Wiggle Stereoscopy

The other week a very cool Mental Floss article was published about stereoscopy and some interesting new examples. For those who are unfamiliar, stereoscopy is a photographic technique that attempts to create a three dimensional aspect to still photographs by enhancing the illusion of depth. You may be familiar with the red and blue 3D glasses from the ‘50s or even had a View-Master. Both of these devices show one image to the left eye, focused at a certain depth, and a second image, focused at a different depth and slightly shifted laterally, to the right eye. The brain, unable to align the two images simultaneously, processes the images with binocular vision. The left and right eyes perceive the same scene from slightly different positions, and the brain uses the “parallax”—the slight shift in objects’ relative positions—to generate the illusion of depth. However, there is another way to create this illusion that doesn’t require glasses or a View Master– Wiggle Stereoscopy. The wiggle is a shift between the two separately focused images positioned atop one another. Neurologists believe the effect of depth is created by a “binocular rivalry,” where the separate images presented to each eye compete for perception. If the timing between the wiggle matches the brain’s processing speed for image change, approximately 0.12s for most people, the brain is tricked into disregarding the rivalry and attempts to see the image as one, three-dimensional image.

Intrigued, I decided to build a rig that could hold two Nikon D80s with 50mm lenses a fixed distance apart, 65mm from the center each lens, or the average distance between human eyes (a full write up on this rig with pictures will be published soon). A rig is not needed to create the effect for yourself; you can take two shots with the same camera as long as you are precise in alignment and focus. But by using two cameras actuating simultaneously, I can capture subjects in motion. I took the rig to the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection to test it out and the results are shown here. I’m going to keep experimenting and hopefully utilize the motion-stopping capabilities soon. To view larger example, click the wiggle 3D image above and scroll through. The photo of Nick making pizza was my first attempt at Wiggle Sterescopy. A full gallery of the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection (2D) can be found in the Gallery.