As those who’ve been reading along with the “Official 3D-XL Owners Thread” know, my first choice for 3D conversion was the 3D-XL; however, after too long of a wait and far too many undelivered schedules, I forsook the 3D-XL path and went for the VIP 3D-Theatre product. In other words, I got tired of waiting for the 3D-XL, and I recently bought and received a VIP 3D-Theatre. THANKS, Jonathan!!
Before telling you what I've found so far, I'll first tell you a little about myself in the interest of qualifying my comments and the perspective from which they are rendered. I am not in any way affiliated with anyone who sells any of the products that I am discussing here. I am completely independent. I have not been compensated in any way by anyone for anything I am writing. I paid full price for the products I am reviewing. I‘m a perfectionist and a fairly picky audiophile and videophile. I'm the kind of perfectionist that listened to scores of different audio systems and speakers for months before making a selection—the guy who, after doing all that auditioning, still found his 5.1 set of Vienna Acoustics Beethovens/Maestro a little too strained at high volume, his 5.1 set of JM Lab Electra a little too grainy in high frequencies, and his B&K Ref 30 a little too noisy on quiet tracks. I’m the guy who finds the scratch on the paint, or the unlevel picture on the wall, that no one else notices. If you’ve ever watched the series, Monk, you know what I mean. Some say I’m weird because of my attention to detail.
Why am I telling you this, though? I’m telling you all of this to let you know, before you read my review, that I'm not one to normally gloss lightly over imperfections. If I do, it’s because I find them insignificant. If I find the quality of something to be “acceptable”, or even “very good”, chances are that the average person will find that to be an understatement.
This is an important foreword, in my opinion, because small points of praise or criticism can be easily taken far too seriously, or not seriously enough, by the average reader when someone is rendering a review of audio-visual equipment, not only because everyone has a vastly different threshold for what is good versus bad, but also because A/V reviewers tend to over-criticize everything while failing to effectively convey the overall net value of the criticisms they impart, to the extent of causing some people to fear and fret over things the average consumer would actually find to be insignificant if even noticeable. There is a lot of subjectivity in an audio-visual review, and sometimes something that’s no big deal at all can be made to sound like a deal-breaking problem. So, I’m going to give you my personal opinions as a picky audio-video nerd who has a respect for making sure the average reader is not lost in jargon or scared away by obsessive nit-picking that doesn’t amount to a hill of proverbial beans in the real man’s world.
Having read some unsettling reviews, I worried a lot about the brightness and effective resolution of the HD 66 with ANY 3D setup. At least one reviewer reported that the projector dropped to less than 700 lumens in 3D mode, and that the glasses would naturally cut that to an effective 200-300. Another poster in an AVS thread had me briefly concerned about a DLP-Link synchronization issue that people started calling “pseudo stereo”. Then, there was the screen size and gain. Most people using this projector for 3D are projecting screen sizes somewhere around 100 inches, and some are using high-gain screens. Some even said that the image in 3D was “soft”; others said the picture was too dark; others said it was just fine. Finally, there was the glasses question. Which one has the best transmittance and contrast? So, I asked a lot of questions and did a fair amount of research, but I ultimately resolved that I would just have to try it for myself. As you'll find in reading further, my expectations were exceeded, and my fears were rendered a waste of time (SO FAR).
OK, here's what I can tell you so far.
The VIP 3D-Theatre that I received is a pre-release version. I ordered it with one set of DLP-Link glasses. It came in an unmarked box with a USB cord and the glasses inside. A power supply and manual were not included, but I do not know if they will be included when the final street version is shipped. For my needs, Jonathan sent me the manual via email, and I used a 5V DC power supply that I already had. You may be able to power the unit off of a USB port on the average Blu-ray player, but they only support about 100ma, so I can’t say for sure until the electrical specifications are formally published for the Theatre.
Screen: 135” Elite VMAX II, Matte White, 1.1 gain
Projector: Optoma HD66, firmware uncertain but believed to be latest
Projector Distance: Approx 16’
Glasses: Set A: VIP (No, they are not the same glasses as Ultra-Clear.); Set B: Ultra-Clear
Cable: 40 feet of Auvio (Radio Shack) with Auvio Repeater
HDMI Switcher: Rocketfish
3D Converter: VIP 3D-Theatre
I first tested the unit with the Despicable Me 3D Blu-ray at noon on a bright, sunny day, with a considerable amount of light coming into the moderately-darkened room. Right now, you’re probably expecting me to start telling you how dim the image was or how washed out the blacks were, but to my complete, blissful surprise, contrary to the professional reviews on this model of projector, I had to contain my urge to squeal like a school girl at a Springsteen concert as I found myself staring unexpectedly at a very BRIGHT, BOLD, perfectly-synced 3D picture. I was also surprised to find that, contrary to at least one professional review I read on this projector, the brightness, contrast, and other settings on the projector were available for adjustment in 3D mode. The reviewer said that when he selected 3D mode on the HD66, the projector overrode any brightness or other adjustments he made. Contrary to his review, my projector still offered me full functionality and control. This may be due to the version of the firmware; I do not know. I adjusted brightness and contrast at will, but I found that the same setting I had already selected were just fine. I had already spent considerable time tweaking the settings for the perfect 2D picture.
My second test was with a significantly darkened room at night. The lights in the next room were on and spilled into the theater room. To summarize, let me just say this: IMAX at home, if not better. OK, OK, that may be a slight overstatement (maybe, but, honestly, not by much if it is), but that was the honest feel and the reaction from the whole family, including myself. The colors, saturation, black levels, and brightness are not quite as perfect as the IMAX in every way, and are also not as good as the same projector in 2D mode without the glasses on, but I have to be honest with you by telling you that this system just flat out JAMS in 3D. Asking for more is just being spoiled, especially at the price (but even regardless of the price). I’d say that complaining about this setup would be kind of like having Jennifer Lopez for a girlfriend and complaining because she has too much junk in the trunk.
