Updated 06/06/2020 to include the new updated cropping and border options.
You don’t need expensive cameras or software to make your own stereoscopic 3-D images. It’s relatively easy and there’s currently a real buzz on social media with people making their own stereoviews with smartphones and sharing them, especially on Instagram, so this tutorial will be keeping this in mind.
The easiest way to make a stereoview with an iPhone is by using the phone’s camera to take two images sequentially and using an app to align and save them as a stereo-image.
There are lots of apps available but I find one of the best and easiest to use is called ‘i3DSteroid’ for iPhones. A free version is available called ‘i3DSteroidBasic’, however it doesn’t allow you to save the images and with the full version costing £2.99 in the Apple Store it’s not too expensive. **Update 21/09/2021: The developer has reported that the i3dSteroid app does not work correctly with iOS15 and some iPhones; it is not showing thumbnails in the open images screen. He doesn’t currently know the cause but apparently it resolves by itself within hours or days**
I’m using the iPhone version for this tutorial but you can find the Android version here because they vary in their functions and settings. (Many thanks to my friend for letting me steal his iPhone for three afternoons to make this tutorial and the screenshots).
On the iPhone version, when first opening the i3DSteroid app, you’ll see the following screen:
When you press on the camera icon (top right) you’ll see that you can take photos in landscape or portrait format by turning the phone; keeping Instagram in mind, the portrait format is usually used – for a photo sharing platform this isn’t really the best way to show the depth and quality of your stereoviews as Instagram prefers small and square images (but I’m sticking with it so I can hang out with the cool 3-D kids). For other ways of displaying the stereoviews, such as viewing the images on a 3-D TV or by projection, of course the landscape format can be used and is preferable. Landscape images can also be cropped later.
As I prefer to view and save my images in the parallel-view format I always take the left image first; other people prefer the cross-view format so you could take the right image first, however it’s not essential as you can swap the left and right images later anyway.
Once the first image is taken you’ll then see a ghost of it whilst taking the second image to help with alignment and to see the separation of the images.
MAKING IMAGES COMFORTABLE TO VIEW
The general rule of thumb for comfortable 3-D viewing is to move from left to right 1/30th of the distance between you and the object to avoid excessive background deviation. For close subjects this movement can be a minute amount (e.g. 0.5cm for an object 15cm away), but Instagram and iPhone screens are quite forgiving as the images are so small. If the image is projected however, a big deviation can be too much for the brain to fuse or be extremely uncomfortable to view, so keep in mind what your eventual aim for the stereoview is – what works well on a small screen doesn’t always work for projection when the image is much enlarged.
Sometimes exaggerating the depth (or making a hyperstereo) actually looks better up to a point, but again, keep in mind that if you want to use these images at a later date to print as a card or to project they may not be suitable (they’ll make you feel a bit ooky, technical term).
If you’re taking an image of a particular subject keep an eye on anything that is too close to you in the foreground which may ruin your stereoview by causing it to have too much deviation between the two images, such as tree branches, plants or friendly cats. Sometimes though this can be cropped or cloned out later. Also try and keep the camera as level as possible, both horizontally and vertically between the two photos, moving slightly closer or skewing the camera between shots can sometimes cause a stereoview to be unusable but you will find this with practice. It’s all a learning curve so don’t feel you fail because you can’t use every image, you have to expect it.
THE CHA-CHA METHOD
If you’re taking a stereoview of a more distant object, such as a building, tree, etc., people recommend a rocking method (called the cha-cha method – see image above (P.S. I’m not really a ghost)), which involves standing with your feet slightly apart but well balanced and your elbows tight to your sides, with the camera held in the middle. You move your weight to your left foot so the camera is on the left to take the first photo, then transfer the weight to your right foot which will also move the camera to the right, allowing you to take the second photo. Personally I don’t do this but try and judge the distance and move the camera accordingly, but you can bust some moves if you want, all in the name of 3-D. Again, remember to check for anything in the foreground that may be too close for the distance you’re moving. Also check when people, vehicles, clouds, animals, etc. are in shot for movement as this can be very distracting when trying to fuse two images showing different movements into one 3-D image. Have you ever tried to tell an awake cat or small child to stand still though?! As I mentioned before also try and keep the camera as level as possible between shots – if you find this difficult you can buy a sliding bar.
AUTOMATICALLY ALIGNING YOUR IMAGES
Now you have two images to make a stereoview and the app is usually set by default to automatically align the images as soon as they are taken (this can be changed in the settings), however you can also press the wizard hat icon (bottom left) to adjust them and the app will tell you the deviation.
Now you have your aligned stereopair, congratulations! If you can free-view stereoviews or if you have a stereoscope, the left eye image will be on the left and the right eye image will be on the right. The London Stereoscopic Company’s OWL viewers work well with smartphones, especially the VR Kit with a magnetic plate to hold your phone. Lots of other viewers tend to over-magnify and make you feel ooky. If you’re a natural cross-viewer you can click on the swap LR icon and the app will swap the left and right images so you can look on point as you go cross-eyed at your phone.
