Stereography, or three-dimensional imaging, is as old as photography itself. It was a very popular form of home entertainment in the Victorian era. Later, there were revivals in the form of 3D movies in the 1950’s and as Viewmaster reels for children. Today 3D IMAX movie theatres have been built all over the world. Stereo cameras are part of the equipment up at the International Space station. 3D sections in magazines, such as the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (Apr.2000), are quite common and Viewmaster reel are still being mass produced for children and now for corporate promotions. As well, 3D imagery is an integral part of virtual-reality systems, both in computer games and total immersion environments.

In addition to film and print, 3D technologies have proven themselves as effective, eye-catching tools for point-of-purchase displays and video production.


Types of 3-D Viewing

To see stereoscopically, or in 3D, the left eye must see a slightly different image than the right eye. Our eyes do this naturally everyday by being set slightly apart on our faces. When we want to view an artificially created 3D image we must devise a way to separate what the left eye sees from the right eye and visa-versa.

Often this requires the wearing of 3D glasses. There are three common types:

-anaglyphic glasses are typically red and cyan filters that correspond with the red/cyan anaglyphic printing in a book, magazine or web site.

-polarized glasses transmit full colour and require the source images to be polarized appropriately. This is an effective, low-cost solution for 3D movies, videos and slide shows. It is also the way that StereoJets, 3D photographic prints, are viewed.

-shutter glasses are used at IMAX movie houses and by some computer systems for games and scientific visualization. They are expensive ($50 U.S.) but allow the viewer to work with a computer monitor or an NTSC television set.

Another 3D visualizing system requires no glasses (auto-stereoscopic) but relies instead on a screen of micro lenses, on the surface of the print, that reflect different images to different eyes. This is called lenticular printing. Lenticular prints are commonly used for anything from fridge magnets to transit shelter ads. They can be 2D or 3D, still or animated. Usually they are designed to catch attention and be memorable.


3D Media

3D video is an effective, full-color medium for holding an audience’s attention and entertaining them while an important message is being delivered. It can be used in a trade show environment or in a conference/theatre setting. Inexpensive polarized glasses with a printed message can be handed out as an invitation and a keepsake to attendees.

Generally, production follows a standard video production schedule with a few additional steps. The difference is in the special 3D camera used and in some post-production techniques. When the video is played on a TV or computer monitor, special shutter glasses are required for viewing. On a large screen, dual projectors with polarizing filters are used, for maximum brightness and clarity. 3D video can be displayed to good effect in anaglyph format on a computer but not on a TV set.

Lenticular prints are an excellent POP display technology and are encountered in many retail environments as back-lit panels that animate. The prints consist of between three and twenty-four images interleaved together and then laminated with a clear plastic lenticular screen on the front surface. This screen acts as a lens that transmits different part of the image to different eyes. They can be made as reflective or transparent images.

Lenticular prints can be created from original photography (2D and 3D), from 3D computer model files, from video clips, or from several 2D images layered together to simulate a 3D image. Tantus has samples of all of these types.

Anaglyph images, as seen on this web site, are great for magazine printing and for web development. National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Aviation Week and many other magazines and newspapers have published anaglyphic 3D issues.

Typically, inexpensive red/blue glasses are glued into the magazine or, in the case of a web promotion, distributed as part of a direct mail piece. Anaglyphs are created from stereographic art or photography. Special software fuses the left and right images into a single image with red and blue edges and reduced color.

StereoJet print technology uses polarized glasses for viewing a 3D print or transparency up to approx. 16x20 in size. The print is a full color digital inkjet image on a special polarized substrate. The prints can be front or back-lit. This technology is best used for high-end displays in public forums such as trade shows and expositions. NASA is using this technology to display its 3D images of Earth from space.

Stereo pairs are another way of presenting 3D images. The Eye-to-Eye nature books are a good example of this. They can be viewed through a stereoscope supplied with the book or by 'free-viewing', a technique made popular by those Magic Eye books a few years ago.
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So whether it’s an animated postcard or a virtual-reality tour, there are 3D technologies available today that are cost effective and proven to draw attention to your product or service.

For more information, please contact Simon Bell of Tantus Communications at (905) 827-4625 or via email: thirdspace@bell.net

* special thanks to all those who contributed to this overview.