Hava Nagila!

Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid

How to take 3D photos with an ordinary camera?

As part of Saarang 2012, I attended a workshop on 3D photography on 21st Jan, 2012. The presenter was Hitesh Gusani, Co-Founder and Chief Technical Lead of www.3dindia.com. He has been running the company successfully for more than 8 years. The workshop was great. In this article, I will share some of the knowledge that I gained there, to create awareness about 3D photography.

Myth: You require special cameras to take 3D photos.

Reality: You don’t. With a special camera, the effort to take 3D photos decreases. But, you don’t really need hi fi cameras to take 3D photos. An ordinary film camera, digi cam or even a mobile camera would do.

Myth: 3D software is very expensive.

Reality: They come for free. Extremely professional 3D software is expensive. However, the basic software (which can do multiple anaglyphs, create 3D animation, create 3D Interlace photos for 3D TV, create 3D photos for mobile phones) is free. Frankly, this much more than basic. You can download StereoPhotoMaker software from www.3dindia.com. They also provide upgrades for free. Of course, the software is free only for personal and educational purposes. Adobe offers a more professional tool but that is expensive.

Some facts: 3D images are called stereoscopic images. Creating a colour coded 3D overlapped image is called an anaglyph. Do this simple experiment. Hold your palm like the Thumbs Up sign (like the Facebook ‘Like’ symbol) at a one arm distance from eye. Close your left eye alone and see the thumb. Close your right eye alone and see the thumb. You will observe a shift in the thumb’s position; you will feel as though the thumb has moved. In reality, neither the thumb, nor the background, nor you have moved. It is a matter of perception; the angle from which the object is viewed has changed.

3D photos give more depth, perception and a feeling of ‘being there’ for the observer.

3D photographs project the image alternately to your left and right eye and hence create the illusion of three dimensions. So, all you need to do is take a left image and right image of the same object and blend them together using a tool to create a 3D image.

There are many varieties of anaglyphs (gray, colour, etc.). Let us discuss one of them – The Red and Cyan anaglyph. Red and Cyan are chromatically opposite colours and hence make for good anaglyphs. In this, the colours used for creating the illusion are red and cyan. The glasses you need to use are red for the left eye and cyan for the right eye. Quoting from Wikipedia, “Images are made up of two color layers, superimposed, but offset with respect to each other to produce a depth effect. Usually the main subject is in the center, while the foreground and background are shifted laterally in opposite directions. The picture contains two differently filtered colored images, one for each eye.” You can read more on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaglyph_image

Techniques for taking 3D photos:

There are two techniques that can be used for taking 3D photos using your cell phone or digi cam.  

Cha cha cha Technique: Named after the Cha cha cha dance.

  • Stand in attention holding the camera in front of you. Focus on the object that you want to capture.
  • Shift only your left leg one feet and click the image. Take care that you don’t disturb the horizontal alignment of the camera.
  • Now, bring your feet to attention again.
  • Shift your right leg one feet and click the image.
  • The two images that you have clicked will be your left and right images.

Pendulum Technique:

  • Stand in attention holding the camera in front of you. Focus on the object that you want to capture.
  • Sway like a pendulum to your left without disturbing the horizontal camera alignment. Click the picture.
  • Sway like a pendulum to your right without disturbing the horizontal camera alignment. Click the picture.
  • The two images that you have clicked will be your left and right images.

Some points to be kept in mind while taking left and right images:

  • The distance between the object and the camera is proportional to the distance between the left and right images.
  • For example, if the object is at 6 or 8 feet from the camera, then, you would need to give the distance between the eyeballs (6 to 8 cm) between the left and right images.
  • If you are taking mountains that are kms away from the camera, then, two people have to stand a kilometer away to take the left and right images.
  • If you are taking an ant or a flower (macro images), you need to give a 1 cm gap between the left and right images.
  • If you have a view finder in your camera, you can use that feature and take the images accordingly.

Obviously, for a start, you can use the techniques mentioned above. If you plan to take 3D photographs on a regular basis, then, you need to have better equipment, like a tripod that can support two cameras placed side by side at appropriate distance and remote controlled. The remote can be used to simultaneously take left and right pictures.

Left Image

Right Image

After taking these pictures, you need to use the StereoPhotoMaker software that can be obtained from www.3dindia.com.

Double click the exe and in the window that opens, click on File and click on Open Left/ Right Images. First open the left image and then open the right image. Then click on Stereo and click on Dubois (Red/ Cyan).

In the image that you get, take an part as a reference and vertically align the red and cyan for that part alone.

Then keep the part of the image that is nearest to the screen as a reference and horizontally align the red and cyan for that part of the image alone. Alternately, you can use the Auto Alignment option in the Stereo menu to do this. Click on File and click on Save Stereo Image and give it a name.

Banyan Tree 3D AnaglyphBike 3D AnaglyphPRESTO!! This is your first 3D image. Sway left and right like a pendulum as you face the image and you should see the background move. Incidentally, this is one of the ways that you can identify whether an image is 3D. You will need 3D glasses for viewing the 3D Banyan Tree and Bike images in this blog entry. The cheap Rs.20 Red/ Cyan glasses will do.

Happy 3D photographing!!

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