What Do I Need In My Home Theater To Watch 3D?

3D TV. kutaytanir - Getty Images

UPDATE: Bummed about the loss of 3D? Never fear, there is a replacement. Learn more about 4k video projectors and how they work.

3D and Your Home Theater

As of 2017, LG and Sony, the last TV makers that offered 3D TVs in the U.S. market, will no longer be offering TVs with the 3D viewing option going forward. However, there are many 3D TVs in use and sets may still be available via third parties or on clearance. Also, most video projector brands still offer the 3D viewing option.

In addition, there is a lot of great content for those that wish to take advantage if the 3D viewing experience at home. However, getting into 3D is more than just buying the right TV or video projector, although that is the starting point. Check out what you need to access 3D and what content is available to watch.

3D-enabled TV or 3D-enabled Video Projector

As your starting point in the 3D viewing experience, you need a TV or video projector that meets approved 3D specifications. This includes some LCD, OLED, Plasma (Plasma TVs were discontinued in late 2014, early 2015, but there are many still in use), as well as DLP and LCD-type video projectors. All 3D-enabled TVs and most 3D-enabled Video  Projectors work with the 3D standards approved for Blu-ray, Cable/Satellite, and streaming sources.

Also, all consumer-based 3D-enabled TVs and video projectors also display in standard 2D as well, so you can enjoy all your TV programs, Blu-ray Discs, DVDs, and other video content just as you always have, in the way you are used to seeing it.

Also, once you get your 3D TV or video projector, you need to make sure it is set up for the best possible viewing result.

3D-enabled Blu-ray Disc Player

In order to watch 3D Blu-ray Discs, you need a 3D-enabled Blu-ray Disc player. However, in addition to playing 3D Blu-ray discs, all of these players will still be able to play current Blu-ray Discs, DVDs, and CDs.

As of 2017, there are well 500 3D Blu-ray Disc titles available in the U.S. (and more internationally). For the most comprehensive selection, check out the listing at Amazon.com

For suggestions on 3D Blu-ray Discs that provide examples of well-executed 3D, check out my listing of Best 3D Blu-ray Disc Movies

3D Via Cable/Satellite

If you desire to receive 3D content via HD-cable or Satellite, you may need a 3D-enabled Cable or Satellite box. For more details on the cable end of the equation, contact your cable or satellite service provider.

Of the two major satellite providers, Dish offers 3D programming on two of its channels, for more details on what box is required, title, and pricing, refer to the Dish 3D Programming Page.

3D Via Streaming

If you have 3D TV and receive some, most of your programming via internet streaming, there are two main options for accessing 3D content.

Vudu - Vudu offers a 3D channel viewing option that features select movie trailers, shorts, and feature films that are available on either a pay-per-view or purchase basis. Check out their periodically updated listing.

Netflix - Netflix>is the most popular movie and streaming service, but did you know that also offers access to some movies in 3D? Also, unlike Vudu, this option comes with your paid monthly subscription fee, instead of pay-per-view. Check out their periodically updated listing.

YouTube - There is a lot of user-generated 3D content available on YouTube - However, some it is based on the Anaglyph system, which can be displayed on any TV or computer monitor, but requires passive glasses with red and green or red and blue filters. The quality is poor when compared to the passive an active 3D systems used by TVs and video projectors adhering to official 3D standards.

3D Glasses

Yes, you will need to wear glasses to watch 3D. However, these are not the cheap paper 3D glasses of yesteryear. The glasses that will be used will most likely be one of two types: Passive or Active.

Passive Polarized glasses look and wear much like sunglasses and have enough front space to place over existing eyeglasses for those that need to. These type of glasses are inexpensive to manufacture and would probably cost consumers $5 to $25 for each pair depending on the frame style (rigid vs flexible, plastic vs metal).

Active Shutter glasses are slightly bulky since they have batteries and a transmitter that synchs the rapidly moving shutters for each eye with the onscreen display rate. These type of glasses are also more expensive than passive polarized glasses, ranging in price from $75 to $150 depending on the manufacturer.

Depending on which brand and model TV or video projector you buy, will determine which type of glasses (passive polarized or active shutter) you will be required for use with that TV or video projector. For example, LG 3D-enabled require Passive Glasses, while some Sony TVs required Active Shutter glasses, and some require Passive. All consumer-based video projectors (either LCD or DLP) require the use of Active Shutter glasses./

Some manufacturers may provide glasses with the set or projector, or they may be an accessory that must be purchased separately. Manufacturers that do provide glasses with their sets usually include one or two pairs, with the option of purchasing additional pairs as desired. Prices for the glasses will vary, at both the manufacturer's discretion and what type they are. As mentioned above, active shutter glasses will be more expensive (probably $50-$100 a pair) than passive polarized glasses ($5-$25 a pair).

Also, another factor to take into consideration is that glasses branded for one manufacturer may not work another's 3D-TV or video projector. In other words, if you have a Samsung 3D-TV, your Samsung 3D glasses will not work with Panasonic's 3D-TVs. So, if you and your neighbors have different brand 3D-TVs, you will, in most cases, not be able to borrow each other's 3D glasses. For more details on why 3D Glasses for one brand 3D-TV may not work with another 3D-TV, check out the report from Big Picture and Big Sound.

However, there are several companies that make 3D glasses that can be used on several brands of TVs and video projectors. One example is XpanD, a third party company that makes 3D glasses for both commercial and consumer applications, now offers Universal 3D Glasses that can work on most currently available 3D TVs that use the Active Shutter system.

3D and Home Theater Receivers

Another thing to take into consideration is that if you have your home theater setup where your send both your audio and video signals through a home theater receiver, on the way to your TV, then your home theater receiver also needs to be 3D-compatible. However, there are some workarounds that I discuss in my article, which uses a 3D-enabled Blu-ray Disc player as an example: How to Connect a 3D Blu-ray Disc Player to a non-3D Home Theater Receiver.

Glasses-Free 3D

Yes, it is possible to watch 3D without glasses, but there is a catch. Although several TV makers have shown glasses-free 3D prototypes at trade shows, and Toshiba actually came to market briefly with a glasses-free 3D TV (although never available in the U.S.), one company, Stream TV networks and IZON technologies have been pursuing Glasses Free TV in for use in the business/commercial, gaming, and home entertainment space for some years and StreamTV showed the first production models at the 2016 CES.

So far, the glasses-free 3D LED/LCD TVs come in the 50 and 65-inch screen sizes under the IZON brand name (as of 2016), and Stream TV is pursuing licensing agreements with other potential partners.

The two sets both feature compatibility with Blu-ray, Cable/Satellite, and Streaming sources, as well as the ability to perform real-time 2D to 3D conversion. However, another feature is that the both TVs are 4K Ultra HD TVs.

The 4K Factor

One important thing to point out is that although some 4K Ultra HD TVs offer a 3D viewing option, the 4K Ultra HD standard does not include a 3D viewing option. What this means that most 3D content is provided in either 1080p or 720p resolutions, and a 3D-enabled 4K Ultra HD TV will upscale the 3D signal to 4K for screen display.

As of 2017, there is no indication that the 4K Ultra HD standard will ever include a 3D viewing format, with manufacturers opting instead on other picture enhancements such as HDR and wide color gamut. However, if you are a 3D fan, take heart, 4K upscaling (such as LG's Cinema 3D+), in combination with optimizing your picture settings, can deliver a great 3D on a 3D-enabled 4K Ultra HD TTV.

More Info

As more information regarding the availability of 3D viewing options for home theater become available, this article will be updated accordingly.

In the meantime, also check out Complete Guide To Watching 3D At Home.