Last month, I mentioned that I finally made the decision to remove the Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD player from my home theater setup. Rather than deal with any separation anxiety, I wanted to replace it with a new toy. Once I satisfied the WAF requirements, which were nothing backbreaking really (don’t tell her that!), I received approval to purchase. Soon, I will build my first HTPC, which might be a challenge because I haven’t built my own computer in a while. Before we get to that, however, I first bought and fooled around with a new Blu-ray 3D player: the Panasonic DMP-BDT310. The interesting thing about this model is that it has the ability to convert 2D content to 3D. But how well does it work?
I already owned a Panasonic BDT300, which I bought to go with my Panny VT25 3D plasma TV. That one’s now living comfortably in the bedroom with a non-3D display (a Toshiba Regza, in case you were wondering). It’s a good disc player, and I don’t have any complaints except that the lack of Wi-Fi connectivity did bug me on occasion. So, when I read Panasonic was releasing a newer model with internal Wi-Fi, I was excited. Yet I wasn’t quite sold until I read that Panasonic was also including 2D-to-3D conversion capabilities in the player. That really piqued my interest.
I had considered the OPPO BDP-93, which Josh already owns, for my next purchase. It’s an excellent, highly-regarded piece of machinery. The thought of purchasing that one at a later date still lingers in the back of my mind. The one thing that made me hesitant was the region code restriction (which of course is no longer an issue), even though I already own a region-free player. Ultimately, the decision to go with the BDT310 came down to that neat little 3D conversion feature. Can I really watch my existing movie library in 3D? How would converted 2D discs compare with native Blu-ray 3D discs?
Well, the results are in. While I’m not completely satisfied with the picture quality, I’m not completely disappointed either. It’s easy to figure out why expectations wouldn’t be met: Native 3D discs already have the layered encodes required for creating a three-dimensional image. Here, the player is expected to judge foreground from background objects and create another eye-view from the existing image. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a nifty feature, just nothing close to the effect that a native disc can provide. It really only adds more depth and dimension to the video, which is cool I suppose. Clearly, I got ahead of myself by getting excited for what amounts to a clever gimmick.
The remote comes with a designated 3D button that will turn the feature on and off, or adjust the effect to each user’s liking. This is one of the things I enjoyed fooling around with. In the 3D picture mode, you can select “Normal,” which is the unchangeable manufacture’s setting, or “Manual Settings,” which speaks for itself. The “Normal” setting, whatever that amounts to, is actually pretty good. But again, it only adds depth to existing images; it doesn’t actually transform them into real 3D. Of course, being the crazed hobbyist that I am, I want to set things manually.
So, in “Manual Settings,” I messed around with the “Distance” option, which is a way of setting depth and distance according to the comfort level of each user, while also reducing the amount of visible crosstalk. Since eyesight is different for everyone, this is a very handy way of adjusting what people can handle without getting dizzy. It ranges between -5 to +3. I found that the positive range doesn’t show much ghosting, but makes me feel cross-eyed and a bit dizzy. Far to the negative range exposes a great deal of annoying crosstalk. My comfort zone is -2. I have the least amount of issues on that setting.
The next option is Screen Type. Do you have a “Round” or “Flat” screen? I liked the Round selection because it gave me the best 3D effect. I have no idea how this works or how technicians came up with these names, but apparently I have a round screen. Even my wife commented on the improvement in “Round” versus “Flat.” Anyhow, after that, I can choose to add a border around the picture, select its thickness, and even apply a color: black, gray, green, blue or red. Why anyone would use this is beyond me. I definitely did not care for it.
With the player ready to go, I decided to try some live action flicks first. I went with ‘Tron: Legacy‘ and ‘Resident Evil: Afterlife‘ because they were originally filmed in 3D. Well, they looked good, but I felt rather foolish since the native 3D was already available and looked a heck of a lot better. Later, I tried ‘Hellboy II: The Golden Army‘ since it’s a nice combination of colorful but dark photography. This is was an improvement, but even though it looked surprisingly great, I desired more pop. To satisfy that thirst, I watched ‘Cars‘, an even more colorful picture with a splendid natural 3D-like effect already in 2D. The results were great and even better than the previous movie. Afterwards, mostly just for shits and giggles, I threw in ‘Team America: World Police’ on DVD. This, too, looked good with a strong amount of depth and dimension. Yet it still lacked the quality we only see in genuine Blu-ray 3D discs.
Ultimately, the feature to convert 2D to 3D is a rather nice option to have. But sadly, it feels like a gimmick that doesn’t compare to native Blu-ray 3D discs. Although HD content provided the sharper picture, I had the best results in terms of three-dimensional depth from standard-def DVD, and I can’t figure out why. In the end, I’ll probably rarely catch myself using this feature in either format. Give me real Blu-ray 3D or nothing at all. That OPPO is starting to look mighty tempting again.