3D Movie a No-Show

Ha...a "no-show." Get it? Movie. No-show. I kill myself, sometimes.

I'm sure you're no more surprised than I was when we couldn't get the 3D DVD to work in our setup last night. It was a comedy of errors, although we needed a laugh track because I certainly wasn't giggling.

First, I couldn't find our 3D glasses. They weren't where they were supposed to be, where I put them intentionally so they'd be easy to find. Debbie finally discovered them laying on top of the DVD player. Who stores their 3D glasses on top of their DVD player. (Ed. You, apparently. Me. Shut up.)

We fired up the DVD player, A/V receiver, and TV, and the picture opened to a 55" panoramic view of...a bunch of text in four languages telling us that in order to view this movie in 3D we needed "a 3D capable Blu-ray DVD player (check), a 3D capable HD TV (check), and a 3D capable A/V receiver (che...uh, say what?).

That receiver thing caught me off-guard; I had never considered that an HDMI-equipped A/V receiver might not be capable of handling a 3D data stream. Given that our Onkyo receiver is almost four years old, making it an octogenarian in consumer electronics years, I needed to check its specs to see what they said about 3D.

And, of course, we couldn't find the owner's manual. Of course.

I finally just downloaded the manual in PDF form from the Onkyo website and did a search for 3D. Nada. Looked at the technical specs, and learned that the version of HDMI used by the receiver is 1.3. The most current version of HDMI is 1.4. Is that a problem?

Another series of searches to find out the answer to that question led to a slew of websites and message boards on the topic, all of which read like, well, stereo instructions.

I now know more about HDMI than I ever wanted to...and I still don't know the absolute answer. HDMI 1.4 differs primarily from 1.3 in that it supports an Ethernet connection between two HDMI devices, and (AFAIK) Ethernet is not required for 3D playback. HDMI 1.4 cables are compatible with HDMI 1.3 devices, but those devices may not (will not?) be able to take advantage of whatever additional capabilities are built into the 1.4 specifications. But, still, it appears that 1.3 should be able to handle 3D.

Except for this caveat, from the Disney Blu-ray 3D FAQ (which, btw, was the most helpful resource I found in terms of being understandable by non-rocket scientists or those older than 13): In most cases, your existing HDMI high-speed cables should be able to support Blu-ray 3D, though cables over 3 feet in length may have problems.

This could be our problem, since I've run a 12' in-wall HDMI cable from the receiver to the TV. But, who knows? Should I install a new 1.4 HDMI cable, hoping that does the trick? Does our old-ish A/V receiver make 3D viewing a non-starter regardless? (If you're thinking "firmware upgrade," I applaud your geekishness, but the 1.3-to-1.4 upgrade path requires a hardware boost, too.)

There is a workaround. I can run a 1.4 cable directly from the DVD player to the TV, bypassing the receiver. But to maintain 7.1 surround sound, I'll need to run a separate optical cable from the player to the receiver (and even then, we lose the 3D surround sound that built into some movies). But the whole point of having an integrated A/V setup is to avoid having to run messy ad hoc cables. And, of course, the HDMI ports on our TV are on the opposite side from the other components. (Ed. That went without saying, didn't it? Me. Shut up.)

In summary, we ended up watching the regular 2D Blu-ray version of Captain America, and didn't miss what we didn't know about. But I have to say that any presumably consumer-level technology that's this arcane and complicated just isn't ready for prime-time. It's ridiculous to have to re-wire your system just to watch a movie.

Now, whether it's a good enough excuse to buy a fancy new A/V receiver...well, that is a legitimate question.


Eric, I used it as an excuse to upgrade my Yamaha for the Onkyo TX NR809. My old Yamaha was not 3D pass through capable and did not have the ARC capability either. I must say that having to run just 1 HDMI cable from the Blu-Ray player or Cable Box to the Receiver, then 1 from the Receiver to the TV is nice.

Who woulda thunk watching TV could be so complicated? It's getting crazy.

We just watched our first full-length 3D movie on our new Samsung TV last night and it was a very positive experience (documented in my blog entry). When you're ready to give it another shot, you can borrow my Avatar disc. I think you'll enjoy it.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Eric published on December 31, 2011 11:00 AM.

3D TV might be 1D too many was the previous entry in this blog.

"A Dance With Dragons" - An unsatisfying ending is the next entry in this blog.

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