My third test was with the PS3’s Call of Duty: Black Ops. It was excellent, stunning, beautiful. I have nothing more or less to say than that.
My final test was with DirecTV 3D at noon. As with all other tests, the performance was, again, excellent.
From all my tests, I must say that I am very pleased with the brightness, contrast, color, and basically everything else. I noticed no flicker, no ghosting, and the only jitters that I did notice are about the same as I notice at the IMAX 3D theater, anyway. In fact, I notice a lot MORE flicker when I attend the finest 2D theatre in town (an IMAX theatre).
Another thing I’ve read and posted about is the glasses. There is some discussion about figuring out which glasses are the best to buy and which ones have the best transmittance and contrast. I thought this was going to be a big deal, based on the brightness concerns I read. However, in my tests, the cheap glasses that came with the unit worked very well, as did the Ultra-Clears. The slight green tint of the Ultra-Clears is so slight that it is practically negligible, and I actually ended up determining that I may like them better than the brighter and uncolored VIP glasses. Both glasses performed with excellence. I really can’t make any valid complaint over either of them. From start to finish, the impression is “awesome!”
Just buy it! It rocks! It does exactly what it says it will do, and it does it very, very well. Finding something to criticize with this system is nothing short of nit picking. If you’re not happy with this thing, well, you probably won’t be pleased with much else, either.
Through all of my tests, I noted a few things that I find most important to report to folks who are reading reviews and trying to wade through them to make a decision. First, regardless of whether you’re playing PS3 games, watching a Blu-ray, or viewing DirecTV, you don’t have to push any buttons or change any settings. It just works. There is, however, a set of dip switches that might be employed if you, for example, want to watch 3D on a 60Hz TV. Second, too many people say that the HD66 is too dim in 3D and had faded blacks. I can’t tell you what they found, or what kind of conditions in which they found them, but in EVERY one of my tests, I found the system to be AMPLY BRIGHT and beautifully black, even on my 135”, 1.1-gain screen from 16 feet. In fact, some scenes are just a touch too bright (not to the extent of being a “bad thing”, though). Third, I think a power supply should be offered with the sale of this unit, but it is easy enough to pick one up at Radio Shack. Fourth, I had expected to have to buy an expensive “3D-capable” HDMI switch, but the inexpensive Rocketfish worked fine. Fifth, the glasses were just fine. Don’t sweat them. Finally, there's the "pseudo-stereo problem" with DLP-Link. It's not an issue. About half the time, you look at the title screen when you're first initiating a session, and you will notice that the items that should obviously be in the foreground are not distanced correctly from the obvious background. Things look out of sorts. You click "invert" in your projector's 3D menu, and you're done. It's simple, and certainly nothing to worry about. No, it will not drive you crazy.
Now, this is for the picky videophiles out there.
Yes, there are some weaknesses to this system, just as there are with any system. Nope, it’s not as bright and rich as it is in 2D, but it’s plenty bright enough, and rich enough, for the material I watched. There may be some movies out there that are inherently dark, and they may have a problem with this system. I have not yet confirmed that fear, however. If you cannot adequately darken your room, you may want to wait for something brighter, but don’t take that statement too seriously. Some people would be satisfied with this in a half-dark room. I watch most of my stuff at night.
There is a little bit of getting used to the glasses, and the fluidity of motion is sometimes compromised during rapid movements of characters on the screen, but no more than at the commercial IMAX. I've always noticed this kind of thing in the commercial theaters, too.
Unlike IMAX 3D, though, as I said above, ghosting is utterly absent with this system, and flicker is not apparent. I generally DO notice ghosting at the IMAX 3D.
The resolution is excellent with this system, and the drop in resolution from 1080P to 720P was not noticed by anyone in my test room, except for maybe just the slightest, most miniscule degradation that I noticed, but it was so slight that I would only notice it briefly at times and think it might actually be my eyes (my eyes have always wrestled a little with 3D). Yes, I suppose one might be accurate in saying that the image is slightly "softer", but the word, "slightly", should be emphasized.
For anyone who does not have a serious bent for anal retention and a diagnosed condition of untreated OCD—and even for those who DO—I say this: buy with confidence, and stop reading nay-saying reviews. So far, the VIP 3D-Theatre is a great product that does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and the HD66 projector is an excellent match. In short, I have to say that the VIP 3D-Theatre, the HD66, and the other products mentioned herein combine to form a system is very much on par with commercial Real-D and IMAX theaters, with the obvious exceptions of screen size, audio power, and brightness (which, again, I found to be just fine).
Note: this is only my personal opinion and the opinion of three other viewers along side me in the test room. This does not mean that anyone else’s opinion is less valid or less intelligent. An opinion is an opinion, and not everyone has the same threshold. No offense to anyone with differing opinions, but if you’re an average person rather than a very, VERY picky videophlie, and you are worrying, stop. If you’re hesitating, don’t. If you’re waiting on the 3D-XL, but have a chance at buying a VIP 3D-Theatre in the mean time, buy the VIP 3D-Theatre, hook it to your HD66, and enjoy. Don't worry about the glasses. Either buy the VIP ones, or get some Ultra-Clears. They are both fine choices.
WELL DONE, VIP!! I am a satisfied customer.
Thanks for all the chat, company, answers, and help during the long wait time for the 3D conversion products to hit the street, guys. I enjoyed it. Congrats to those of you lucky enough to have received 3D-XL's and VIP's so far. As for the rest, just be patient; it's worth the wait.