Wobbly gifs for 3D – practice may make perfect?

I’m pretty interested in stereoscopic imaging – recording and reproducing depth information using 2D media.   Examples include magic eye pictures, anaglyphs that require two different coloured filtering lenses, and the various flavours of 3D cinema and TV.  I used 3D photography as the topic for a radio segment for my Masters’ radio production practical module, and now I’m exploring using GIFs as a quick-and-easy way of producing my own stereograms without specialist viewing equipment.

I’m particularly looking at using it instead of/alongside still reference photographs for drawing and painting, so I’m experimenting with scenery and sights here in Amsterdam while I visit.

The key to making these stereo images is to take two photos of your subject, from slightly different angles, and present them to either eye at the same time.  You can do this by putting two images the right distance from your face, with or without the assistance of a handy-dandy device (or going cross-eyed, which I hate) or by applying filters by colour or polarisation to discriminate where what light lands.  The method I prefer, though, is to rapidly alternate between the two images in the same space – the perfect application for the GIF image format!  Your brain interprets the wobbling as something akin to alternately winking each eye, and fills in the gaps to present you with a 3D scene.


There’s a great curated clutter of 3D wobblygifs here , and I particularly love ones of astronomical features and structures, such as these nebulae (whatever you do, don’t open that on a metered mobile connection :P)

To pull of this trick, you have to ensure that the spacing of the images approximates the spacing of your eyes, so we’re looking at taking two photos a maximum of 6cm apart. More than this, and your brain refuses to recognise them as a single scene and goes ‘Argh, stop flashing separate images at me’ instead.

I’ve put together another couple of test images, and so far I’m learning the hard way:

  • ‘Burst mode’ is a great way to avoid excessive camera shake between images – hold the shutter button down, and my camera will automatically take a sequence of pictures, at high or low speed. By shifting my weight, I’m able to sway slightly in place and take the necessary
  • 6cm should be your maximum displacement! Especially with near objects, it doesn’t take much at all to get the effect. In fact, the subtler, the better – it’s best when it’s slightly creepy and you don’t really realise where the information is coming from.
  • It’s really hard to orbit around an object or pan across a scene in a plane, without wobble!

The latter would be much easier with a special stereographic camera that takes two images at once, using perfectly spaced lenses, but I’m trying to see how far I can get with existing tech.

Things I want to try today:

  • Taking multiple photos between 0 and 6cm, instead of just two at either extreme – this may make the transition smoother by adding extra frames. Not sure how much difference this will make.
  • Testing orbit vs. pan of an object
  • Larger scenes, eg. buildings and streets.
  • Aligning images around different points of stability in the scene – fore, mid or far distance

I also want to paint from the photos, but that may have to wait ’till I get back!


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