Thursday, May 31, 2012

Photography in 3D

Roof of the Walt Disney Theater
A couple of weeks ago, I uploaded posts on the basics of stereoscopic 3D imaging and ways to view 3D content. 
While watching 3D movies, and viewing 3D pictures on the web can be enjoyable, it’s even more fun to create your own 3D content. Here are three ways you can create 3D photos yourself.

The simplest way to capture 3D is using a 3D camera which has two separate lenses and two separate image sensors. I use a Fuji Finepix Real 3D W1 which is as easy to use as any standard point and shoot camera. Because the two lenses zoom synchronously, I am able to compose scenes and capture them without any concern about alignment between the left and right frames. The Finepix can save each image as a .mpo file which is a popular 3D image format or as a 2D .jpg file. Both the left and right frames are captured at 10 megapixels.

If you prefer to use your DSLR camara, you can convert it to 3D by using the Loreo Lens in a Cap. The Lens in a Cap uses two lenses, 90mm apart, to capture a left and right view side by side on a single frame. Images captured with the Loreo Lens in a Cap can be printed and viewed using the Loreo Pixi viewer without any additional image processing. In my experience, the Lens in a Cap worked perfectly when I could position the camera at the right distance from the subject. Too often, the fixed focal length on the lens made it difficult to compose the image the way I wanted.

You can also capture a stereoscopic 3D image with a standard 2D camera and lens using a method called “cha-cha.” To cha-cha you stand with both feet together and frame your scene in the viewfinder and capture the left image. Then you slide your right foot about 90 mm to the right, slide your left foot next to your right and capture the right image.  You need to do this dance without moving the camera up or down or rotating it in any way. If you successfully captured the images in alignment, you should be able to print each of them side by side and view them in stereo using a Loreo Pixi viewer.

Why not give it a try?

Fuji FinePix Real 3D W1
Loreo Lens in a Cap

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions which supplies specialty paper substrates to digital printersdirect marketing companies and photo book fulfillment companies.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cross Marketing in the Social Era

Handshake Drawing by Aiden Jones
In today’s complex economy, companies with complementary products can help each other by cross promoting each other on social media sites. Here are four easy ways to support and grow these relationships.

Create a Partners Webpage

The partners page on your website should link to other companies whose products complement yours and explain how they work together. Since customers who are at either site are probable prospects for the other, these links are particularly helpful.

Post a News Article or Blog Post

Use the news sections of your websites to post an article about how the products or services complement each other and how using both together benefits your customer. If you want a broader reach, consider posting the news release to a web news service like PRWeb.

Follow Each Other on Social Sites

Make sure the connection between your companies is visible on all the major social media sites. Like each other’s Facebook pages and follow each other on Twitter and any other sites that both companies use. Key members of each team should connect to each other on LinkedIn.

Share Content

Pay attention to each other’s social media posts and stay engaged. Hit the like button on articles you find interesting and make comments when you have something to add to the conversation. Articles with particularly useful information should be shared on your own feed.

These four steps make it clear to your customers that each company can work well with the other and will drive demand for each.

How are you using social media in your cross marketing campaigns?

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions which supplies specialty paper substrates todigital printersdirect marketing companies and photo book fulfillment companies.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Penguins, Pandas or People

Panda image from
I publish these posts to the Creativity Paradox each week with the expectation that they will be read by real people. However, for many sites, real people are not the primary audience. Too many sites were created primarily to influence Google’s page rank algorithm with little regard to the quality of the content.

Google’s business model is based upon providing accurate and relevant search results so people use the site whenever they need to find information. Web developers who want their sites to rank higher can help Google improve search accuracy by employing basic search engine optimization techniques that clearly identify the content on each page of the site, provide text labels for images and encouraging other sites to link back the site.

Often SEO crosses a line from improving search engine accuracy to trying to deceive the search engine. In recent years, SEO has focused strongly on building lots of links to sites, often by placing identical content on hundreds or thousands of sites. In response, Google’s Panda algorithm update released in February of 2011 lowered the ranking of sites that appeared to have “unnatural links” or links from duplicate sites.

The Panda update led many SEO practitioners to switch from posting links in duplicated content to posting links in slightly modified content. Google responded in April of 2012 with the Penguin update to lower the rankings of pages that are violating their best practices guidelines. It is a never ending battle.

There is a better way. 

Create great content!

People come to your website or blog to learn something.  Make sure that the content they find on your site is original and relevant. Keywords should be used because they naturally fit into the context. Build links back to your site from other sites that also have original and relevant content.

When you design your site for a human audience, your readers will have a reason to stay once they arrive.

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions which supplies specialty paper substrates to digital printersdirect marketing companies and photo book fulfillment companies.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How to View Stereo 3D Content

Stereoscopic 3D imaging provides depth to pictures by simulating the different views seen by each eye. While the concept is as old as photography, it has gained an unprecedented amount of support in the last two years from the entertainment and consumer electronics industry. A growing number of major movies are being filmed in 3D, major video games are being released in 3D, all major TV and monitor manufacturers are making 3D TVs and Nintendo has released a 3D version of their hand held game console. All of these are potential viewing devices for 3D images.

All stereoscopic 3D images, whether still or video, consist of two separate views in which elements are positioned differently depending on how deep they are in the scene. Viewing a stereoscopic 3D image requires a method to allow each eye to see only one of the two images. Here are the most common methods for viewing stereoscopic content:

Parallel View – Parallel view consists of placing the left and right images side-by-side on a monitor or printed card. While some users are able to fuse the two images into a single 3D image on their own, most require a viewer to help focus each eye on the correct image. One of the simplest and most effective is the Loreo Pixi viewer which consists of two prisms mounted in a folding cardboard glasses frame. Using the Loreo viewer,  any computer monitor can be used to display 3D content.

