Can You Watch 2D on a 3D TV?

Sony X930D/940D Series 4K Ultra HD TV
Sony X930D/940D Series 4K Ultra HD TV. Image provided by Sony Electronics

3D Confusion

Are you confused about 3D? When 3D TV was introduced, it was hyped as the greatest thing since sliced bread by some, and was greeted with a lot of negativity by others - but no matter what side you were on, their was certainly a lot of confusion with regards to how it worked (passive vs active) and what consumers needed to be able to take advantage of its "benefits".

As 3D started to become available, one question that I started to get was whether buying a 3D TV meant that everything you watched was going to be in 3D and that you couldn't watch regular 2D TV anymore.

Watching 2D on a 3D TV

For those that are confused on this issue, the answer is:

All 3D TVs for consumer use have the ability to display standard 2D images, just as all HD and 4K Ultra HD TVs. In fact, 3D TVs are also excellent 2D TVs since the 3D feature is usually reserved for higher-end TVs.

3D Signal Detection

If you have a 3D-enabled TV or video projector - it will automatically detect whether an incoming signal is 2D or 3D - if the signal is 2D, it will display that signal normally - if it detects a 3D image, one of two things may occur: It could automatically display the image in 3D, or it will display a screen prompt that the image is in 3D and whether or not you want to view it in that manner - If so, it may also prompt you to put on your 3D glasses.

Also, in addition to TVs, the same applies to video projectors that include the 3D viewing option.

2D-to-3D Conversion

In addition, another aspect to 3D implementation that has caused confusion is that some 3D TVs (and video projectors) also incorporate technology in select models that can convert 2D images to 3D in real time.

Although this is not the same as watching 3D-produced content, the real time conversion does add depth to an ordinary 2D image. Live or taped sports showed off this process the best, but there is a tendency to mis-layer or display a folding effect on some foreground and background objects.

When applying 2D-to-3D conversion to 2D DVD or Blu-ray Disc movies is not nearly effective as watching such content in natively-produced (or professionally converted) 3D - if you really want to watch movies in 3D, purchase a 3D-enabled Blu-ray Disc player and purchase Blu-ray Disc packages that include a 3D version of the movie or content.

Optimize Your 3D Viewing Experience

For 3D TVs and video projectors, support up to 240Hz motion processing, and up to 120Hz screen refresh rate for each eye when running in 3D mode is usually provided, which optimizes the 3D viewing experience in terms of motion. On the other hand, keep in mind that activating the 3D viewing option does result in a slightly dimmer image - so it is best to optimize your Tv or video projector settings to compensate.

Another important to thing to point out is that the highest native resolution for 3D content is 1080p - If you have a 3D-enabled 4K Ultra HD TV, if you are watching 3D content, it is upscaled from its original resolution. As of 2016, no 3D specifications have been announced for 4K Ultra HD content.

More Info

Although the selection of 3D TVs is diminishing (although most video projectors have 3D viewing capability), for those that currently own, or are considering a purchase, the above discussion should provide some clarification as to what to expect with regards to 2D and 3D viewing options.

For a selection of 3D TVs - refer to my list of Best 3D TVs For Your Home Theater

Also check out my list of Best 3D Blu-ray Disc Movies

For everything you need to know about 3D - Check out my Complete Guide to Viewing 3D at Home

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