A quick peek behind the curtain: Stereoscopy (part 1)

Hi. You may not know me yet, as I just joined 3D California. My name is Joachim, I’m a French intern and I’ll do my best to provide frequently some quality articles about Augmented Reality in this blog for all of you, 3D and AR fans.

So, after two or three years of hype, you sure know what Augmented Reality is. Or at least you have a lot of examples in mind. But AR is both the set of technologies and hardware, and what we do out of it. And we keep creating, discovering, and inventing new gadgets and new ways to use them.

The big red curtain that's hiding the magic tricks

The big red curtain that's hiding the magic tricks

As impressive as all these new applications can seem, there’s no such thing as magic. I’d like to take you on a tour to see a few tricks, explain a few technical points, and help you understand how it works, and this is the aim of the series of articles entitled “A quick peek behind the curtain” that I’ll be writing for you on the next weeks. I’m not (yet) a professional; I’m still learning lots of new things everyday and the content of these articles are the results of personal research, visits, discussions and a few years of great interest toward Augmented Reality, its technologies and applications, but it’s a fast moving world. So there might be a few points that are out-of-date, or not quite precise. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Of course, I’ll do my best to document and source my articles, so that most of what I say can be checked.

Let’s lift that curtain a bit !

Today, I will talk about why the Cyclops from Homer’s Odysseus would not have appreciate James Cameron’s Avatar.

My, what big teeth you have!

James Cameron’s Avatar

As a huge 3D fan, there’s nothing you appreciate more than this feeling of immersion given by the use of the three dimensions. Of course, today, we can do pretty neat things with a 3D artist and a normal TV or computer screen. And we can see those fantastic models rotate in every direction, just in front of us. But that’s nothing in comparison to what we feel when those models start turning around us. I’m sure that you felt something special when you saw that beast coming right behind your nose. All the trick comes from that obvious fact: unlike Homer’s Cyclops, we have two eyes.

And now for the explanation: our eyes are both able to see. But given that each of them is on one side of the nose (we estimate the distance between the eyes at about 65 millimeters or 2.56 inches), they don’t see exactly the same thing. For objects that are far away, there is no difference (try to watch through the window and close alternatively one eye and the other, and you should see about the same thing). But for objects that are close, this is a different matter (this time, hold a pen a few centimeters in front of you, and close your eyes alternatively again, watching you screen. Depending on which eye is open, the pen is on a completely different location). The left eye sees them on its right, and the right eye sees them on its left. And when the brain gets the 2 images, it’s able to figure out which objects are seen the same way by the two eyes (they are far away) and which objects are different (and thus closer) and estimate their distance.

That said, we still want to get that cool Avatar 3D effect, so… how do we do now? The answer holds in a few words: we simply film with 2 cameras that are distant of about 65 millimeters, and we get 2 different movies: a right eyed one and a left eyed one. And we just have to send the movie to the good eye. Easy to say, isn’t it? There are a few methods for targeting a specific eye with a specific movie, let’s see a few of them.

The anaglyphs :

Definitely gives a strange look...

Definitely gives a strange look...

I bet that you recognize those glasses from, let’s say, the last time you bought cereals. And the images to use with are like that. You know that the colors are combinations of Red, Green and Blue. And when you put a colored filter (like a colored glass or transparent plastic sheet), you only distinguish the other colors. So we keep the red part of the left image, and the blue + green (= cyan) part of the right image, join the 2 images and have you look at it through the glasses. Your left eye has the cyan filtered out, and only sees the red details, and vice versa. ” Et voilà!”. But this long known trick has a problem: you can’t really play with colors anymore, because you use them with stereoscopy.

They are a lot of others techniques that I’ll be explaining in more details next week, including the way Avatar’s 3D was done. Hope you liked that first article. Feel free to give us feedback, reactions, details or simple comments, so that it will get better and better with time!

Have a good week!

Bonus: if you have anaglyph glasses, you can feel again that 3D feeling with the trailer of Avatar in anaglyph 3D

Internet source :

Different website, but all the informations also appear on the Wikipedia article

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