AskDefine | Define stereoscopy

Dictionary Definition

stereoscopy n : three-dimensional vision produced by the fusion of two slightly different views of a scene on each retina [syn: stereoscopic vision]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. the manufacture and viewing of stereoscopic images; 3D imaging

Extensive Definition

Stereoscopy, stereoscopic imaging or 3-D (three-dimensional) imaging is any technique capable of recording three-dimensional visual information or creating the illusion of depth in an image. The illusion of depth in a photograph, movie, or other two-dimensional image is created by presenting a slightly different image to each eye. Many 3D displays use this method to convey images. It was first invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1840. Stereoscopy is used in photogrammetry and also for entertainment through the production of stereograms. Stereoscopy is useful in viewing images rendered from large multi-dimensional data sets such as are produced by experimental data. Modern industrial three dimensional photography may use 3D scanners to detect and record 3 dimensional information. The three-dimensional depth information can be reconstructed from two images using a computer by corresponding the pixels in the left and right images. Solving the Correspondence problem in the field of Computer Vision aims to create meaningful depth information from two images.
Traditional stereoscopic photography consists of creating a 3-D illusion starting from a pair of 2-D images. The easiest way to create depth perception in the brain is to provide the eyes of the viewer with two different images, representing two perspectives of the same object, with a minor deviation similar to the perspectives that both eyes naturally receive in binocular vision. If eyestrain and distortion are to be avoided, each of the two 2-D images preferably should be presented to each eye of the viewer so that any object at infinite distance seen by the viewer should be perceived by that eye while it is oriented straight ahead, the viewer's eyes being neither crossed nor diverging. When the picture contains no object at infinite distance, such as a horizon or a cloud, the pictures should be spaced correspondingly closer together.



Little or no additional image processing is required. Under some circumstances, such as when a pair of images is presented for crossed or diverged eye viewing, no device or additional optical equipment is needed.
The principal advantages of side-by-side viewers is that there is no diminution of brightness so images may be presented at very high resolution and in full spectrum color. The ghosting associated with polarized projection or when color filtering is used is totally eliminated. The images are discretely presented to the eyes and visual center of the brain, with no co-mingling of the views. The recent advent of wider HD and computer flat screens has made wider 3D digital images practical in this side by side mode, which hitherto has been used mainly with paired photos or in print form.

Stereographic cards and the stereoscope

Two separate images are printed side-by-side. When viewed without a stereoscopic viewer the user is required to force his eyes either to cross, or to diverge, so that the two images appear to be three. Then as each eye sees a different image, the effect of depth is achieved in the central image of the three.
The stereoscope offers several advantages:
  • Using positive curvature (magnifying) lenses, the focus point of the image is changed from its short distance (about 30 to 40 cm) to a virtual distance at infinity. This allows the focus of the eyes to be consistent with the parallel lines of sight, greatly reducing eye strain.
  • The card image is magnified, offering a wider field of view and the ability to examine the detail of the photograph.
  • The viewer provides a partition between the images, avoiding a potential distraction to the user.
Stereograms cards are frequently used by orthoptists and vision therapists in the treatment of many binocular vision and accommodative disorders.

Cross converged viewing, with new "masking" glasses

By exchanging the right and left views, and the opposite eye converged to the shifted images, it is possible to obtain a true color 3-D effect with some effort, without glasses or a viewer. Very recently, low cost glasses became available to aid the viewer in cross convergence viewing. An unusual effect of these optical glasses is to substantially widen the field of view to include a part of the peripheral area not visible to both eyes. There is a wrap-around effect produced, without the ghosting and the depth perspective can be greatly deepened. These new glasses provide acrylic lenses, plastic frames, that integrate a set of adjustable masking elements, that channel the view to only one image per eye. This allows full use of the screen width in the way that live vision treats stereo. The cross view image can easily fill any screen including 16 by 9 HDTV screens, working like a mirror to allow a dual perspective & wider view, as the images are mentally processed. Several non-commercial demonstration sites, such as are showing extended 3D, sound, perfect color slide-shows, of subjects such as the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. They can be viewed with the glasses or without by masking with two hands turned upward, one per side. The technique is easily applied to full motion video as well. There are examples of the ultra wide aspect cross glasses images, as well as narrower "portrait" format, which fills a 4×3 computer screen efficiently.

