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Years ago I got into cross-eyed 3D photos and I've made a good few of them. Not many people are willing to spend the few days and eye strain to learn the viewing method, though. With Google Cardboard and other VR viewers becoming more mainstream, is there a consistent and easy way to create stereoscopic images for VR viewers from a stereoscopic pair?

I read that GC uses a .jpg approach, where they store the right-eye input inside the metadata for backwards compatibility, but I could only find some dodgy-looking apps for making those. And facebook's algorithm for 3D photos takes a single 2D photo as input. Do lay-people make 3D photos for VR and, if so, how?

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There are multiple ways stereoscopic image data can be stored. The easiest to create are side-by-side JPGs.

  • Side-by-side JPGs (JPS). According to sView: Stereoscopic Formats, the images are in cross-eye order for JPS. You can use ImageMagick to create them.

    convert right.jpg left.jpg +append output.jpg
    

    When done rename the extension from jpg to jps. If you don't change the extension, you can view it as a cross-eye image.

  • Embedded in Exif metadata (MPO, JPG). MPO files are produced by many dedicated 3D cameras, such as the FujiFilm Real 3D W3. JPGs with embedded 3D data are produced by some apps, such as Google Cardboard. Some multi-camera phones similarly embed image data from multiple cameras into a single file. However, I know of no current multi-camera phone that is 3D capable.

    I don't know of any tools that create MPO files from image pairs, and ExifTool is not able to create new tags containing image data (thumbnails, previews, etc).

    To extract 3D image data from images, see:

  • Anaglyphs (red/blue images). This format is created by some toy 3D cameras (Vivitar, Toyo). I wouldn't bother with it.

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    Looks like sView is perfect for what I need. I also didn't know about the JPS format, that should work nicely, thank you! Jul 11 '19 at 13:13
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With stereographic images, proper alignment of the left and right images is very important to avoid eye strain. For example, your eyes will not be happy if an object in the left image is a bit higher than the right. Imagine your left eye trying to look up while your right eye is looking down. Misaligned 3D images cause literal headaches.

The best way to do this alignment is with software, and as luck would have it StereoPhoto Maker is a free program for doing this, and so much more. It can construct just about any type of digital 3D image format you can think of. It's a windows program, but I run it on Mac using Wine. Should work with Wine on Linux too.

As for 'lay-people' doing this, there is the 3D-Photo interest group -- 2,000+ hobbyists and professionals interested in, and ready to share, on all things 3D photography, from capture to display. A great place to ask questions if you get stuck.

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