DirecTV launches first all-3D channel, we almost launch lunch

A few of the programs on DirecTV's new n3D channel try too hard with the 3D effect, causing significant issues with eyestrain and sickness.

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
3 min read

3D TV can cause nausea when combined with bad 3D content. Sarah Tew/CNET

Our first experience watching n3D, DirecTV's new, exclusive all-3D TV channel, was a mixed bag. At times we felt we needed an airline sickness bag.

DirecTV launched n3D last week, delivering the first all-time, all-3D channel anywhere, and so my colleague Matthew Moskovciak and I took a gander using our HR24 high-def DVR and a 65-inch Panasonic TC-P65VT25. The TV delivered a superb 3D experience on Blu-ray material we've seen, namely 3D movies made for kids, but when fed the material on n3D, the experience was less impressive.

The first sequence we watched was "Guitar Sessions with Jane's Addiction," an intimate acoustic concert. The 3D effect seemed forced to both of us, with too much depth in the image. For example, singer Perry Ferrel's in his white shirt stood too far into the foreground compared with the drums and especially with the wall behind the band. At times the artists almost seemed like cardboard cutouts on-stage--we got the sense of planes of depth instead of a smooth recession from foreground into background. The worst issue came when the head of an audience member appeared in the extreme foreground, seeming to hover artificially in front of the frame of the picture. The Peter Gabriel concert had similar issues.

On the other hand the sense of depth in "Sessions" was quite convincing and at times we forgot these issues and enjoyed the presentation thoroughly, especially during closeups such as a shot of the guitarist's hand over the sound hole. Visible detail was solid, without the softness we've seen on 3D World Cup games, but certainly not to the same level as the 3D Blu-rays like "Coraline." "Sessions" was significantly better than what came on next, however.

The only other sequence we saw in our brief view was a preview of a documentary about Africa called "African Adventure: Safari in the Okavango," and as soon as it appeared both Matt and I immediately expressed dismay and felt a powerful sense of nausea. The perspective, seen mostly from the back of a moving Jeep on Safari, was all wrong, with way too much depth. Combining that exaggerated 3D effect with the shaky camera movement was too much, and we both quickly removed the glasses before the brief preview even finished.

We agree with Gary Merson of HDGuru.com, who said in his review of n3D: "At this time we feel it would be best for DirecTV to take it ['Okavango'] off the air and only rebroadcast it if it can be fixed in post production." Merson's writeup has better things to say of many other programs on the channel, none of which we saw ourselves, as well as some good technical information on the channel itself.

In our opinion, the launch of a 3D channel using relatively unimpressive demo material does little to help the adoption of a TV technology that, judging from reader comments at CNET and other sites, has a long way to go to achieve widespread acceptance. Three-dimensional content can look great (see "Avatar") if broadcasters and content producers prioritize maintaining viewer comfort and a sense of immersion over 3D gimmickry and overly aggressive depth.

We're curious to know what you think. Have you seen n3D? Do you care? Let us know in the comments.