Transparency viewers

In the 1940s, a modified and miniaturized variation of this technology was introduced as the View-Master. Pairs of stereo views are printed on translucent film which is then mounted around the edge of a cardboard disk, images of each pair being diametrically opposite. A lever is used to move the disk so as to present the next image pair. A series of seven views can thus be seen on each card when it was inserted into the View-Master viewer. These viewers were available in many forms both non-lighted and self-lighted and may still be found today. One type of material presented is children's fairy tale story scenes or brief stories using popular cartoon characters. These use photographs of three dimensional model sets and characters. Another type of material is a series of scenic views associated with some tourist destination, typically sold at gift shops located at the attraction.
Another important development in the late 1940s was the introduction of the Stereo Realist camera and viewer system. Using color slide film, this equipment made stereo photography available to the masses and caused a surge in its popularity. The Stereo Realist and competing products can still be found (in estate sales and elsewhere) and utilized today.
Low-cost folding cardboard viewers with plastic lenses have been used to view images from a sliding card and have been used by computer technical groups as part of annual convention proceedings. These have been supplanted by the DVD recording and display on a television set. By exhibiting moving images of rotating objects a three dimensional effect is obtained through other than stereoscopic means.
An advantage offered by transparency viewing is that a wider field of view may be presented since images, being illuminated from the rear, may be placed much closer to the lenses. Note that with simple viewers the images are limited in size as they must be adjacent and so the field of view is determined by the distance between each lens and its corresponding image.
Good quality wide angle lenses are quite expensive and they are not found in most stereo viewers.

Head-mounted displays

The user typically wears a helmet or glasses with two small LCD or OLED displays with magnifying lenses, one for each eye. The technology can be used to show stereo films, images or games, but it can also be used to create a virtual display. Head-mounted displays may also be coupled with head-tracking devices, allowing the user to "look around" the virtual world by moving their head, eliminating the need for a separate controller. Performing this update quickly enough to avoid inducing nausea in the user requires a great amount of computer image processing. If six axis position sensing (direction and position) is used then wearer may move about within the limitations of the equipment used. Owing to rapid advancements in computer graphics and the continuing miniaturization of video and other equipment these devices are beginning to become available at more reasonable cost.
Head-mounted or wearable glasses may be used to view a see-through image imposed upon the real world view, creating what is called augmented reality. This is done by reflecting the video images through partially reflective mirrors. The real world view is seen through the mirrors' reflective surface. Experimental systems have been used for gaming, where virtual opponents may peek from real windows as a player moves about. This type of system is expected to have wide application in the maintenance of complex systems, as it can give a technician what is effectively "x-ray vision" by combining computer graphics rendering of hidden elements with the technician's natural vision. Additionally, technical data and schematic diagrams may be delivered to this same equipment, eliminating the need to obtain and carry bulky paper documents.
Augmented stereoscopic vision is also expected to have applications in surgery, as it allows the combination of radiographic data (CAT scans and MRI imaging) with the surgeon's vision.

3D glasses

Liquid Crystal shutter glasses

Glasses containing liquid crystal that will let light through in synchronization with the images on the computer display, using the concept of alternate-frame sequencing. See also Time-division multiplexing.

Linearly polarized glasses

To present a stereoscopic motion picture, two images are projected superimposed onto the same screen through orthogonal polarizing filters. It is best to use a silver screen so that polarization is preserved. The projectors can receive their outputs from a computer with a dual-head graphics card. The viewer wears low-cost eyeglasses which also contain a pair of orthogonal polarizing filters. As each filter only passes light which is similarly polarized and blocks the orthogonally polarized light, each eye only sees one of the images, and the effect is achieved. Linearly polarized glasses require the viewer to keep his head level, as tilting of the viewing filters will cause the images of the left and right channels to bleed over to the opposite channel – on the other hand, viewers learn very quickly not to tilt their heads. In addition, since no head tracking is involved, several people can view the stereocopic images at the same time.
There are several commercial systems offering products like the above, and one can also put one together by oneself using instructions on the GeoWall Consortium site – they refer to such a system as a GeoWall.

