Orquid "Phoenix"

Orquid "Phoenix"

by ceinmart

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I've become fascinated by the realm of 3D photography and would like to try my hand at making some 3D images. I have several related questions:

  1. How do I go about taking the dual images needed to make a 3D image?
  2. Are there any special distances that I need to keep in mind (either distances between cameras, or distances between camera and subject) in order to maintain the illusion?
  3. Is it possible to use newer viewing methods to see the picture? (e.g. the glasses that look like sunglasses you get at the movies or with your 3D television, as opposed to the glasses that have red and cyan lenses)
  4. What software can you recommend to prepare photographs for 3D viewing?
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5 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

The easiest way is to buy yourself a 3D camera.

This option has an excellent advantage: You can see the 3D effect while you compose and when reviewing your images which lets you know if the shot you take worked to give the 3D impression or not.

Otherwise you have to take 2 nearly identical photos with slightly different viewpoints. There are three methods to do this:

  • Take a photo, move the camera and take a second photo keeping everything constant: Focus, DOF, exposure, ISO, white-balance. This is easier to do with a camera with manual controls, although I suspect you can use Panorama Assist mode of compact-cameras too. They key is to move the camera along a level path a relatively small distance. The ideal distance between the two shots depends on focal-length, focus distance and desired perspective.
  • Take two photos simultaneously: Get two identical cameras and set everything including focus distance and focal-length to exactly the same settings. Triggering them simultaneously using an IR remote is ideal. You can get away with mechanically triggering them if there are no movements in the scene. You can buy a dual tripod plate which can hold two cameras to help with this.
  • Use an anamorphic 3D lens: These lenses capture two images side-by-side on your sensor. You need special software (supplied with cameras that support this lens) to transform the resulting image into an actual 3D image.

The distance between the two shots has to be such that the objects in the plane of focus appear slightly different but not too much. There is no ideal distance. The further the subject you are trying to focus on appears, the wider apart the pictures must be taken. This should take into consideration actual distance and focal-length, so longer a focal-length requires less movement between the shots.

You can view these images, which are actually stereoscopic images, by various means:

  • Many new HDTV support 3D HDMI input which you can see using special glasses (not red-blue). Some display can also display the 3D effect without viewing glasses as long as you are standing with a certain distance and angle from the screen.
  • You can have your images on paper using lenticular printing services. See this question.
  • Get a 3D Digital photo frame.

The software you need depends on your viewing device. If you have a 3D display device you have to make sure which format they use. So far, the MPO format is most popular, although Stereo JPEG (JPS) images exist. Fuji has software to convert between MPO and pairs of JPEGs. A number of free utilities exist but I have not much experience with them.

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I've "done" one recently by accidentally shooting two photos of a bench from slightly different angles. Upon going back and forth between the two in Lightroom, it reminded me of these Animated GIFs you see online that simulate a stereo effect from such a pair. A cheap way to create a form of 3D, for sure. Here is the result below, not that great, maybe they were too far apart. Sorry for the headache :) Check these much better ones here to get a feel for it:

You create animated GIFs with a lot of apps, including Photoshop, here is a howto: Animated 3D Stereo Photography.

enter image description here

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+1 great example and awesome gallery links. –  ysap Feb 21 '11 at 23:09
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Wow... interesting idea, but those sure are headache-inducing. Not sure I can actually enjoy this effect myself. –  chills42 Apr 26 '11 at 12:43
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  1. You can take the dual images just taking two photos, moving the camera sideways 2 or 3 inches between the photos.

  2. You can move horizontally more than 2-3 inches to increase the 3D effect, but if you go too far the user won't be able to focus on the 3D result. You should make sure and not change the depth in the dual images.

  3. Glasses with lenses polarized one direction in one lens and 90 degrees offset in the other lens work better than the colored lenses. For this you also need to be able to show the images in polarized light.

  4. I don't know. :-)

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A simple and inexpensive method can be done by using any CHDK compatible Powershot cameras, or using the off-shoot from that project, called SDM (Stereo Data Maker) found at this site: http://stereo.jpn.org/eng/sdm/index.htm The SDM operating system dedicated with special alignment assist and scripting-command tools for 3D stereo imagery.

These both allow you to sync two or more cameras within 1/10,000th second of each other. Allowing you to now take 3D images of high-speed subjects. There are other free tools on creating 3D images and movies which can be found here: http://stereo.jpn.org/eng/

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@Jay Lance Photography: actually you didn't mention that in the question this time around. –  mattdm Apr 7 '11 at 3:36
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