My 3D Process

 

After many years of using & scanning slide film, I made the inevitable switch to digital. Despite solving a number of problems, working in the new medium certainly created a few new ones. A big puzzler was how to best display my work to the rest of the world: since I put so much care & effort into taking the pictures in the first place, I should strive for excellence in the presentation too. Side-by-side stereo images are great, but they require either special lens-based viewers (expensive, relative to paper ones), or the ability to do optical gymnastics to be able to fuse the two pictures into a single 3D image, which can result in headaches after short periods of viewing. Also, since they are twice as wide as an anaglyph, they appear twice as small when viewing at a comparable width/size. I could make my own “lenticular” prints, requiring no glasses at all, but quality suffers and you have to be viewing a special print at a certain angle. There is no computer equivalent to this, and ‘shutter glasses’ systems are expensive & scarce.

I wanted to create a standard jpeg image, or make a normal inkjet printout, viewable with a system that nearly everyone in the world can instantly see in 3D… I’m talking about an “anaglyph”; specifically, the red/cyan kind, as the red/blue or red/green kind don’t include all three primary colors – red, green, and blue, whereas red/cyan does, since cyan is a mixture of blue & green. Therefore, when looking at a white screen or piece of paper through red/cyan glasses, it should still appear to be white, as your brain combines the red from your left eye with the cyan (blue & green) from your right eye. If your glasses make it look too blue or green, then you should shop for different ones… you’ll be amazed at the increase in quality, and can enjoy nearly universal compatibility when viewing most anaglyphs of the past, present, & future.

I became determined to develop a technique for making vivid, life-like anaglyphs. But I didn’t want to be limited to just doing black & white images, as that would rob the pictures of a very important life-like element. So first I had to experiment & teach myself how to create full-color versions of my images without having the usual ‘contrast ghosting’ and ‘color flashing’  problems, especially with the reds & blues. I then set about making a custom workflow in Photoshop that would allow me to preserve as much of the original color as possible, while keeping color flashing (“retinal rivalry”) to an absolute minimum. Take a look at the example below… while not the prettiest picture, this particular view inside a Russian submarine illustrates a classic problem – when viewed through 3D (anaglyph) glasses, retinal rivalry makes the red in the star appear darker than the blue in your right eye, but in your left eye the roles are reversed, making red look lighter than the blue. Trying to optically reconcile these differences between two things that should appear to be the same causes viewer fatigue.

 

Before My Anaglyph Process
Typical results obtained with most anaglyph software – notice how the reds & blues of the star painted on this torpedo tube hatch show retinal rivalry (bright in one eye, dark in the other).

 

After My Anaglyph Process
Blues & reds don’t ‘flash’ in my Photoshop treatment, resulting in full-color anaglyphs without the usual viewing discomfort. Blues are blue, while reds are muted but consistent in both eyes.

 

By creating custom methods that (in my seasoned opinion) far surpass the quality of results obtained by most ‘automatic’ anaglyph-making software, I was able to constantly refine my workflow, incorporating any needed tweaks along the way. I needed to make sure that this works for both computer-displayed and printed anaglyphs, as both are equally important in my 3D world. After being disappointed in the test results of many local photo labs, I finally bought my own printer & developed an effective color profile management policy from start to finish.

Respected 3D expert & stereo photographer David Lee told me personally, when I began showing this process a few years ago, that I’d made the best printed anaglyph he’d ever seen!
Now that I’ve come up with a worthy mounting process, you can own original 3D photo art of the highest quality. Learn more & check out my available creations on the SHOP 3D page.