Circularly polarized glasses

To present a stereoscopic motion picture, two images are projected superimposed onto the same screen through circular polarizing filters of opposite handedness. The viewer wears low-cost eyeglasses which contain a pair of analyzing filters (circular polarizers mounted in reverse) of opposite handedness. Light that is left-circularly polarized is extinguished by the right-handed analyzer; while right-circularly polarized light is extinguished by the left-handed analyzer. The result is similar to that of steroscopic viewing using linearly polarized glasses; except the viewer can tilt his head and still maintain left/right separation.
Real D Cinema System (used recently with the sterescopic Disney movie, "Chicken Little 3D") uses electronically driven circular polarizers that alternate between left- and right- handedness, and does so in sync with the left or right image being displayed by the (digital) movie projector.

Two-color anaglyph

Anaglyph images have seen a recent resurgence due to the presentation of images on the internet. Where traditionally, this has been a largely black & white format, recent digital camera and processing advances have brought very acceptable color images to the internet and DVD field. With the online availability of low cost paper glasses with improved red-cyan filters, and even better plastic framed glasses, the field is growing fast. Scientific images, where depth perception is useful, include the presentation of complex multi-dimensional data sets and stereographic images from (for example) the surface of Mars, but due to recent release of 3D DVDs, they are increasingly used for entertainment. Anaglyph images are much easier to view than either parallel sighting or crossed eye stereograms, although the latter types offer bright and accurate color rendering, which is not quite obtainable with even good color anaglyphs.

Compensating anaglyph glasses

Simple sheet or uncorrected molded glasses do not compensate for the 250 nanometer difference in the wave lengths of the red-cyan filters. With simple glasses, the red filter image can be blurry when viewing a close computer screen or printed image since the retinal focus differs from the cyan filtered image, which dominates the eyes' focusing. Better quality molded plastic glasses employ a compensating differential diopter power to equalize the red filter focus shift relative to the cyan. The direct view focus on computer monitors has been recently improved by manufacturers providing secondary paired lenses fitted and attached inside the red-cyan primary filters of some high end anaglyph glasses. They are used where very high resolution is required, including science, stereo macros, and animation studio applications. They also use carefully balanced cyan (blue-green) acrylic lenses, which pass a minute percentage of red to improve skin tone perception. Simple red/blue glasses work well with black and white, but are very unsuitable for human skin in color.

ColorCode 3-D

ColorCode 3-D is a new patented 3-D Stereo system. It is the only in the world to reproduce 3-dimensional images in a simple way with full color- and depth information on all display media. ColorCode 3-D is sometimes confused with anaglyph because of the colored filters in the ColorCodeViewer, but both the filters and the encoding process are entirely different from the more than 150 years old anaglyph system.

Chromadepth method and glasses

The Chromadepth procedure of American Paper Optics is based on the fact that with a prism colors are separated by varying degrees. The ChromaDepth eyeglasses contain special view foils, which consist of microscopically small prisms. This causes the image to be translated a certain amount that depends on its color. If one uses a prism foil now with one eye but not on the other eye, then the two seen pictures – depending upon color – are more or less widely separated. The brain produces the spatial impression from this difference. The advantage of this technology consists above all of the fact that one can regard ChromaDepth pictures also without eyeglasses (thus two-dimensional) problem-free (unlike with two-color anaglyph). However the colors are only limitedly selectable, since they contain the depth information of the picture. If one changes the color of an object, then its observed distance will also be changed.

Anachrome "compatible" color anaglyph method

A recent variation on the anaglyph technique is called "Anachrome method". This approach is an attempt to provide images that look fairly normal without glasses as 2D images to be "compatible" for posting in conventional websites or magazines. The 3D effect is generally more subtle, as the images are shot with a narrower stereo base, (the distance between the camera lenses). Pains are taken to adjust for a better overlay fit of the two images, which are layered one on top of another. Only a few pixels of non-registration give the depth cues. The range of color is perhaps three times wider in Anachrome due to the deliberate passage of a small amount of the red information through the cyan filter. Warmer tones can be boosted, and this provides warmer skin tones and vividness.

