3-D Images: New Uses For an Old Technique

3-D x-rays of the jaw area help in the process of putting in artifical tooth implants
When’s the last time you looked at cool 3-D pictures using a View-Master? Did you know that fun toy is one of the best examples of a branch of science called Stereoscopy?

Long before the days of radio, movies, television and computers, people would entertain themselves by looking a “stereoscopic photography.” Stereoscopy drawings date back to the early 1800s. Scenes from exotic locations from around the world would jump out at the viewer’s eyes through a 3-D effect that duplicates what happens when we view real things with our own two eyes.

Most of those photos were made with special cameras using two lens and two rolls of film. The lenses were set apart the same amount of distance as the human eye, recreating the conditions of how our eyes actually view things. Even that slightest separation (two percent parallax) allows us to see things from a slightly different perspective, hence moving the images out into space rather than being flat, two-dimensional images.

The nearly identical photos were positioned side-by-side and mounted on a card that was then placed in the stereoscope. The lens in that viewer, when focused at the right length, directs the eyes to pull both images together and makes the image jump out in 3-D. View Masters do the same thing with tiny slides that are positioned on a rotating disc.

Several years ago, a friend of my showed my how you can take your own 3-D pictures. It’s a very simple process and can work with a film or digital camera. Here’s what you need to do.

1. Find a scene you want to take a picture of. Make sure there are items at a variety of distances in the scene so you can optimize the 3-D effect. It works best to take pictures outside where you have a lot of depth of field to keep most things in focus. The scene needs to be static. This process won’t work to take a 3-D image of a moving train, for instance.

2. Turn your camera in the vertical position. Compose your picture and shoot. Keep your camera still and positioned on that same scene and take one small step to the right. Reshoot the same picture again. Keep the scene framed exactly as you had on the shot before.

3. Mount the photos on a large index card right next to each other. Make sure that you have your left photo on the left and your right photo on the right. Also, make sure that the scenes are in perfect alignment. If roof of a building is a little higher in one photo than the where it is in the other, for instance, you won’t get a good 3-D effect.

4. If you have access to a stereoscope or stereoscopic glasses, you can look at the pictures through one of those items and the picture will come into 3-D. But you don’t need a stereoscope. With some time and concentration, you can “trick” your eyes into seeing the 3-D scene by focusing intently on the pictures close to your face. Slowly move them in and out and pretty soon the 3-D image will emerge.

If you want to learn more about 3-D photography a good website to check out is www.stereoscopy.com.

3-D imaging has come a long way. Today it’s a commonly used in entertainment for movies and television. There are comic books and other publications that use 3-D imaging as well. But more practical uses are starting to emerge.

In dentistry, the growing use of teeth implants to replace broken or rotted teeth is starting to use 3-D imaging. Dentists are now using 3-D X-rays to get a map of a patient’s jaw before doing a tooth implant. That process eliminates and long, and painful, examination process to prepare for the procedure.

Can you think of any other good uses of 3-D imaging for our daily lives?

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I would like to see a ride that was a mock flight around the world in outer space. It wouldn't be hard to do, all you need is footage of the Earth from outer space. Using 3-d photograghy could give you a pretty realistic view of Earth from outer space. If you used video instead of still pictures it could be quite the realistic "ride" without ever having to move. Maybe you could set this idea into action at one of your science Expos.

Jarrod Dunnigan ND

posted on Fri, 04/28/2006 - 1:38pm

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