How to Create 3D Images and Videos Without a Three-Dimensional Camera

Updated on December 7, 2019
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I figured out how to get normal pictures to come out of the screen by creating a program that makes three dimensional images.

Deer photo. Things that were far away from each other look close together.
Deer photo. Things that were far away from each other look close together.

The Third Dimension

The plants at the bottom of the picture were close to me when I was taking the picture. They were not close to the deer. It looks like a plant is touching the deer's ear but they were at least 3 feet apart. The picture has width and height but it lacks depth. When a picture lacks depth objects that were far apart look close together.

Depth is the third dimension. Most screens are flat. Normally they only display width and height but there are things you can do to add depth.

How to View 3D Images and Movies at Home

The easiest and cheapest way to view three-dimensional photos and movies at home is with a pair of 3D anaglyph glasses. They are the glasses with a red and blue or cyan lens that were used to watch 3D movies at the movie theatre. I bought a high quality pair online and had it delivered to me for less than $10. You can get a cheap pair for $2. The best thing about anaglyph glasses is that they work on lots of different mediums. They work on TV screens, computers, phones, comic books and magazines.

I have been using the red cyan anaglyph 3d glasses I bought to find, view and make 3D content. When I searched for "red cyan 3d" I found hundreds of images and videos. The glasses are comfortable and I was surprised at how well they work for the small screen on my phone. People that wear glasses had to take them off. If you already wear glasses then you could use 3D clip-on glasses instead.

The new passive 3D movies require a special screen. To watch three-dimensional movies at home using polarized glasses I would need to buy an expensive screen and finding content for it would be difficult. Another way to view 3D content is with a VR headset. A good high quality headset can cost over $500.

3D image of a Star Wars creature. Picture was taken with the webcam on my laptop.
3D image of a Star Wars creature. Picture was taken with the webcam on my laptop. | Source

How 3D Glasses Work

3D glasses work like stereo headphones. Stereo headphones can send one sound to your right ear and another to your left ear at the same time. Anaglyph glasses allow you to view a left and right image. Without the glasses you see one image. With the glasses each eye sees a different picture. A colored lense displays one image clearly while hiding the other one.

For the effect to work the pictures need to be taken from a different perspective. Each of your eyes is seeing from a different location. The second picture should be a little to the right. You see depth because the objects are at different horizontal locations and because you are getting more information. When you take a picture of an object at different locations it changes the angle.

A 3D camera would take 2 pictures at the same time. Using two identical cameras also works. Friends and family members often have the same smartphone. It might take two people. With a regular camera it is easy to take a picture, pan to the right and then take another picture.

Three dimensional images are stereo or stereoscopic images.

Left Image

When I close my left eye and look through a blue lense the image disappears.
When I close my left eye and look through a blue lense the image disappears. | Source

Combine two dimensional images to create the perception of depth.

Changing Your Perspective

When viewing stereoscopic images changing your perspective changes the result. To get the best result you may need to move. If you don't think you are getting the full effect then change the distance or the angle. You can be too close or too far away. Larger screens usually give you more depth than smaller ones. However I noticed some stereoscopic images looked better on my phone than on my laptop.

Cropping or zooming in can often increase the depth. Increase the size of the object so if fills most of the screen. The photos may be too dark on some devices. Try using a screen that can provide a bright picture. TVs can often be used as a second monitor for a computer. If you are using a laptop then make sure the screen is straight up.

Different screens can give you different results.

How to Make Red Cyan 3D Pop Out Pictures

Making stereoscopic pictures without a three-dimensional camera is really easy if you know how. It took me a long time to figure out how to create the effect. Now I can create a great 3D image in 30 seconds with a 2D camera. For best results use two images. Adding the effect to a single photo only works well some of the time and the results are not as dramatic. If you only have one then try turning it into a stereoscopic image. When taking pictures that would look good in 3D take two at a time.

Create the pop out effect by getting a close up view. You might want to start with something that is reaching out towards the camera. Expect images that come a few centimeters or inches out of the screen. I took pictures of a wooden tank with my phone. The part of the barrel that was coming out of the screen was as long as my finger. If you want images that come out farther then use large pictures and view them on a large screen.

You may find yourself trying to touch them because they look solid. While seeing the image coming out of the screen I could move my hand through it. It made me think of a hologram, like the ones you might see in a futuristic movie.

