Projector Reviews

ViewSonic VP3D1 HD 3D Processor Review: Blu-Ray 3D, HDTV, on Optoma GT720

The ViewSonic VP3D1 earns our Special Interest Award!
The ViewSonic VP3D1 3D processor earns our Special Interest Award!

Eureka! It works!

I’m talking about ViewSonic‘s VP-3D1.  What is it? What works? The VP3D1 lets you watch 1080p 3D content from Blu-ray 3D discs and other, including HDTV sources, on 3D projectors that aren’t currently able to do so.  It’s the magical device that changes the range of capabilities of those relatively low cost first and second generation 3D projectors sporting 720p and similar native resolutions such as WXGA. For lack of better terminology, let’s call the ViewSonic VP-3D1 a 3D processor.   That seems to make sense. and, that’s what ViewSonic calls it.

Viewsonic VP3D1 3D HD Processor
VP3D1 - brings Blu-ray 3D, and 1080p 3D HDTV to low cost 3D projectors

The VP3D1 has an MSRP in the US of $299, but street price seems to be mostly around $249 based on a quick online search.  That makes it a very reasonably priced add on to your system, considering the benefits delivered.

The Viewsonic VP-3D1 addresses several issues that have limited what you can do with these projectors when it comes to 3D.  Mind you the Viewsonic VP-3D1, isn’t the only device of it’s kind.  Optoma‘s been shipping their similar 3D-XL, to do the same thing.  Strangely, the Optoma device has been available in the EU for many months and is just arriving here (or has arrived), but Optoma hasn’t had review units yet.

So, here comes the VP-3D1.  What does it really do?  First, it has two HDMI inputs – and they are HDMI 1.4a.   HDMI 1.4a is the newest HDMI standard, and the thing that matters – the Blu-ray 3D standard, for all Blu-ray 3D DVDs requires HDMI 1.4a.  The VP3D1 also supports Side By Side, but I haven’t looked into that yet – stay tuned.  I’m also planning to put on and watch/listen to a bunch of those 3D music videos I’ve been recording for months from DirecTV.

I know many of you will say that the Sony PS3 now in it’s 3rd or 4th year, can play Blu-ray 3D since firmware updates many months ago.  How do it do dat?   The Sony PS3 is a powerful computer essentially.  It’s upgradability by firmware is downright revolutionary, and as a result, yes, it simply has the horsepower to emulate any HDMI 1.4a features needed for viewing Blu-ray 3D.

Both of my PS-3’s and my Panasonic HDMI 1.4a Blu-ray player typically have no problem with the Blu-ray 3D discs.

720p projectors like the Optoma GT720 – a machine geared for gaming, or for that matter any of perhaps two dozen 720p and other lower resolution WXGA projectors that are 3D capable, however, mostly lack HDMI 1.4a, and also the programming to work with that 1080p 3D content.

Without the ViewSonic VP3D1, these projectors can typically handle a variety of 3D, including some of the channels on DirecTV and cable.  But they are primarily designed to work with game machines and PC’s rather than 3D DVD or 3D HDTV.  The VP3D1, changes all of that.

The VP3D1 converts 3D up to and including 1080p down to an HDMI 1.3 720p 120 hz signal which is the standard for 3D on the lower resolution 3D capable projectors, lots of them!

With the ViewSonic VP3D1, therefore, these low cost projectors can now handle a range of 3D content rivaling the very expensive 1080p 3D projectors like the Sony‘s (about $4K, and $10K), JVC‘s, Sharp XV-Z17000, etc.

There are still a number of current standards (and “optional” modes) to do 3D, and so far, only one projector I’ve worked with, for example has been able to work with all three 3D channels DirecTV puts out.  And that includes the pure 1080p 3D projectors.

But back to the VP-3D1.  This was so easy.   I set up the GT720, plugged it in, fired up my Panasonic Blu-ray player, but instead of running the HDMI cable from the Panasonic, to the Optoma, instead, the cable goes from the Blu-ray player to the VP3D1 HD 3D processor.  The VP-3D1 has two HDMI inputs, I should note, that can be switched from the front, each with discreet buttons.

The next step is to run a second HDMI cable from the VP-3D1 to the 3D projector, in this case, the Optoma GT720.

Firing up everything, I put in my favorite all purpose Blu-ray 3D DVD, Ultimate Wave, 3D Tahiti.

Here’s the cool part.  That was it!  I put on the active shutter 3D glasses that Optoma sells for their projector, and bingo, Ultimate Wave 3D plays beautifully in 3D, from Blu-ray 3D.  No muss, no fuss!  Out came the Ultimate Wave disc, and in, Tron Legacy!  Tron Legacy also played great in 3D.  (a very fun movie to demo to friends, that Tron).

The next step was to try one of my two PS3s.  I simply pulled the HDMI cable out of the Panasonic player, put it into my PS3, and Tahiti kept on playing in 3D.

Audio.  I need to look into audio a bit later.  I can tell you that the audio from Ultimate Wave, made it from Blu-ray player to VP3D1, to the GT720, and the sound played fine through the Optoma’s small speaker.   I also played the audio through my room’s sound system, but I already pull the audio out via digital optical cable, not HDMI, since I don’t use my AV receiver to switch the video, only the audio. As that’s not the way most folks do it, I will report whether one needs to treat audio any differently when the VP3D1 is hooked up,  than without the VP3D1 in the system.

