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Christmas Gift Guide
TVs

Are you going to buy a 3D TV?

The biggest buzz of the year is 3D, but are you going to splash out and buy one? Is there anything even available?

If you've read or heard any of the hyperbole that has tumbled out of the mouths of the consumer electronics industry you will know that 3D is the biggest thing, since, well … 2D.

This year's CES in Las Vegas was chockers with 3D gadgets and companies like Panasonic and Sony almost betting the farm on it being a success. But what is it, and why would you buy it?

Given that most humans are born with the ability to see in three dimensions it makes sense that we should want to watch movies and television in three dimensions as well. The hurdle has always been technology.

Say the words "3D movie" to anyone who hasn't seen Avatar and the image they'll conjure up in their minds is red and blue glasses and drive-ins. This is because the so–called "golden age" of 3D cinema was between 1952 and 1955, and even Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder was filmed in 3D.

In the early days 3D effects were quite clunky and expensive to do, so in some cases films such as The Mask (1961) were mostly filmed in 2D and had sound effects or plot devices (such as putting on a mask) to alert you about when to wear the glasses.

Most of the effects typically involve things flying out into the audience, for example, a girl with a paddle hitting a ball out towards the camera. Due to this capacity to "shock" and break the fourth wall, this is often used in horror movies such as the most recent (and hopefully last) The Final Destination.

In fact, 3D seems to be a popular choice for reviving a flagging horror franchise (or ripping its legs off and flogging it with the wet ends) — joining Final Destination and the hoary old Jaws 3D will be My Bloody Valentine 2 and even Saw 3D.

Given the buzz that Avatar and its potential for scooping Academy Awards has generated, it seems that 3D is definitely the flavour of the moment.

While it's perfectly acceptable to go to the cinema and see a 3D movie as a special event it remains to be seen whether people will invest in a Blu-ray player, glasses and new TV to watch a small amount of content in their homes. It's estimated that up to 10 per cent of people can't even see a 3D effect when watching these movies.

At the moment there is precious little TV-based media out there, but it's coming. The 3D Blu-ray specification was finalised in December 2009 and even Foxtel has announced it will be starting test broadcasts in 2011. Yet, while there's been a lot of announcements, we are unlikely see 3D hit its stride for another two years.

Until then, there is still some content out there in the wild that you can see now if you have a pair of red and blue anaglyph glasses. For example, YouTube has a selection of 3D videos you can watch.

3D television is not going to go away, it's been with us at the cinema for 60 years, and though there's a relative lack of a back-catalogue compared to 2D the number of titles will grow. But are you interested in it?