Other display methods


More recently, random-dot autostereograms have been created using computers to hide the different images in a field of apparently random noise, so that until viewed by diverging the eyes, the subject of the image remains a mystery. A popular example of this is the Magic Eye series, a collection of stereograms based on distorted colorful and interesting patterns instead of random noise.

Pulfrich effect

In the classic Pulfrich effect paradigm a subject views, binocularly, a pendulum swinging perpendicular to his line of sight. When a neutral density filter (e.g., a darkened lens -like from a pair of sunglasses) is placed in front of, say, the right eye the pendulum appears to take on an elliptical orbit, being closer as it swings toward the right and farther as it swings toward the left.
The widely accepted explanation of the apparent motion with depth is that a reduction in retinal illumination (relative to the fellow eye) yields a corresponding delay in signal transmission, imparting instantaneous spatial disparity to moving objects. This occurs because the eye, and hence the brain, respond more quickly to brighter objects than to dimmer ones.
So, if the brightness of the pendulum is greater in the left eye than in the right, the retinal signals from the left eye will reach the brain slightly ahead of those from the right eye making it seem like the pendulum seen by the right eye is lagging behind its counterpart in the left eye. This difference in position over time is interpreted by the brain as motion with depth: No motion, no depth.
The ultimate effect of this, with appropriate scene composition, is the illusion of motion with depth. Object motion must be maintained for most conditions and is effective only for very limited "real-world" scenes.

Prismatic & self masking crossview glasses

"Naked-eye" cross viewing is a skill that must be learned to be used. New prismatic glasses now make cross-viewing easier, and also mask off the secondary non-3D images, that otherwise show up on either side of the 3D image. The most recent low-cost glasses mask the images down to one per eye using integrated baffles. Images or video frames can be displayed on a new widescreen HD or computer monitor with all available area used for display. HDTV wide format permits excellent color and sharpness. Cross viewing provides true "ghost-free 3D" with maximum clarity, brightness and color range, as does the stereopticon and stereoscope viewer with the parallel approach. The potential depth and brightness is maximized. A recent cross converged development, is a new variant wide format that uses a conjoining of visual information outside of the regular binocular stereo window. This allows an efficient seamless visual presentation in true wide-screen, more closely matching the focal range of the human eyes.

Lenticular prints

Lenticular printing is a technique by which one places an array of lenses, with a texture much like corduroy, over a specially made and carefully aligned print such that different viewing angles will reveal different image slices to each eye, producing the illusion of three dimensions, over a certain limited viewing angle. This can be done cheaply enough that it is sometimes used on stickers, album covers, etc. It is the classic technique for 3D postcards.

Displays with filter arrays

The LCD is covered with an array of prisms that divert the light from odd and even pixel columns to left and right eyes respectively. As of 2004, several manufacturers, including Sharp Corporation, offer this technology in their notebook and desktop computers. These displays usually cost upwards of 1000 dollars and are mainly targeted at science or medical professionals.
Another technique, for example used by the X3D company, is simply to cover the LCD with two layers, the first being closer to the LCD than the second, by some millimeters. The two layers are transparent with black strips, each strip about one millimeter wide. One layer has its strips about ten degrees to the left, the other to the right. This allows seeing different pixels depending on the viewer's position.

