What is a 3D Blu-ray Disc Player?

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

Official Blu-ray 3D Logo
Official Blu-ray 3D Logo. Blu-ray Disc Association via Wikimedia Commons

Although production of 3D TVs has been discontinued, there are still a lot of 3D TVs in use, and 3D is also available on many video projectors. Add to that a selection of 3D movies on Blu-ray disc and you can take advantage of this viewing option if you have 3D-enabled Blu-ray Disc player.

How 3D Blu-ray Works

A 3D Blu-ray Disc player is designed to comply fully with the formally adopted 3D for Blu-ray Disc standard.

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 information, 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) that can be 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 (Note: Video projectors targeted for consumer use require Active Shutter glasses). The actual Blu-ray Disc and Player do not have any bearing which type of glasses may be required.

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

Additional 3D Blu-ray Disc Player Features

Another feature available on some 3D-enabled Blu-ray Disc players is the ability to 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".

Also, another thing to point out is that in addition to its 3D features, a 3D Blu-ray Disc player functions just as any other Blu-ray Disc player - 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.

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 an 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.

The Bottom Line

As of 2018, 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.