What Is a 3D Blu-Ray Disc Player?

If you have a 3D TV you need a 3D Blu-ray Disc player

A 3D Blu-ray Disc player is designed to comply fully with the formally adopted 3D for Blu-ray Disc standard. That means a 3D Blu-ray Disc player can play 3D Blu-ray movies which can be watched using 3D glasses in combination with a 3D TV or video projector for that near-real life effect.

3D TV production has been officially discontinued. However, there are still many in use and there are also video projectors with the 3D viewing option still available, along with some continuing 3D Blu-ray Disc and 3D internet content. If you own a 3D TV or video projector, here is what you need to know about 3D Blu-ray Disc players, a limited number of which are still available.

Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player. Image provided by Sony

How 3D Blu-ray Works

The way a 3D Blu-ray Disc works is that the image information is encoded on the disc at 720p or 1080p resolution at 24 fps in a manner referred to as frame-packing (two frames stacked on top of each other).

When a 3D Blu-ray Disc is inserted into a 3D Blu-ray player, the laser assembly reads the encoded 3D signal and then sends the video information through the rest of the connection chain that must include either a 3D-enabled TV or video projector.

In order for you to see the 3D images, the TV or video projector decodes the 3D signal and displays the two previously stacked frames so two overlapping, but slightly different, images are displayed on the screen at the same time (one for the left eye and the other for the right eye). These images are blended into a 3D image via special glasses worn by a viewer.

Depending on the brand/model of 3D TV, the required glasses may​ be Passive Polarized or Active Shutter.

Video projectors targeted for consumer use require Active Shutter glasses). The actual Blu-ray Disc and Player do not have any bearing on which type of glasses may be required.

Using a 3D Blu-Ray Disc Player With a Home Theater Receiver

If you place a home theater receiver in the path between the 3D Blu-ray Disc player and the TV or video projector, the receiver must be able to pass the 3D signal through from the player to the TV/video projector.

If you have a 3D Blu-ray disc player and TV but are using (or plan to use) a home theater receiver is not 3D-enabled, ​there is a workaround.​

3D Blu-ray Disc Players and 2D/3D Conversion

Some 3D-enabled Blu-ray Disc players can encode-2D images from Blu-ray or DVD into the 3D format in real-time (some 3D TVs also have this capability). However, this is not the same a viewing natively encoded 3D content as sometimes you will notice some areas of the image where the 3D layers are not correct, and you may also see a slight curve or folding near the bottom of some images.

If you are playing a 3D-encoded disc, make sure you have the 2D/3D conversion feature set to "OFF".

A 3D Blu-ray Blu-ray Disc Player Has Regular Features Also

A 3D Blu-ray Disc player functions just like any other Blu-ray Disc player. This means which means it will play standard Blu-ray Discs, DVDs, and music CDs (in some cases other select disc formats), and, in most cases provide access to internet streaming services and more.

If you insert a 3D Blu-ray Disc into the player and it is connected to a TV or video projector that doesn't have 3D viewing capability, the player either player the 3D Blu-ray disc in 2D, or display a message that the disc not compatible with your TV or video projector.

3D and Audio

The presence of 3D on a Blu-ray Disc does not have a direct bearing on the audio portion of the disc. However, if immersive surround sound audio formats such as Dolby Atmos or DTS:X is included as part of the 3D Blu-ray title, if mastered well, it will enhance the 3D viewing experience by adding a more 3D audio listening experience.

3D and Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Players

Although 3D is not included yet in the Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc format, most Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players available so far are able to play 3D Blu-ray discs. If you are upgrading to an Ultra HD Blu-ray player and you need 3D playback capability, make sure you confirm that this feature is available on the player you are considering before you buy.

There are no Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs with 3D as it has not been included in the Ultra HD format standard in use.

The Bottom Line

As of 2020, there are over 500 3D Blu-ray Disc titles available in the U.S. and more internationally and although the flow of new releases is slowing down, some major film releases usually provide a 3D Blu-ray edition for purchase.

However, the number of 3D Blu-ray Disc movie releases are decreasing. In some cases, a film has have been released theatrically released in 3D, may not be released in 3D on Blu-ray, or released in 3D in some international markets, but not in the U.S. This has given rise to an international 3D Blu-ray Movie Enthusiast Group that provides information on where to find 3D Blu-ray Disc releases.

Check out our listing of Best 3D Blu-ray Discs, as well as Best Blu-ray and Ultra HD Disc Players (which include some 3D-enabled models).