Wiggle stereoscopy

This method, possibly the most simple stereogram viewing technique, is to simply alternate between the left and right images of a stereogram. In a web browser, this can easily be accomplished with an animated .gif image, flash applet or a specialized java applet. Most people can get a crude sense of dimensionality from such images, due to persistence of vision and parallax. Closing one eye and moving the head from side-to-side helps to understand why this works. Objects that are closer appear to move more than those further away.
This effect may also be observed by a passenger in a vehicle or low-flying aircraft, where distant hills or tall buildings appear in three-dimensional relief, a view not seen by a static observer as the distance is beyond the range of effective binocular vision.
Advantages of the wiggle viewing method include:
  • No glasses or special hardware required
  • Most people can "get" the effect much quicker than cross-eyed and parallel viewing techniques
  • It is the only method of stereoscopic visualisation for people with limited or no vision in one eye
Disadvantages of the "wiggle" method:
  • Does not provide true binocular stereoscopic depth perception
  • Not suitable for print, limited to displays that can "wiggle" between the two images
  • Difficult to appreciate details in images that are constantly "wiggling"
Most wiggle images use only two images, leading to an annoyingly jerky image. A smoother image, more akin to a motion picture image where the camera is moved back and forth, can be composed by using several intermediate images (perhaps with synthetic motion blur) and longer image residency at the end images to allow inspection of details.
Although the "wiggle" method is an excellent way of previewing stereoscopic images, it cannot actually be considered a true three-dimensional stereoscopic format. An individual looking at a wiggling image is not at all experiencing stereoscopic viewing, they are still only seeing a flat two-dimensional image that is "wiggling". To experience binocular depth perception as made possible with true stereoscopic formats, each eyeball must be presented with a different image at the same time – this is not the case with "wiggling" stereo. The "wiggle" effect is similar to walking around one's environment while blinking one eyes.

Taking the pictures

When using two cameras there are two prime considerations to take into account when taking stereo pictures; How far the resulting image is to be viewed from and how far the subject in the scene is from the two cameras.
How far you are intending to view the pictures from requires a certain separation between the cameras. This separation is called stereo base or stereo base line and results from the ratio of the distance to the image to the distance between your eyes (close enough to 2.5 inches to always use 2.5 inches).
For example if you are going to view a stereo image on your computer monitor from a distance of 40 inches you will have a eye to view ratio of 40/2.5 or 16. To set your cameras the correct distance apart you take the distance to the subject (say a person at a distance from the cameras of 10 feet) and divide by 16 which gives you a stereo base of .625 feet or 7.5 inches between the cameras.
If however you are going to view the stereo image from a greater distance (say projected on a movie screen at a distance from the person viewing it of 10 feet) then your eye to view ratio will be 120/2.5 or 48. So even though your subject is the same distance from your cameras as in the previous example of 10 feet, when you divide 10 feet by 48 you will get .208 feet or 2.5 inches, a much smaller stereo base separation than when you are viewing the image from a closer distance.
In the 1950s, stereoscopic photography regained popularity when a number of manufacturers began introducing stereoscopic cameras to the public. The new cameras were developed to use 135 film, which had gained popularity after the close of World War II. Many of the conventional cameras used the film for 35mm transparency slides, and the new stereoscopic cameras utilized the film to make stereoscopic slides. The Stereo Realist camera was the most popular, and the 35mm picture format became the standard by which other stereo cameras were designed. The stereoscopic cameras were marketed with special viewers that allowed for the use of such slides, which were similar to View-Master reels but offered a much larger image. With these cameras the public could easily create their own stereoscopic memories. Although their popularity has waned somewhat, these cameras are still in use today.
The 1980s saw a minor revival of stereoscopic photography extent when point-and-shoot stereo cameras were introduced. These cameras suffered from poor optics and plastic construction, so they never gained the popularity of the 1950s stereo cameras. Over the last few years they have been improved upon and now produce good images.
The beginning of the 21st century marked the coming of the age of digital photography. Stereo lenses were introduced which could turn an ordinary film camera into a stereo camera by using a special double lens to take two images and direct them through a single lens to capture them side-by-side on the film. Although current digital stereocameras cost thousands of dollars, cheaper models also exist, for example those produced by the company Loreo. It is also possible to create a twin camera rig, together with a "shepherd" device to synchronize the shutter and flash of the two cameras. (By mounting two cameras on a bracket, spaced a bit, with a mechanism to make both take pictures at the same time.) Newer cameras are even being used to shoot "step video" 3D slide shows with many pictures almost like a 3D motion picture if viewed properly. A modern camera can take 5 pictures per second, with images that greatly exceed HDTV resolution.
The side-by-side method is extremely simple to create, but it can be difficult or uncomfortable to view without optical aids. One such aid for non-crossed images is the modern Pokescope. Traditional stereoscopes such as the Holmes can be used as well. Cross view technique now has the simple Perfect-Chroma cross viewing glasses to facilitate viewing.

