Monday, January 11, 2010

3-D At CES (Update Post)

In the post last week, I talked about transparency in regards to the consumer (and how current home 3-D isn't--it's somewhat annoying because of the glasses).

Several of you e-mailed and said that HD wasn't transparent to the consumer either. That's true, in one respect--it wasn't the one I intended, but it's worth discussing.

Before I do that, though, let me clarify that when I said current 3-D was "inconvenient", I meant in an ongoing sense (because of the glasses). I didn't mean in the setup sense, and what you guys pointed out is that HD, in terms of receiving the programming, was very inconvenient early in its lifespan.

Yes, it was. Here's a trip in the wayback machine, just so you can see how silly things were.

In June of 2000, I bought a 42" Panasonic plasma that could display at 480P resolution (852x480). It was the single most extravagant purchase of my life. It was also oh-my-god-this-is-blowing-my-mind spectacular.

The plasma could accept a 1080i or 720P signal, but it would downscale it to display at 852x480 (480P was the highest resolution plasma available back then). Fortunately, this particular model had an absolutely superb scaler, and the image was stunning.

In terms of technology, it was absolutely a miracle.

With a good progressive DVD player, movies looked incredible. Games, too. I wanted to watch television in HD--sporting events in particular--but no Austin stations were broadcasting in HD in 2000. CBS and ABC had some high-definition programming (and ABC was broadcasting Monday Night Football in HD), but it wasn't available locally.

We had DirecTV, and they had the HD network feeds, but there was a ridiculous Catch-22: no one considered the HD channel as a separate entity. So if my local NBC affiliate was broadcasting in blurvision, I couldn't ask DirecTV to send me the national HD feed for NBC (you can only get the national network stations on DirecTV if you're unable to receive your local station), because "I could receive the local channel".


I wasn't going to give up, though, so I started doing some research. As it turned out, lots of people were in the same boat I was, and they had figured out a solution.

Oh, Canada.

Here was the answer. Through a third party company, I arranged to "have" a Canadian address, and with that address, I could subscribe to ExpressVu, a Canadian satellite company that included all the American networks HD feeds in its programming. If ExpressVu sent me anything in the mail, it just went to this company instead.

That's how I wound up with a satellite dish to receive Canadian television on my roof. Jackpot!

If you're wondering if it was all worth it, here's your answer: hell, yes. It was fantastic. And once it was installed, it was transparent to me--it was just a second satellite box with a different remote. The level of inconvenience was almost zero.

So yes, obtaining programming in HD was a bitch back in the day, but it wasn't difficult on a day-to-day basis. Every time people want to watch a 3-D program today, though, they have to wear the glasses. That's annoying, and it's going to be even more annoying for people who already wear glasses (like I do).

Sure, if our television blew up tomorrow, I'd seriously look at getting a model that supports 3-D. It's not anything I feel compelled to do, though, when HD looks so terrific on what we have now. I'm one of those early adopter nuts, and I'm totally on board with 3-D as a concept, and I still don't care.

Okay, when there's a 42" OLED screen that's reasonably priced and supports 3-D, I'll care. Immediately.

Here's one more note on the contrasts between "back then" and "now", just to give you an idea how far HD has come: in 2002, FOX broadcast the freaking Super Bowl in 480P. They bragged about how "FOX Widescreen" was going to be BETTER than 1080i (seriously, they were actually claiming this). This was when FOX refused to broadcast anything in true HD, because they said that 480P was more than good enough.

What happened when they broadcast the Super Bowl? It looked like absolute shit compared to CBS's broadcast (in 1080i) the previous year. Funny, after that game, FOX didn't even try to say it looked better. The comparison was so glaringly obvious that there was no way to spin the results.

So in 2002, I was watching HD on Canadian satellite television and couldn't even get the Super Bowl in HD. This morning, while Eli 8.5 was home sick with a stomach ache, we watched the Women's Collegiate Flag Football Championships.

In HD.

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