Sky 3D, the UK’s first broadcast 3D channel, is here. Is it truly as revolutionary as the hype suggests, or is it merely an empty gimmick? We’ve been feasting our eyes on a weekend’s worth of pop-out-of-the-screen content, so read on for our considered verdict here in our Sky 3D review.
First, let’s explain exactly what Sky 3D is. It’s a single channel, essentially an add-on to the broadcaster’s Sky HD service, and free to anybody who subscribes to the Sky World HD package. This channel features a selection of 3D content including sport (both live and pre-recorded), movies, documentaries and live music/dance performances.
You will also, of course, need a 3D TV hooked up to your Sky HD box in order to watch the 3D pictures. Both main types of 3D TV technology – active shutter and passive polarised glasses – will work with Sky 3D, although as it uses the side-by-side broadcast method, you shouldn’t see any real advantage to picture quality when using active shutter specs. While active shutter TVs can deliver 3D in full 1080p with Blu-ray, this won’t work with Sky 3D, because the pictures for both left and right eyes are shown on the screen at the same time, rather than one after the other.
Sky furnished us with a passive LG 47LD950 3D TV for the purposes of this review, and it provides an effective 3D image. The picture is darkened slightly when viewed through the polarised glasses, which takes the edge off its vibrancy, but detail remains sharp and some of the 3D content on the channel, such as the CGI movie Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, looks glorious in 3D.
There’s a real sense of depth and distance with the majority of the 3D programming, although the pre-recorded material tended to be more “impactful” than the live Ryder Cup golf we watched, because it has been edited or shot to fully show off the 3D effect.
How does it compare to 3D Blu-ray? Well, it all depends on the individual show or movie, but in general Blu-ray seems a little cleaner and sharper – just as you’d imagine. The 3D effect is roughly the same on both technologies.
There are one or two rough edges on show with Sky 3D however. While you can record 3D content in exactly the same way as 2D material, the EPG doesn’t work properly when you’re watching in 3D mode. That means if you want to consult the guide or set a recording, you have to exit 3D first. Sky is fixing this via an update soon.
Does Sky 3D transform home entertainment? Well, to a degree it does, but in our eyes not to the extent that the introduction of HD did – the leap from standard definition to high definition was immense, while 3D doesn’t seem to deliver the same punch to the eyeballs. In much of the content Sky 3D offer, it comes off as little more than a gimmick – although we do like what it adds to sport and, in some cases, movies.
Sky was at the forefront of the HD revolution, launching Sky HD four years ago, and it has built its initial skeleton service into one of the best HD packages (47 channels strong!) in the world. If it can increase the quality of 3D content in the same way as it has done with HD, it will have something truly special on its hands. But for now, it feels like a niche service for early adopters.