Update:  Not a problem.  I outputted the audio via digital optical from the Panasonic, to my AV receiver, while sending the video to the VP3D1.   It works fine.  Same when using the PS3.

Finally, I had mentioned the Optoma 3D-XL.  The two are similar, but, the Optoma has an additional capability, even if few will use it.  You can pair two low cost projectors with 2 3D-XL’s polarizers, etc. and create a system using passive glasses.  My take on that, too expensive, with things changing so quickly, but that is a difference.  Another difference is that the Optoma is a full $100 higher MSRP, and close to that difference when both are discounted.

Break time around here!  When I come back, I’ll report on how the VP-3D1 performs as I try it on 3D HDTV content.  I’ve got content recorded from all three DirecTV channels, two of which have only worked on one projector so far.  The plan is just to add to this blog (within 24 hours of the post), rather than split up the info on two blogs.  That way we can keep all the comments on one blog.

And of course, after I finish this blog on the VP-3D1 3D processor I’m starting on the full review of the GT720, which I will try to post by next weekend.  Also of note, while doing both, I am writing up my thoughts on Carada’s Masquerade CIH masking system, designed to work with most fixed wall screens.   It’s a busy week.  At the same time, I also will post a one page review on the legendary Studiotek 130 from Stewart Filmscreen.

So, it’s a busy week, but I’m having fun today and tonight with 3D.

Look for this blog on the VP3D1 Processor to be added to, and finished within 24 hours.

Update:  Ok, folks I forgot to update.  I’m just getting back to it now.  I’m done playing.  The Optoma GT720 is going home to Optoma and for the moment, I’m out of 720p 3D capable projectors that lack HDMI 1.4a.

But, I did want to bring up one topic, and that’s compatibility with my PS3s.   I originally reported that I switched while watching one Blu-ray 3D disc, from Panasonic Blu-ray player to one of my PS3s, and no problem at all.

However, Ultimate Wave 3D Tahiti seems a little more forgiving than some other Blu-ray 3D detecting discs.   Over repeated use, I’ve found that one of my PS3 players doesn’t always like the VP3D1/Optoma combination.  On occasion, I’m getting messages that there is no Blu-ray 3D compatible device, and the discs are kicking me out.  Most times it works just fine, sometimes not.  It seems that if I have one such disc working, then the next one will too.  Problem is, I haven’t figured out why a few discs don’t always work, or rarely work.   I’ve tried all dozen plus Blu-Ray 3D’s  in my collection.  From FIFA soccer, Tron Legacy, to Monster House all have worked on the PS3/VP3D1 projector combination.  Just a few times I get the 3D display compatibility error.

Bottom line – Using a PS3 should be just dandy, but perhaps not 100%.  I have been able to get every Blu-ray 3D disc to work, but not every time.  Of course one of my PS3’s is real old – one of the first two months production?  When I visited a forum about the 3D1, all mentions of using the VP3D1 with a PS3 are positive, with no issues reported.  So I’m the only person reporting any issue.   BTW I suspect cables.  Not all of my cables are wide bandwidth HDMI, and I run some longer lengths.  I plan to upgrade several of them.  Frame packing 3D apparently requires about 2X the bandwidth of 2D?  There is a question raised about Top-Bottom 3D, being an issue.  I did not specifically identify any top-bottom 3D content.  I am going to ask Viewsonic about that.

Mind you I will have other projectors arriving, that can use the VP3D1, so when they do, I’ll try some more.  Is the problem being caused by the projector?  Or is it the combination of the VP3D1 and the particular projector model, or just related to the VP3D1 in certain circumstances, or more likely – a PS3 issue?

But remember, my Panasonic Blu-ray player with HDMI 1.4a (the first Panasonic with it), works flawlessly.  Not once did the Panasonic tell me that the display isn’t compatible, so the PS3 is at least part of the issue.

While there were some issues with the PS3, note that there was no such problem with 3D content coming over my DirecTV box with the VP3D1 and Optoma.  Content from all 3D channels worked as advertised.  Note, that included ESPN 3D’s X-Games, concerts in 3D from Guitar center (there’s a whole series of them, with great artists), L5: First City in Space, China Revealed, and National Parks, all on 3net, and Adventures in Animation, and Vancouver 2010: Olympic Stories, from the n3D channel.

Artifacts:  Overall, pretty clean, but I have no comparable 720p projector that doesn’t need the VP3D1, to do side by side 3D comparisons with.  This opportunity may present itself in the near future.  The only noteworthy, annoying artifact I noted, turned out to be a left right issue, which with most 3D projectors is easily correctable.

So, bottom line – other than some once in a while issues with using a PS3, the VP3D1 looks pretty good.   Until I can find me a proper 1080p 3D projector I can live with, I expect I’ll probably be using the VP3D1 or a competitor’s with one of these low cost 3D capable projectors until my dream projector arrives to replace my now aging JVC RS20.

Products like the VP3D1 can take your basic 3D projector to the next level – with 1080p support and Blu-ray 3D support.  A device like the VP3D1 combined with a low cost 3D projector (and a more expensive 2D one) makes for a tantalizing, and practical alternative to dropping a big bundle on todays higher end 1080p 3D projectors all of which seem to be over $4000 at the moment!  In other words, if your 3D is only occasional, this way, you can wait for the expensive ones to move to 2nd or 3rd generation 3D and get brighter.  -art

Hope that helps folks. Again, any owners – feed us all back!  thanks -art