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3D Imaging - Escaping from the Flat Earth

Our eyesight plays a significant part in our life experience. Whatever we get up to it 's often the major link between the outside world and our brains.
The ideal is 'being there' - seeing sights afresh with out own eyes and we often go to considerable cost and trouble to travel places for the sheer pleasure of the visual experience.

We depend heavily on photos and video to recollect our memories, and as a substitute for the real thing. Photos are most satisfying if memory and personal experience help us relate to what we are seeing, re-creating a kind of virtual reality. For this reason we regard others photos (such as holiday snaps) as a relatively unsatisfactory (and maybe even tedious?) experience. We have come to expect moving images as a matter of course, having become aware of the shortcomings of photos.

Looking to the future, it would be nice if we could make videos more like a real-life experience by seeing them in 3D.

With existing technology we suffer the discomfort and inconvenience of wearing special glasses to watch 3D movies. It's great for epic things at the cinema but other than that, it's a bit geekish. The upshot is that we're not rushing out to buy 3D movie cameras and TVs (even though the results can be stunning!) and TV broadcasters don't think it cost effective to show 3D TV. Consequently little worthwhile material is available for home use, and the world is waiting for glasses-free 3D!

We are missing out on something here! It's possible today to take photos and record videos in 3D - our unrepeatable memories will be safely 'in the can'. Later on, when technology catches up, and glasses are no longer needed, , we'll reap the benefits of our foresight.

I bought a FinePix REAL 3D W3 camera, which is able to capture left/right images simultaneously. It can display 3D images directly on its clever lenticular viewing panel, and delivers stereoscopic digital information in .mpo (Multiple Picture Object) file format.
The files are playable in 3D Tvs. I bought a budget LG TV, 32LM620T for this purpose, and this completes a complete camera-viewing system for under £500.
I added an LG BluRay player, and can now watch 'Avatar' and the David Attenborough 'Kingdom of Plants 3D' in spectacular 3D in the comfort of my own home.
The BluRay player was an added bonus - my real purpose was to ensure the best possible recording of my photographic memories!

Two traditional solutions are available for those interested in adding value to static images by capturing 3D information in the form of separate images for the left and right eye:

The image can be rendered as an anaglyph, where differences if left and right hand stereoscopic views are represented by red colouring for left eye viewing, and cyan colouring for right eye viewing. By using suitable 3D glasses the viewer experiences the 3D effect. Examples can be found at several web sites .

Left and right hand images can be displayed side by side. Some people have the ability to merge the two separate images into a composite 3D view without mechanical aids.Failing this, a prismatic viewing device can be used to direct left and right hand images only to the appropriate eye.

Many 3D televisions allow .mpo files to be displayed as a slide show from USB memory devices. Sample .mpo files can be downloaded from DesignDesign, Photo management software from  StereoPhoto Maker allows .mpo files to be translated into anaglyph images and side-by-side image pairs. Photos taken with the FinePix 3D camera can thus be viewed using all methods in general use.

Ideally more devices capable of rendering .mpo files into 3D images will soon become available. In the meantime, the most convenient way of viewing 3D images is (with all its shortcomings) the anaglyph method. A large number of interesting anaglyph images is available on the internet.

By way of investigation, I downloaded some tailor-made .mpo images from DesignDesign, and some management software from StereoPhoto Maker .

Encouraged by what I saw, I photographed some "stereo-pairs" using my Canon PowerShot S3 camera (old hat, at 6 MegaPixels, but it has a 12X optical zoom and image stabilisation), and found it simple to feed the results into the software to create anaglyph images.

The result was the beginnings of an online anaglyph photo gallery .

Some good anaglyph images can be viewed at the  Dabiri Award web site. 
3D vision works because our eyes are a few inches apart and they see slightly different views. 
Our brain is continually analysing the differing view from each eye to give us spatial depth awareness.  
We can see photos and video in 3D by arranging to feed each eye with slightly different images. Stereoscopy (3D viewing) is almost as old as photography itself, starting in 1838. See the  Wikipedia article on Stereoscopy. 
In 1852 a process known as Anaglyph 3D was invented. This gives a very convenient way of recording and viewing 3D images using only a very cheap pair of special glasses. See the Wikipedia article on Anaglyph 3D. 
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