Stereo Pics. Theories of 3D (Part 2)

Still fumbling my way towards a new idea about how we see in 3D, or more specifically how we see stereo pictures as 3D.

Brian May has some beautiful examples on his site at the moment, of crocus flowers. I've reproduced them below, having now acknowledged the source! The first is for 'free viewing', which means you have to look at the two images but be actually looking to infinity beyond the screen i.e. you have to 'look' at the pictures but actually be looking as if you were watching something miles away in the distance. This seems impossible at first, because you'll tend to want to focus on the screen itself, and you might also think "how can I look at two things at once?". But it's a sort of peripheral awareness of the flowers, while looking with your eyes aimed to infinity, just as you can be aware of both the road in front of you (to infinity) when driving and what's going on in the car (peripherally, like the flowers in this case).

[I suspect it's peripheral awareness that's the pathway to a proper understanding of how stereo photos work, but it's still a bit half-baked in my mind. But it doesn't necessarily explain why some colours on computer screens jump out at you in 3D, as I wrote about back here.]

As you get good at this you'll notice that the two images turn into three, and then keeping your eyes diverged as if they were looking into the distance, you focus on the middle of the 3 images. Again at first it seems impossible to be focusing on the close thing while 'looking' far away. But using the car example again, you can be both watching the road ahead and peripherally focus on the radio knobs, at the same time. As you focus on that middle image, and it can take a few seconds for the focus to sharpen (and it will - give it time), it will jump out at you in glorious 3D. Anyway, the 'free-view' version is below, to try using what I've just described.

Now here's the 'cross-eyed' version. To view that you just cross your eyes i.e. go cross-eyed, until you get 3 images. Then you focus on the middle of the 3. Many people find this easier, as did I at first, although after a while you get fed up with being cross-eyed.


  1. You're right to be interested in 3D. It's the coming thing. Friend of mine just shot a movie in 3D and is hooked, and when I first saw images on a TV screen in 3D with no glasses needed (in Cannes back a decade ago) it looked like the future. It's just taken a little while to get here, with people only seeing the novelty, but we've always wanted our virtual world, the shadows on the cave, to simulate reality in ways that hook us in. It'll be the next big roll out when the electronics industry starts to look around at new ways to encourage consumption. Tricking the eyes and ears and the brain is one of the noblest arts of magicians, hypnotists and story tellers.

  2. Richard Glover had Jeff Katzenberg on yesterday, talking about 3D. Glover kept pushing the line that it's a pointless gimmick, saying that plot and character is all that's ever really important. Bookish people always say that about film. Film seems to me to be a visual art form first, story teller second, and it's great when you get both of those working together. But it's the visuals and the sound which make film not a book, but reviewers hardly ever mention anything except plot.

    I just love the gorgeousness of the imagery in 3D, when it's done well. Amazes me anybody could call it a gimmick - as Katzenberg said, the good film makers don't go for cheap effects like gorillas jumping out at you, they see themselves as having failed if the audience steps out of the film and goes "oooooh, look at that 3D".


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