Create a 3D Image in 9 Steps

  1. Take a picture.
  2. Pan to the right.
  3. Take another picture.
  4. Remove the blue green from the 1st photo.
  5. Remove the red from the 2nd photo.
  6. Merge them together.
  7. Put on a pair of 3D glasses.
  8. Line up the photos for the best effect.
  9. Save the stereoscopic image.

An optical illusion.

When a flat image appears to have depth it is an illusion.

A pair of pictures that could be used to make a photo that comes out of the screen.
A pair of pictures that could be used to make a photo that comes out of the screen. | Source

Copy & Paste Cardboard Cutout Effect

I copied a public domain picture of a ghost onto one of my photos. After saving it I removed the ghost and pasted it a little to the left of the first location. When I converted the two pictures into one the ghost looked like it was floating in front of my screen. I copied a fish in a fishing picture. Then I pasted it to the right of the original location and saved it. When I combined the two it looked like the fish was in front.

The effect is similar to putting a cardboard cutout onto a piece of paper. If you touch the screen the tip of your finger appears to be behind the front image. Copy and paste an object so it is to the right or left of the original. Combine the images and the unchanged part becomes the background. The copied part appears to be in front of your screen.

Copying and pasting an image in a slightly different location can give you some good pictures. The hard part is only copying the part you want. I experimented by using photos with transparent backgrounds.

In the 3D version the ghost is in front of my screen. I moved my fingers through it.
In the 3D version the ghost is in front of my screen. I moved my fingers through it. | Source

Videos

Videos can contain hundreds of photos. Many of those images can be paired with a similar image a few frames after it. If there is horizontal movement then you may be able to get some great photos using a single video. The horizontal movement could be from the camera moving or the subject. If you don't mind going through the video frames it is possible to find ones that work well.

Converting a single video into a 3D video can work but the results will be limited just like converting a single image. I watched some of the 2D videos I already had in 3D. For best results record two videos at the same time and merge them together. Use two different cameras like 2 smartphones. Make sure they are not too big for your computer. I reduced the video size on my camera.

When I was experimenting I recorded a video on my laptop of me moving my hands horizontally. I played the video, paused it and took a picture. Then I went ahead a few frames and took another. When I merged them together and put on my glasses the hands appeared to come out of the screen.

My Anaglyph Photos

If you put on a pair of red cyan 3D glasses then you should see that most of the images appear to come out of the screen. Adding depth does not always make it pop out of the screen. It can also do the opposite. Without 3D glasses you should see red and blue outlines in the anaglyph photos on this page.

The photos look good on my devices. If your screen is brighter or you enlarge the images then you may notice flaws in the pictures. Try to keep the same distance and vertical position when taking pictures. I set the camera down when I could. The photos do not need to be perfect. You can move them horizontally and vertically to line them up.

When I convert 2D images to 3D I still have the 2D version. Why take one good picture when you can take 2 or 3 and make a great picture. Three dimensional pictures can look much better than 2D pictures and they are better for capturing the moment. That is why I am going to get into the habit of taking pictures in sets of 2.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Red cyan 3D stereoscopic picture of a dinosaur coming out of an egg.3D photo of a Rancor Star Wars toy with its hands coming out of the screen.Cardboard cutout effect of a leopard in a deer photo.Red cyan stereoscopic photo of a white-tailed deer.Red cyan 3D stereoscopic image of a bunny sculpture and a vase.
Red cyan 3D stereoscopic picture of a dinosaur coming out of an egg.
Red cyan 3D stereoscopic picture of a dinosaur coming out of an egg. | Source
3D photo of a Rancor Star Wars toy with its hands coming out of the screen.
3D photo of a Rancor Star Wars toy with its hands coming out of the screen. | Source
Cardboard cutout effect of a leopard in a deer photo.
Cardboard cutout effect of a leopard in a deer photo. | Source
Red cyan stereoscopic photo of a white-tailed deer.
Red cyan stereoscopic photo of a white-tailed deer. | Source
Red cyan 3D stereoscopic image of a bunny sculpture and a vase.
Red cyan 3D stereoscopic image of a bunny sculpture and a vase. | Source

Merging the Photos Together

Taking photos is the easy part. You could use a camera, phone or laptop. The hard part is changing the colors, lining up the photos and merging them into one. You should end up with a picture that has red and blue outlines. The stereoscopic images on this page were made with my 3D image maker. Without a program to do some of the work for you the information on this page is just theory.

To actually make the images you need a program designed for making stereoscopic images or a paint program. To work the paint program needs to be able to remove RGB colors from an image and merge them together. I could not do it with the ones on my computer. You should be able to make the effect using Photoshop.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Michael H

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