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Razor 3D Video Viewing System Review

Highs

  • Good sense of 3D depth

Rating

Our Score 7
User Score 5

Lows

  • Only supports 2 glasses
By offering films, IMAX and a mastering kit for your own videos they have covered the bases for three dimensional viewing

Summary

There is a definite sense of depth provided by the system but in most scenes some may be disappointed. If you expect the realism of actually looking at something you will be disappointed. If you set your expectation at a reasonable level you will enjoy the effect and it will add to your viewing enjoyment. Razor has paid attention to the little details, something rare today. By offering films, IMAX and a mastering kit for your own videos they have covered the bases for three dimensional viewing. If you are going to get this system do yourself a favor and invest in the wireless glasses. The one downside is the limit of two sets of glasses per converter box; four jacks would have been more family friendly.

Introduction

Movie makers have been experimenting with three dimensional video for a long time. While many think these early attempts where relegated to cheap drive-in type flicks directors like Alfred Hitchcock tried his hand at 3D with his classic film noir, Dial ‘M’ for Murder. The standard method for providing three dimensional viewing is the blue and red cellophane paper glasses we have all seen. Now, Razor has brought a newer technology to home theater with the introduction of their Z3D system. It requires a converter box, AC connection and special glasses but it does give the feeling of depth to the film. While not as dramatic as many will hope there is a difference that is noticeable. The system is implored for a good number of DVDs, mostly public domain titles, games and even video tape.  For the DVD titles there is a choice between 2D and 3D viewing in case you don’t want to wear the glasses for viewing.

While striving for a greater degree of realism studios began to experiment with three dimension viewing. While this was mostly applied to relatively cheap films, used as a gimmick to pull audiences away from the new invention, television, some of the major studios did try out the new technology in films that could hold there own with the audiences. With the Razor z3D system you need to plug the output of the DVD composite video into the z3D converter box. Another composite video cable then goes out to the television set. An AC power adapter is required for the converter box. The 3D glasses are then plugged into the converter. The set up is so simple only a piece of paper is included for instructions but to be fair, that is basically all that is required.

Technology

The old fashion method of providing three dimensional viewing was to wear cheap paper glasses with one lens covered with blue cellophane, the other with red. The film was processed with the picture off set with blue ad red hues. This provided separate and slightly different pictures to each eye. The result was the perception of depth.  The advantage of this method was it was cheap.  The glasses where disposable, the processing required for the film was reasonably inexpensive and no special equipment was required by the theater. With the home theater system employed by Razor the colored glasses have been replaced by plastic ones that look pretty much like inexpensive sun glasses. The trick is to give slightly different view points to each eye. Instead of doing this with mutually exclusive colors the Razor system alternately displays first the information for the left eye followed by what is seen by the right. The glasses alternately block out one eye then the other. This is done many times each second so that the brain actually merges the two viewpoints into one which gives the perception of depth. With the colored glasses there is some distortion of the color palette of the film.  Since the Razor system is dependant on switching each eye’s view on and off the picture is a lot cleaner and provides truer colors.

Set Up

As noted above the set up of the Razor z3D system is very straightforward and easy. Cables are included to patch the converter box between the composite video output of the DVD and then into the composite video input of the television. The power cable is connected to the converter box and up to two sets of glasses can then be connected to the converter. The only drawback is the length of the wire on the glasses; it’s only about six feet in length. This means you have to be pretty close to your television. The low cost way around this is to use longer cables for the two composite video connections. This will bring the converter box closer to your viewing position. The other method is to purchase the optional wireless glasses that provide a much greater flexibility in your viewing position.

Testing

Three classic horror flicks where included in the set sent to me for review. The titles were Dementia 13, Night of the Living Dead and the original Little Shop of Horrors. Each disc provided both the three dimensional and two dimensional versions. The DVD option of multi angle is used to switch back and forth between the two versions. This did allow me to do a real head to head test of the system. One caveat here, the quality of the DVDs where less than perfect. There was a lot of degradation to the source material and since the films were all black and white I was not able to fully examine the color reproduction of the system. Since the wireless glasses where not included for review I had to opt for longer composite cables in order to bring the converter box realistically closer to my couch. With that being said lets get into the nitty-gritty of the review. The glasses where light weight and fairly comfortable to wear. Extra arms were provided for the smaller faces of children. There was no perceivable flicker to the viewing. The picture was smooth and easy to watch. There is a mode switch on the converter box to control which eye gets the picture first. The default setting is left eye first. Apparently some source material requires moving to right eye first, odd since all the source material comes from Razor and they should be able to control a process like this. There was a notable depth to the picture. The actors appeared to move in front of and behind each other. The effect ranged from slight to a nice presentation of depth. I did use the multi angle function to switch back and forth between the versions and each time I went back to 3D mode the picture expanded front to back. I did find the process added to the realism of the picture. Scenes with shadows or a greater separation of the actors and sets worked better than those with relatively shallow ones. The overall effect was one of far better stereo-optical depth than the old color glasses provided. I did find one odd little side effect of 3D viewing.  Icons placed on the screen by the DVD player seemed to float above the picture.

System Extras

Razor has thought out the distribution of this system very well. Aside from the public domain films provided through Slingshot Distributors there are also several IMAX titles available through the Razor web site. The films seem to fall into the genres of horror, creature features and Sci-Fi. Discs are available either as individual titles or in genre specific box sets. Single discs run about $14.95 with the box sets ranging from $49.95 to $79.95. There are also games available. Everything from simulated golf to commanding the starship Enterprise can be played in 3D. An optional joystick is available for about $79.95. If you want to make your own 3D films there is an authoring software package you can get for $249.95. This allows you to record on a camcorder and process the resulting images into three dimensions. Among the controls of this package is the ability to control the depth of the images and selection of which objects are in the foreground or the back. The system can either be used on your PC or with your home theater set up. For those that do not want even more cables running through your living room you can get wireless glasses for viewing. They run about $20 each.

Conclusion

There is a definite sense of depth provided by the system but in most scenes some may be disappointed. If you expect the realism of actually looking at something you will be disappointed. If you set your expectation at a reasonable level you will enjoy the effect and it will add to your viewing enjoyment. Razor has paid attention to the little details, something rare today. By offering films, IMAX and a mastering kit for your own videos they have covered the bases for three dimensional viewing. If you are going to get this system do yourself a favor and invest in the wireless glasses. The one downside is the limit of two sets of glasses per converter box; four jacks would have been more family friendly.