3D video recording for our cautious, financially strapped, troubled times
The world has gone 3D loco. We’ve got 3D movies, 3D HDTV, and Blu-ray 3D. The NFL is working on 3D football broadcasts, and we think it’s only a matter of time before Pepsico begins marketing Gatorade 3D.
Yep, consumers are jumping on the 3D bandwagon with cautious interest if not enthusiasm, which is why ViewSonic’s new 3DV5 video recorder is intriguing: It costs just $180, which is a very low barrier to entry for 3D skeptics. The 3DV5 can record 3D, 720p video that can be played back on any 3D-capable TV or display. And it’s got an autostereoscopic 3D screen (“Look, mom, no nerd glasses!”) to boot.
We decided not to show the 3DV5’s 3D interface since we didn’t know if you’d have the right glasses for the effect.
Two 5-megapixel sensors inside the 3DV5 capture 30fps video for surprisingly effective 3D playback. You can view your 3D content right on the 2.4-inch LCD screen (more about that soon), but we think most enthusiasts will opt for playback on a 3D TV, computer display, or notebook (connectivity options include a full USB connector and HDMI). The 3DV5 also features on-board 3D conversion, so you’ll be able to upload your movies to YouTube’s 3D channel and watch your videos online with a pair of old-school red/cyan 3D glasses.
Viewed on a large Samsung 3D HDTV equipped with shutter glasses, the image-quality limitations of the 3DV5 begin to emerge. Sure, some of our test videos really did demonstrate the same kind of 3D spatial effects you see in Hollywood movies, but oftentimes the actual image quality, even at 720p, looked uncommonly low-res. The videos ran smoothly, however, and when we purposely filmed something to capture an obvious 3D effect (for example, someone slowly punching at the camera), the gimmick really worked.
The 3DV5’s built-in autostereoscopic display is an interesting—but ultimately failed—attempt at 3D viewing without the need for special eyewear. The display relies on parallax barrier 3D technology, and for the most part it falls short of delivering the 3D depth and separation that you’ll see in a movie theater or on a living room HDTV. Spatial effects were prone to popping back and forth between 3D and 2D, and we found that the picture eventually began hurting our eyes (which, over time, began hurting our heads).
Regardless of where we were viewing our content, we found that the 3D image “splits” when you shoot with the camera too close to a subject. This presents a conundrum, because one’s inclination is to position the subject up close in the foreground—thus distinguishing it from the background for a richer 3D effect. We did, however, find that zooming the lenses toward our subjects—rather than positioning subjects extremely close-up from the get-go—could remedy the splitting problem. Just use this technique sparingly, because the 3DV5’s digital zoom is crummy. Two or three stops up, and pixilation levels shoot to the moon.
Still, many of these gripes can be forgiven when you consider the price. For $180, you get yourself a fully functioning HD camcorder that can shoot 2D stills, 2D video, 3D stills and 3D video. ViewSonic has proven that budget 3D video capture can work, and they did it first. And that counts for something.
ViewSonic 3DV5 3D HD Camcorder
Affordable. Portable. Easy to use. 3D works reasonably well.
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
Low-res and grainy. Bad digital zoom. Disappointing onboard 3D LCD.