Monday, January 26, 2009

3D Time Travel (and the future?)

While searching for an image of a stereoscope, I came across Early Visual Media, a kind of archeological museum of image culture. The aims of the site are diverse and varied. It's certainly entertaining and very educational. Among the stereoviews, you'll find some nudes and related collections from the 1800s! Yes, your grandmother's grandmother was a flousey. And although she is dust, she looks pretty hot. The site's creator, Thomas Weynants, has an exhaustive bibligraphy of publications and links. Television in its earliest forms is among his interests.

There is a fLIckr group of stereo photography--actually several groups divided into parallel, cross-view, and anaglyph factions. Can't we all just get along? Via Xorsyst, I found the wonderful fLIckr site of Okinawa Soba and his T-Enami dedicated site as well. Since we're on the subject, you could start at this 3D set and his instructions for parallel viewing. I may require several years to fully explore Rob Oechsle's collections.

Digital stereoscopy is slow to get started despite what seem to be advantages. I think it is more practical than ever before, as all photography now consumes fewer resources. Only the design of the camera lens --not all components-- would need to be effectively doubled. An 8-megapixel camera would become a camera which takes two 4-megapixel images and stores them in a single image. Three-dimensional photographs would have much more information (regarding depth) than 2D photos and would have applications in forensic analysis, for example. Surveillance cameras might benefit from 3D video imaging as well. In addition to depth, the photographer who wishes to use the 2D image has 2 slightly different versions (of the 2D image) to choose from. Dust and scratches could be more easily removed with a second image as a reference. Perhaps a new file type like the JPEG could be created, but in principle it should not be necessary. The left-eye and right-eye images can just be recorded side-by-side in a single wide jpeg. EXIF data or some tag in the 3D jpeg could indicate to software that this is a stereoscopic image. (Alternatively, software might detect this fact automatically.) In that case, additional tags could indicate from several options for displaying the photo. The left and right sides of the photo could be displayed straightaway in parallel as a default. A tag indicating cross-eyed viewing could instruct software to divide the image and display the right-eye image on the left and vice-versa. A third way to view it would be to display the right-eye image and the left-eye image in the same frame in rapid succession, like an animated GIF, producing the illusion of three dimensions in this way (the "wiggle" method). This works for people with one eye since it fools the brain rather than the eye. Another technique would be to specify either the left or right or the image as a default to display, and the other half to display upon mouse-over.

There are a few easy adjustments to be made on the software side before stereoscopy can experience a mainstream boom or revival. I would hope that a digital camera maker would come out with stereoscopic model soon and find it to be extremely popular. Alternately, the development of 3D display technology may be driven from the display side, it a breakthrough occurs there first and enables the easy viewing of 3D content on inexpensive screens.

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