(July 5, 2010) On July 1, DirecTV began broadcasting the first 24/7 3D channel in the USA with the launch of N3D, a DirecTV exclusive. Simultaneously, DirecTV debuted its all 3D “video on demand” (VOD) channel (available as downloads via the Internet) as well as the first linear pay per view 3D channel.

N3D uses  “side by side” images (meaning left and right views are squeezed in an 1920 x 1080 frame)  to deliver content to 3D TVs.

The programming currently available on N3D includes excerpts from “Guitar Center Sessions with Jane’s Addiction and Peter Gabriel”. Documentary programs include:  “Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia”, “Wild Safari: A South African Adventure”, “African Adventure: Safari in Okavango”, “S.O.S. Planet”, and “Encounter in the Third Dimension”. The last four titles are now also available on the 3D VOD channel.

To make our evaluations we used two DirecTV DVRs, the HR22 and HR24, with one DVR connected to a Panasonic TC-P50VT25 50″ plasma 3D TV [amazonify]B003NA1AGM::text::::$2499.99 Amazon[/amazonify], another to a Samsung’s UN55C8000 LED 3D TV.UN55C8000 [amazonify]B0036WT4KG::text::::$2815.28 Amazon[/amazonify]

We discovered most of the N3D programs are broadcast in 1080p/24.  The remainder are in 1080i. “Side by Side” means the resolution is 960 x1080 pixels per eye or exactly one-half the “Full HD” of 3D Blu-ray disc titles. Viewed on 50″ and 55″  3DTV’s, all content appears as sharp or sharper as programs seen on ABC and Fox HD channels (they’re shot in 720p -1280×720 resolution).

Today we cover four 3D programs, to be followed later this week with evaluations of the ESPN FIFA World Cup games, the first 3D NASCAR broadcast of the Coke Zero 400 from Daytona and other programming.

We graded each by 3D quality, with a letter grade of A (for excellent) to F (for failure), with explanations and comparisons (where needed) between the 3D image quality of the Samsung LED and Panasonic plasma.

Wild Safari: An South African Adventure 1080p/24 (channel 103-N3D) 1080i (VOD)

3D Quality D+

Content C

Wild Safari is a 3,000 mile journey through Africa for elephants, cape buffalo, rhinos, leopards and lions. Scenes appear to be shot with the 3D rig improperly configured or some other major technical problem. Regardless, the result is hard on the eyes and contains numerous segments with visible crosstalk (left eye information leaking to the right eye and vice versa seen as ghosts), on both 3D TVs. Stay away.

S.O.S Planet 1080p/24 (channel 103-N3D) 1080i (VOD)

3D Quality A-

Content C

Narrated by the late, great, Walter Cronkite, S.O.S. Planet is part live action and part animation. It covers the environmental issues of deforestation, global warming, air pollution and over fishing. Cronkite lectures the audience, aided by some great 3D animated sequences including a mobile that zooms about 2 feet from your face. Virtually crosstalk free on the Panasonic, moderate crosstalk is visible on the Samsung in many of the computer generated sequences. With fish swimming in the middle of your room and an octopuses’ tentacle reaching out to you, adults and children will marvel at the 3D effects.

African Adventure: Safari in the Okavango 1080p/24

3D Quality F

Content C+

“African Adventure 3D: Safari in the Okavango” is another travelogue, taking place on the Okavango River Delta.  Zoologist Liesl Eichenberger covers African wildlife (you guessed it, more lions and elephants).

As with any new technology, people try to rush in to get on the ground floor. Safari in Okavango is poorly shot 3D, making viewing a strain, as ones eyes try to compensate for the discrepancies. The cause appears to be an incorrect setting of the 3D rig, such as the lenses of the two cameras being spaced too far apart (called interocular) for the subject to camera distance, or another major technical error.

We wish DirecTV management prior to airing would have caught the poor quality of this documentary. At this time we feel it would be best for DirecTV to take it off the air and only rebroadcast it if it can fixed in post production.

Encounter In The Third Dimension 1080p/24 (channel 103-N3D) 1080i (VOD)

3D Quality B+ (after picture adjustment see text)

Content A

Combining live action with computer generated images Encounter  In the Third Dimension mixes the history of 3D, with clips from 3D’s “Golden Era” (1952-1954), segments of 3D amusement park attractions and a nice 3D animated short. Classic clips include “Money From Home” with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, shot in Technicolor and three channel stereo, however the brief glimpse is in black and white. Add a song performed by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and narration by Harry Shearer and it adds up to a 3D compilation that entertains young and old.

The overall picture quality is very good, although the live action characters look somewhat flat. Note, the image appears to be improperly transferred with blacks appearing as gray, requiring the viewer to reduce the TV brightness control to its lowest setting on the Panasonic and to “7” on the Samsung. Virtually no cross-talk appears on the Panasonic and infrequently on the Samsung, which makes Encounter In The Third Dimension an ideal choice to show off your new 3D TV to friends and family.


To learn how to receive the new DirecTV 3D channels go here,  learn about deals on a new DirecTV 3D capable DVR or receiver here

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