutter" in sync to the refresh rate of the TV screen. In other words, each lens alternately darkens over each eye very quickly. While that is happening, the 3D TV displays different perspectives for each eye at the same rate. So the left eye sees one perspective while the right eye's lens is dark, and then the right eye sees another perspective while the left eye's lens is dark.

Now that you know what you're buying, you can see why the glasses are not exactly cheap. Most pairs cost around $150 (LG's glasses are the cheapest, at $130). If you have children (or if you have a small face), you can purchase special kid-size glasses; some are a bit more expensive, but they come in fun colors. If you're a prescription-glasses wearer, you can get some contacts or suck it up--there are no special shutter glasses for you, though Panasonic's glasses (which feature a different design) are slightly more comfortable.

Most kinds of shutter glasses are tied to TVs--Samsung glasses work with Samsung TVs, Sony glasses work with Sony TVs, and so on. That is, of course, unfortunate, because it means that if you own a Samsung 3D TV and your friend owns a Panasonic 3D TV, your friend can't just bring his glasses over to watch 3D TV at your house--you need to have a Samsung pair handy for him.

We tried a pair of Sony glasses with a Samsung TV, and the result actually looked decently three-dimensional. The problem, though, is that the Sony glasses require a Sony 3D transmitter--which you can't plug into a Samsung TV. So the only way that mixing brands would work for you is if you had a setup like ours, with a Samsung TV sitting next to a Sony TV.

TV makers naturally have a reason for this incompatibility. A Samsung representative points out that Samsung TVs are precalibrated to accommodate Samsung glasses, and might require significant calibration for non-Samsung glasses.

Save on Shutters

At $150 a pop, shutter glasses can quickly make 3D TV a pricey affair, adding up to about $600 for a four-person family. Some 3D TV makers have noted this, and are bundling glasses (usually only one or two pairs, though) with their 3D TVs.

Companies also offer 3D "starter kits," which usually include two pairs of glasses, a transmitter (if the transmitter is not built in to the TV), and a 3D Blu-ray disc or two. Most of these kits cost between $350 and $500, and feature otherwise unattainable 3D Blu-ray movies: Samsung's kit ($500) includes Shrek, Shrek 2, and Shrek 3D; Sony's kit ($400) includes Alice in Wonderland; and Panasonic's kit ($350) includes Ice Age 3D and Coraline. None of those films are yet available to purchase alone (though some of them will be released in December).

If all of this seems like a lot to spend on glasses that will work with only one company's TVs, never fear: Xpand has just released the first "universal" shutter glasses. The Xpand Universal X103 3D glasses are currently selling for $129 on Amazon, and support Mitsubishi, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, and Toshiba TVs.

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