Imaging methods

If anything is in motion within the field of view, it is necessary to take both images at once, either through use of a specialized two-lens camera, or by using two identical cameras, operated as close as possible to the same moment.
A single digital camera can also be used if the subject remains perfectly still (such as an object in a museum display). Two exposures are required. The camera can be moved on a sliding bar for offset, or with practice, the photographer can simply shift the camera while holding it straight and level. In practice the hand-held method works very well. This method of taking stereo photos is sometimes referred to as the "Cha-Cha" method.
A good rule of thumb is to shift sideways 1/30th of the distance to the closest subject for 'side by side' display, or just 1/60th if the image is to be also used for color anaglyph or anachrome image display. For example, if you are taking a photo of a person in front of a house, and the person is 30 feet away, then you should move the camera 1 foot between shots.
The stereo effect is not significantly diminished by slight pan or rotation between images. In fact slight rotation inwards (also called 'toe in') can be beneficial. Bear in mind that both images should show the same objects in the scene (just from different angles) - if a tree is on the edge of one image but out of view in the other image, then it will appear in a ghostly, semi-transparent way to the viewer, which is distracting and uncomfortable. Therefore, you can either crop the images so they completely overlap, or you can 'toe-in' the cameras so that the images completely overlap without having to discard any of the images. However, be a little cautious - too much 'toe-in' can cause eye strain for reasons best described here

Longer base line

For making stereo images of a distant object (e.g., a mountain with foothills), one can separate the camera positions by a larger distance than usual. This will enhance the depth perception of these distant objects, but is not suitable for use when foreground objects are present. In the red-cyan anaglyphed example at right, a ten-meter baseline atop the roof ridge of a house was used to image the mountain. The two foothill ridges are about 6.5 km (4 mi) distant and are separated in depth from each other and the background. The baseline is still too short to resolve the depth of the two more distant major peaks from each other. Owing to various trees that appeared in only one of the images the final image had to be severely cropped at each side and the bottom.
In the wider image, taken from a different location, a single camera was walked about 100 ft (30m) between pictures. The images were converted to monochrome before combination.

Base line selection

There is a specific optimal distance for viewing of natural scenes (not stereograms), which has been estimated by some to have the closest object at a distance of about 30 times the distance between the eyes (when the scene extends to infinity). An object at this distance will appear on the picture plane, the apparent surface of the image. Objects closer than this will appear in front of the picture plane, or popping out of the image. All objects at greater distances appear behind the picture plane. This interpupillar or interocular distance will vary between individuals. If one assumes that it is 2.5 inches (about 6.5 cm), then the closest object in a natural scene by this criterion would be 30 × 2.5 = 75 inches (about 2 m). It is this ratio (1:30) that determines the inter-camera spacing appropriate to imaging scenes. Thus if the nearest object is 30 feet away, this ratio suggests an inter-camera distance of one foot. It may be that a more dramatic effect can be obtained with a lower ratio, say 1:20 (in other words, the cameras will be spaced further apart), but with some risk of having the overall scene appear less "natural". This unnaturalness can often be seen in old stereoscope cards, where a landscape will have the appearance of a stack of cardboard cutouts. Where images may also be used for anaglyph display a narrower base, say 1:50 or 1:60 will allow for less ghosting in the display.


External links

stereoscopy in Catalan: Visió estereoscòpica
stereoscopy in Czech: 3D fotografie
stereoscopy in German: Stereoskopie
stereoscopy in Spanish: Estereoscopía
stereoscopy in French: Stéréoscopie
stereoscopy in Dutch: Stereoscopie
stereoscopy in Russian: Стереоизображение
stereoscopy in Thai: การถ่ายภาพสามมิติ
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