Channel 4 in 3D: through a pair of glasses, darkly

The whole Channel 4 3D hoopla had kind of passed me by, until I was exchanging a faulty DVD at customer services in Sainsburys last weekend and spotted a huge dump-bin full of chequerboard-printed cardboard 3D specs.

Grabbed a fistful for self, friends and family, and settled down to watch the old Royal Festival footage on Monday and Tuesday nights, along with a less-than-convinced Mrs E, who had a pair of the cardboard specs perched over her own glasses.

Have to say I found the whole thing rather fun: the Coronation footage was almost ridiculously 3D, with a very distinct cardboard cut-out look in the long-shots, a bit like one of those children's theatres where you moved characters around on the end of pipe-cleaners or bits of wire.

Close-ups were much more effective, just as explained in their narration, and this was demonstrated both by the vintage stuff and the new stereo footage shot by the winningly jolly Arthur Wooster and Bob Angell, makers of the original 3D newsreel. Wielding an exceptionally unwieldy modern camera, they filmed Her Maj at the recent swan-upping on the Thames, and at a garden party at Buck House, and the results were truly striking.

Mind you, some of the old stuff shown in the second chunk of the two-parter was equally amusing: steam shovels looming toward the camera, kid on a swing looming toward the camera, man with a ball on a string looming – well, you get the idea.

And the 3D duo, now both in their 80s, were clearly having a whale of a time, Angell grinning broadly as they sat in a screening theatre announcing 'Please put on your 3D glasses'.

Our esteemed uber-Editor reports that the effect worked well on her projector and screen, as it did on my 50in plasma. Interesting, given that Panasonic will have you believe that plasmas, not projectors, are the way forward for its next-gen 3D system...

Only trouble is, through the Channel 4/Sainsburys glasses, the picture was pretty dark: both Clare and I found ourselves cranking the brightness on our respective displays, and I turned off all the room lights, finding the 2D world around the screen distracted from the 3D effect on it.

And I have to say that even with the relatively short bursts of 3D shown, I was getting a feeling of tension around the eyes by the end of each episode, which Clare also says was becoming noticeable.

Whether that was an inherent problem, or just the result of constant switching from 3D to 2D, and from a relatively dark picture to a very bright one, I'm not sure: it'll be interesting to see how I get on with a full-length movie using the system.

Friday the 13th Part III is being shown in 3D on Friday the 20th – I'm sure I'll be watching.

But Derren Brown and JLS in 3D? There's devotion to duty, and then there's...

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.