The Loreo Pixi 3D Viewer
Red/Cyan Anaglyph – An anaglyph image applies a red cast to one view and a cyan cast to the other. Glasses with red and cyan lenses filter the views for each eye. This is one of the easiest and cheapest methods because the images can be displayed on any device and cardboard red/cyan glasses can be purchased in bulk for about $.50. However, the quality is poor. The method distorts the color of the image and there is frequently ghosting because the filters in the glasses do not match the display color. 

Anaglyph image of a bird in flight.
Passive Sequenced – The 3D movies currently shown at theaters use the passive sequenced method where the left and right images are projected one at a time in rapid sequence through filters polarized at opposing angles. The viewer wears glasses with polarized lenses to filter the images to each eye. This viewing method is also used with some consumer level 3D projectors.

Passive Interlaced – The passive interlaced method requires building the polarized filters into a TV monitor in strips. The right and left images are interlaced into the strips and the viewer wears polarized glasses to filter the images to each eye. This method is being used by some high end 3D TVs, but it adds significant cost to the production of the TV. As the costs come down, this may become the preferred technology for 3D in the living room because the glasses are inexpensive and do not require charging.

Toshiba Laptop with Active Shutter Glasses
Active Shutter Sequenced – Most of the 3D TVs that are in the stores currently use the active shutter sequenced method. The right and left images are shown in rapid sequence and the user wears a pair of glasses with LCD shutters which turn on and off in sync with the screen refresh on the TV monitor. This is the least expensive technology right now for the home because it does not require significant changes or additional costs for the monitor. The disadvantage, particularly in households with children, is the need for keeping the batteries in the glasses charged and the replacement costs if the glasses get lost or broken.
The Nintendo 3DS uses a parallax barrier to show 3D content.

Parallax Barrier – The Nintendo 3DS hand held gaming console, the display on the Fuji 3D camera and a number of recently announced 3D laptop computers have parallax barrier screens. With this method, the left and right images are interlaced onto an LCD screen. A second LCD screen layer creates a series of lines which keep each eye from seeing the images intended for the other eye. This approach is autostereoscopic which means that it works without any type of 3D glasses. However, the user has to be at a particular distance from the screen and at a particular angle to experience the 3D effect which limits its application to small, single-user devices.

Lenticular – Lenticular printing is not really a stereoscopic display method but instead mimics the effect of stereoscopic viewing. For lenticular printing, typically 12 to 24 images are interlaced into a single print which is laminated onto a special lens to allow the viewer to see different views as the image is rotated. To create a lenticular print from the left and right views of a stereoscopic 3D image, special software must be used to create the intermediate views.

Although there are many ways to view 3D content, I usually post images as a 3D stereo pair and a red/cyan anaglyph. This makes them accessible to readers with the least expensive viewing tools. 

How do you prefer to watch 3D content?

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions which supplies specialty paper substrates to digital printersdirect marketing companies and photo book fulfillment companies.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stereoscopic 3D Basics

Replica of traditional stereo viewer from 3D Concepts
I enjoy taking 3D pictures and watching 3D movies. There have been several posts here which either comment on 3D content or include 3D images. In this post, I would like to explain the basic concepts behind 3D photography and 3D cinematography.

Each of us have two eyes approximately 6 centimeters apart. When both eyes are functioning properly, we see two slightly different scenes in each eye. Our mind combines those scenes and uses the difference between them to determine depth.  

To see how this works, slide back until you are about three feet from your computer screen and hold one finger up about halfway between your face and the screen. Now close one eye and note which words are still visible. Now open your eye, close the other and note which words are visible. At short distances, the difference between the scenes captured by each eye is quite significant.

As our minds process the differences between the two scenes, there are two pieces of information that are used to determine depth.  The first, horizontal parallax, is the difference between the relative positions of items in the two scenes. In our example, we know the finger is closer than the screen because it moves right and left on the screen as we switch from eye to eye.

Note the differences in which people are visible in the backgrounds of the two frames of this stereoscopic 3D image of street performers at Santa Monica pier. The difference in who is hidden is called occlusion revelation. The difference in the relative positions of the tourists is the horizontal parallax.

The second clue to depth is called occlusion revelation. This refers to the small areas of a scene that are occluded or hidden from one eye but revealed to the other. The perception of those small areas and the width of those occluded areas are a major input in our brain’s calculation of depth.

When we view a traditional 2D photography or movie, we can still recognize the depth of the scene through several monoscopic cues. We can make depth judgements based on perspective, the relative size of objects, changes in texture gradients and position relative to the horizon. Occlusion is also the most important monoscopic depth cue because any object that hides must be in front of what is hidden.

3D photography increases the level of realism by adding back in the stereoscopic depth cues. This is done by showing each eye its own unique view of the scene. Stereoscopic 3D requires a way to capture or create the scene with separate right and left eye views and a way to present each of two those views to the appropriate eye. I will explore those methods in future posts.

The stereoscopic 3D image above was captured with this Loreo 3D lens adapter which uses two focusing lenses to project two separate image views onto one camera frame.

What is your favorite 3D movie so far?

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions which supplies specialty paper substrates todigital printersdirect marketing companies and photo book fulfillment companies.