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3D Video Wizard - A Review

Filed under: Reviews and Impressions — Charlie Summers @ 10:45 am

Anyone who’s read this blog for any length of time knows I love 3D photos, videos, and television; I even created my own 3D photos with a cheap camera a while back. So in that vein, I bought a small set-top box add-on device called the 3D Video Wizard. While list is around $150, and normal price is around $99, I picked it up for under $40 thinking I got an awesome deal. But I should have done more research first…

The 3D Video Wizard is designed to do two separate things - convert existing 3D video to amber-blue 3D (ColorCode is a trademark, so I probably shouldn’t use it here), so that non-3D televisions can display the 3D (think of the stuff the broadcast networks have run over the years, like that episode of Chuck that was in 3D, or the Super Bowl commercials), and also to “convert” 2D to 3D, attempting to add a layer of depth to existing “flat” television programs. While the latter is kinda cute, I originally bought this device to convert existing 3D files I have from various sources in real-time so I could avoid using AVISynth to convert from SBS/Half-SBS/OU (also referenced as TaB)/Half-OU to amber-blue. Makes sense that anything advertised to handle 3D formats would handle these ubiquitous ones, doesn’t it? I mean, especially since practically every 3D television currently sold handles these formats out-of-the-box…anyone know of any that can’t?

Ok, unboxing is simple, and hooking up the machine is trivial; I placed it between my PBO Core and the small 32″ television in the bedroom for the tests. Since it was hooked up, I played back through the PBO Core the first episode of Aaron Sorkin’s SportsNight. I admit the 2D->3D was considerably better than I expected; the opening scenes of people walking around the control room appeared to have them at different distances. The effect was not perfect, but I grudgingly admit was pretty darned good.

Next I had to watch the beginning of the first episode of the first season of 24. Again, the 3D effect impressed me, as I wasn’t expecting the smoothness in the imposed 3D. Interesting algorithm, I’ll give them that.

So finally I turned to a Transport Stream file that was originally shot in 3d, and had been converted to Half-SBS (Side-by-Side)…in this encoding, a single 1920×1080 frame holds _both_ eye images, at a resolution of 960×1080 each eye; the anamorphic frames when shown are expanded to fit the width of the screen.

It was an unmitigated disaster.

The system can not (this was confirmed by a telephone call to tech support - the operator I talked to apparently never even heard of half-SBS) understand anything but FULL SBS where each frame is 3840×1080 with each eye receiving a true 1920×1080 half of the huge frame. FWIW, my PBO Core cannot play full SBS (complaining the frame is too large), so I was unable to verify the file I received for testing.

But let’s face it, folks…one of the prime reason for using a device like this is to play back files acquired from various sources on the Internet…without the ability to properly convert Half-SBS files, this device is effectively useless for anyone other than perhaps video game players and the rare soul who is only interested in watching an occasional BluRay disc. But the vast majority of YouTube 3D videos, for example, are presented in half-SBS which can not be properly converted by this device.

I pulled an OverUnder (also called TopAndBottom, or TaB) 3D mp4 from YouTube (Bugs World Short Version) to test, with similar results…setting the device to OverUnder wildly over-separates the frames, assuming a full frame instead of the anamorphic half-frames. I simply cannot conceive of a 3D conversion device not being able to handle the half-SBS or half-OU standards, but here it is.

As an added insult, when checking the website to see if there was an updated firmware available that might possibly fix this glaring and unforgivable oversight, I discovered their website was (and as of this writing, still is) down, failing with a 500 (Internal Server) error. I found a toll-free number and called it; spoke to a quite pleasant rep who after checking with superiors verified the website was indeed down, with no ETA for its return. The latest software version (unavailable as of this writing due to the website being offline) is 50.02.10, apparently from 9/18/2012, which doesn’t match AT ALL the version in my machine (listed on the diagnostic screen as MV142H 39.16 Build 28351). So I admit, even if I could download the firmware, I’d be mightily reluctant to load it.

I would strongly suggest, unless you are determined to only ever play back your PS3 or BluRay 3D discs and never ever watch files received from 3D camcorders, YouTube, and other places on the Internet, you avoid this device and instead look for something that can handle the ubiquitous half-SBS standard at the bare minimum. Cinders gives the device Tails-Down - this Wizard needs a new magic wand.

(When I get some time in the next month or so, I’m going to organize all of the information I’ve managed to gather about the myriad of different ways stereoscopic information is conveyed to your eyes separately and write it up, hopefully saving someone else the struggle I’ve had this week trying to work through the buttload of different and, of course, mutually exclusive methods for tricking you into seeing depth. If it weren’t such a cliche, I’d say, “Stay tuned…”)

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