How to watch stereo

First most asked question when people see the stereo camera rig is – “What in a hell is this thing?”.

Second most asked question is – how to watch stereo photos?

Here is a brief how-to.

There is no stereo viewing standard at the moment. Different monitors, different tv sets, glasses, no glasses, and so on. Hot time to become a stereographer. Same thing goes for different ways of packing stereo content. You might want to check out this video for the today’s situation on the market:

Video not available

I’ll talk here about anaglyph, side-by-side and NVidia 3D Vision.


Cheap cyan/red glasses, any monitor – and you get a 3d picture. Anaglyph has lots of benefits. It works on any monitor and even when printed on paper. Glasses are cheap. Anaglyph is used in many professional software packets including Eyeon Digital Fusion for quick and simple displaying of the stereo disparities.

The glasses. They all are different. Best anaglyph glasses I got bundled with the book called 3D Movie Making: Stereoscopic Digital Cinema from Script to Screen. Biggest problem I noticed with anaglyph glasses so far is that cyan glass color is different. Which again produces ghosting in picture, successfully killing the stereo effect.

You can get red/cyan glasses on Amazon, or on Ebay. Plenty of choices.

Anaglyph is great for black and white pictures, but it essentially kills the color. Especially blue and red colors. Green works fine in anaglyph, yellow and orange goes great too. Warm colors are mostly ok. Blue sky and red shirts are killer in anaglyph. Stereo Photomaker has options for creating half-color anaglyph. That will kill half of saturation on your picture, in hope of getting at least some color to the final image. But even that doesn’t guarantee that colors will look ok. Black and white works much better. Also if you have areas of high contrast – like black bars in front of bright sky – you most likely will end up with ghosting. Hight contrast is a no go in stereo, and especially in anaglyph.

Flickr Anaglyph group is still a very popular place with daily updates and tons of fresh photos.

Side by side

Or cross viewing. This doesn’t require any glasses. No restriction of colors. No ghosting. Can be viewed on any monitor. The catch is – you can’t view pictures full screen. And some people just can’t do it. This technique requires training, though when you learn it it’s very easy to use it.

Flickr Stereophotography group contains tons of side-by-side stereo pictures.

NVidia 3D Vision

Active shutter technology becomes more and more popular these days. That’s the same tech used in cinemas, as well as in latest 3D tv sets by Samsung and Sony. No restrictions on colors, image can be viewed full screen, with all the details and stereo immersion. You will require a 3D ready monitor capable of at least 120 Hz. Plus the recent NVidia video card and 3D Vision kit with active shutter glasses. That can be a significant investment in the beginning. Still if we talk about NVidia 3D Vision, it’s much more affordable comparing to the Samsung/Sony tv sets. A pair of additional NVidia 3D glasses cost ~80 euros. A pair of additional Sony 3D glasses costs 149$.

That’s another downside – glasses are expensive and you have to charge them from time to time. Glasses also has to be in direct contact with the synchronizing device. NVidia 3D Vision uses infrared signal for synchronizing. Next generation of active shutter glasses are likely to use radio signals.

Still 3D Vision is the best choice of today. It gives you no restriction on colors, and even ghosting is very rare. I get ghosting with 3D Vision only when there are extreme contrast areas in the photo. And even that ghosting is not that bad in the end. 3D Vision will also require you to control lighting environment in your living room/studio. Meaning that other light sources might have a different refresh rate, and you will notice a significant flickering while wearing a glasses. So, it’s a good idea to turn all the other light sources off while being in 3D Vision world.

As of today, Arcsoft and Cyberlink are announced support of Blu Ray 3D discs on PC using NVidia 3D Vision. So, this is covered too.


Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, LG are already offering 3D enabled tv sets. They use active shutter technique, and are using similar to NVidia 3D glasses. The price of such tv set is much higher than the NVidia 3D Vision enabled kit, but than again they do have some advantages.

Advantage number 1: higher refresh rates. Today’s 3d enabled monitors from Acer/Samsung/Viewsonic and others are offering 120Hz refresh rate. In tv set this is not the limit. 200 Hz, 240 Hz and even 480 Hz are possible. This will completely eliminate the peripheral flickering of the image.

Advantage number 2: brighter image. Active shutter glasses kills half of the display brightness. With LED tv panels the brightness and colors can be increased and so can be improved the 3d image quality.

Some conclusions

3d is coming, and choices are plenty. We are living in the interesting times when every company comes up with their own standard for 3d. We’ll be seeing improvements in stereoscopic displays and tv sets all the time. New cameras will arise. Internet will employ some sort of stereoscopic standard (hopefully). Autostereoscopy will also improve with time. But for today I’d say NVidia 3D Vision is the best, most affordable and provided with content system. By content I mean games. Blu Ray 3d:s are yet to come, but as of now NVidia supports hundreds of PC games in full stereoscopic mode. That’s the choice of mine, and you can do your own.

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