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Elsa 3D Revelator

Well, it has been almost one year to the day since I reviewed the H3D Entertainment H3D System. The H3D System consisted of wireless LCD shutter glasses (the eyewear) and the infrared transmitter. The H3D System did wonders with perceived depth perception, and despite the small number of game patches that existed at the time, it looked to have a bright future ahead. In a years time, we have seen Wicked3D come out with similar glasses (the EyeScream) and universal driver support. H3D Entertainment has gone under, but now ELSA is jumping in with LCD shutter glasses of their own.

ELSA offers its 3D REVELATOR product as an inexpensive add-on for owners of the most recent ELSA video cards (the VICTORY II, WINNER II, ERAZOR II, and ERAZOR III). So, if you don't have an ELSA video card, and don't plan on getting one, this product is of no use to you.

Now, if you're still with me, let's go over the features that the 3D REVELATOR has to offer. First off, the 3D REVELATOR is available in a tethered (wired) or infrared (wireless) form, at prices of $49 and $79, respectively. So, if you don't mind being tied down, the price for the wired set is very attractive.

Unlike the H3D System which used a pass-thru video connection, not unlike the 3dfx pass-thru cables of the past, the 3D REVELATOR uses what could be described as a y-adapter cable. The purpose of the different cable design is to eliminate the signal loss and blurriness inherent with pass-thru cables, and it appears to work as designed. Your monitor connects to one part of the cable, and the other side of the y-cable then attaches to the glasses (wired set) or a very small infrared transmitter (wireless set). The transmitter is very unobtrusive, compared to the larger unit employed by the H3D System, but seems to be just as effective, if not more so. I was able to go at least 10 feet back with no problems with the wireless set. (The wired set has an 8-foot cable, so don't feel like you are that restricted with that version)

The LCD shutter glasses themselves resemble the H3D eyewear; in fact, the only visible difference besides the brand marking are the larger LCD shutter panels on the ELSA unit.

The original H3D System relied on games to have direct support for the glasses to work. The support was usually available via a patch, with hopes that future games would be out-of-the-box ready. For some reason, this never occurred, and the support picture looked a little bleak. Then, Wicked3D managed to build the support into their video drivers. Suddenly, the glasses were active on just about any Direct3D or Glide game on Wicked3D video cards.

All of the ELSA video cards that work with the 3D REVELATOR support Direct3D, so the included driver embeds itself into the Direct3D routines. An additional tab appears in the Display Properties to allow for adjustments, as well as toggling the 3D Stereo support completely off and on. Also included with the driver are presets for various games, demos, and benchmarking applications such as 3DMark99. These presets consist of the settings found to provide the best visual experience, as far as depth perception, least amount of double images/lines, etc. For games that don't have presets, the Dyna-Z function is a new feature that attempts to dynamically adjust things such as the depth perception as needed when the graphics change.

I used the 3D REVELATOR with a variety of games, not all with presets. Thief: The Dark Project had a preset, but the visual effect was very hard to notice; probably because of the already dark environment. Descent3 Demo2, on the other hand, became even more dizzier than normal, with the each passageway inviting you deeper and deeper. Need For Speed III benefitted a little from the visual effects, and so did Need for Speed: High Stakes, which didn't have a preset. Midtown Madness' environment lent itself well to the 3D enhancements, but some double lines were apparent. (Another game without a preset.) Finally, the ever-popular benchmark 3DMark99 has a preset, and with it the already dazzling demo movie becomes a multi-layered one, reminding me of watching dazzling IMAX films on the LARGE screen.

An extremely useful feature ELSA has built into the 3D REVELATOR driver is available in the form of hotkeys. When in Direct3D mode, the stereo visuals can be toggled on and off by a single numpad keypress. This allows you to compare the difference the glasses are making (or not making), or to simply toggle the stereo 3D support without having to quit the current game. The other hotkey allows for adjusting the various Z settings yourself, if you feel you can do a better job than the Dyna-Z feature. While this allows for some serious tweaking, I found that letting the Dyna-Z do the work was usually satisfactory enough.

As far as the hardware is concerned, the 3D REVELATOR seems to be compatible with the H3D System, as I was able to use the H3D eyewear at the same time with the wireless set. The larger LCD shutters on the ELSA unit are noticeably more effective than the H3D eyewear.

Ironically, the H3D System's showcase game was probably Quake II, which the 3D REVELATOR does not support, since it is strictly a Direct3D product. Hopefully things will improve on the compatibility front, making it more universal like the Wicked3D drivers.


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