MANUALLY ALIGNING YOUR IMAGES
If you’re unhappy with the automatic alignment, you can also manually align them by pressing the edit icon (2nd icon in from the bottom left) which will take you to the following screen:
You can now press and move your finger across the screen or press the arrow keys to move the right image (if you’re using the parallel-view format) and align it to your heart’s content. See above for the general rules about aligning the two images to make a 3-D image comfortable to view and to ‘keep it in the stereo window’ please see this tutorial. I aligned this stereoview manually by ensuring the closest part of the image, the top of the sand glass, was perfectly aligned in both images.
You may now decide to crop your image and the new version of i3DSteroid allows this (03/03/2020), see below for the tutorial.
If you’re happy with the image you can save it as a stereoview to your phone by clicking on the Menu tab (top left book icon), then on Save Stereo image:
You’ll be offered different options to save the image; I tend to save mine with the highest resolution possible in case I want to project it at some point but remember to keep an eye on your phone’s available storage.
The file is now saved as a stereopair in your gallery and from there can be uploaded to Instagram.
CROSS-VIEW AND ANAGLYPH
If you decide you want to save it as a cross-view too you can simply press the swap icon and then menu and save again so both views will be saved in your gallery. You can also click on the Stereo icon (a pair of masked eyes), then Cross-eyed, ok and save to get the same result.
You may also decide that you wish to view and save the image as an anaglyph. Anaglyphs are a good way of showing landscape format images in 3-D because the side-by-side images usually require quite a bit of cropping, especially for Instagram. The i3DSteroid app also allows you to convert your stereoview into an anaglyph. Again click on the Stereo Icon (a pair of masked eyes), make sure the stereo view is in the Parallel format to make sure the left and right images are on the correct sides, then click on Anaglyph.
You can also use the colour anaglyph or the Dubois colour anaglyph option (anaglyph glasses with the number 27) to keep the image in colour. I recommend trying both to find which option best suits the colours of your image the best.
OPENING IMAGES ALREADY SAVED ON YOUR PHONE
You can also import images which were taken with your phone’s camera, not through the app itself. This opens up the possibility of you taking many sequential images a small distance further apart each time and choosing a pair from them for the best depth and quality of 3-D image.
Open the app and click on the menu icon (the book – top left) and then Open Stereo image.
This will take you to your camera roll from where you can choose two separate single images or one single image file consisting of a left and right view. Click on the image/images you want to align and press done.
The app settings on this iPhone are enabled to automatically align the images once they are opened in the app. This can also be done manually – see previously mentioned steps above.
And now save as before if you’re happy with the stereoview.
CROPPING YOUR IMAGES
i3DSteroid App Update 06/06/2020: You can now easily crop images to any size you want thanks to the latest update.
Click on the Edit tab (2nd icon from bottom left). This manual alignment screen now also allows you crop. Make sure both images are aligned, then move the sides of the square with a finger to your desired size. Also check for anything that might remain in just one picture and might be distracting.
The app also gives you the option to chose a fixed ratio for the crop and I’d like to make this one square. Click on the top right Edit icon and it’ll offer you three options for cropping ratios:
I chose the 1:1 for a square and moved the square so my flowers were central in the image:
Press the back key and you’ll see the image has now been cropped.
Note that if you’re unhappy with the crop you can go back into the Edit tab and re-crop the full image. It may be worth checking the alignment again just in case anything has been cropped out of the image to which it was aligned. Save as before for your new spangly cropped stereoview.
UPDATED APP JUNE 2020: The new app includes extra options to format the stereoviews with borders which are fantastic for Instagram.
You click on the Stereo icon (a pair of masked eyes at the bottom of the screen). And it will now show two extra options next the the cross-view icon.
The two frames icon is for a side-by-side pair with a border and the four frames icon will display the stereoview as a parallel pair at the top and a cross-view at the bottom, all with a lovely, lovely border.
To edit this border click on the Edit icon (top right) and it will bring up the border settings options:
The border width changes the border size around the stereoview as well as in between the images. The round corner changes the amount of curving at the edges. As my image is square and the flowers are central I wanted to make a circular border so I increased the Round Corner to 50%. The new app also allows you to change the colour of the border to match the image so I clicked on an area of the thumbnail image to choose the colour:
I pressed OK and it displayed the image in the side-by-side parallel-view format with the new border settings:
As people can usually naturally free-view either in parallel- or cross-view I changed the frame to the four-square option to display my image as a parallel-view at the top and a cross-view at the bottom, here to please everyone!
And now all that is left is to save your image as before and share it on Instagram! Congratulations on making a parallel/cross-view stereoview with a coloured, rounded border!
Please note the images I’ve taken for this tutorial are very simple, once you start taking backgrounds into account, keeping it in the stereo-window and avoiding window violations become even more important so just bear this in mind. I think it’s important though to emphasise that making your own 3-D images is enjoyable, don’t feel you have to get too technical immediately.
The images I took for this tutorial are not the best quality as I found it quite tricky trying to take photos whilst making screenshots, so please check the hashtag #i3DSteroid on Instagram for inspiration.
I hope you have fun making your own stereoviews, please feel free to get in touch through the contact page if you need any help.
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