When I started playing around with making 3D in my teens, I used my dad’s old Victorian stereopticon and would painstakingly arrange the twin images on a piece of card with glue. I shot the images using the rough and ready “cha cha” method with an ordinary camera. I have moved-up since then to using a Loreo lens for my SLR which allows me to make ordinary 4×6 prints for a more modern version of my dad’s old Victorian viewer. While these stereo image can only be viewed by one person at a time, the viewers are inexpensive and the colour is perfect.
Most people are familiar with the red and blue glasses used in the old 3D movies like the Creature From the Black Lagoon. It probably became widespread because it used existing analogue colour separation and printing technologies.
There are several colour pairing for anaglyphs, but the colour of the subject matter is always distorted. Skies can become pink or yellow. The main benefit is that they do not require any special technology to display the images and the coloured glasses cost pennies.
With a little work in PhotoShop I can turn my Loreo images into anaglyphs. So long as you have the twinned images there is always a way of converting your images to any viewing method you want. I have found that yellow and blue analglyphs work really well on my iPhone.
Anaglyphs also work well for television broadcasts because, again, the only special piece of kit required are the glasses: the broadcast and the television set is just the same. While I fondly remember experiments of this kind in the seventies, it suffered from the unpredictable colour of NTSC broadcasting technology; HDTV’s near perfect colour calibration works wonderfully. The Queen in 3D was a good proof of concept.
Polarized light is similar method that is employed in movies. The colour is balanced and the glasses are still relatively cheap. However this methods requires two projectors or two screens that need to be synced together carefully. Two screens or two projectors also means two videos files.
The most technologically involved method is shuttering, which alternates blocking the viewers sight from the left and right eye and must be synced with the display that alternates showing the left and right image. This was a notoriously fragile system when it was done mechanically a hundred years ago, and it still requires a very expensive set of glasses. The main benefit is that it only requires one projector or one screen and can be watched by a group of people wearing the glasses. This method should not be confused with those annoying animated GIFs that jiggle between the left and right views.
The most intriguing method derives from the old postcards that had the ridged clear plastic surfaces and would show fish swimming. My favorite was the animated Pope John Paul II waving in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica. This technology originated in Communist Czechoslovakia and has evolved into a ridged clear plastic cover that is laid onto your screen which makes it useful for hand-held devices like the iPhone or the PlayStation. Three or more images are cut into vertical strips and then weaved back together into one file. The plastic cover is a series of vertical prisms that show one image from one perspective another image from a slightly different angle. It only works for one person at a time and there is a loss of resolution from left to right, but no glasses are required.