The Past in 3D
April 23, 2007 12:42 PM   Subscribe

3-D images have a longer history than you might imagine. Stereographs were invented in the mid-1800s, and quickly became very popular. You can still view 3-D pictures of the Civil War, cowboys and Native Americans, World War I, Egypt circa 1900, small town America of the 19th century, and zeppelin wrecks(!). How do you view them? You can buy or build a viewer (like this classic), but a better way might be to learn to do it with the naked eye (try this method if you have trouble). A new technique converts stereograms into "wiggle images" [prev.] the approach has been used on this picture of a downed zeppelin and this picture from the Civil War. Free software will let you make your own wiggle images.
posted by blahblahblah (23 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Way ahead of you.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:51 PM on April 23, 2007

Some of those wiggle images are not nearly as good. I think one of the main diffrences is that in the these both cameras are focused on one object (so when the background goes to the left, the foreground goes to the right), while in this both are aimed at the horizon. this uses some kind of flash-based fade effect and IMO it actually detracts and makes it even worse.
posted by delmoi at 12:53 PM on April 23, 2007

You've never seen a zeppelin wreck until you've seen it in 3-D.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:58 PM on April 23, 2007

delmoi, your "these" link is NSFW.
posted by brundlefly at 1:02 PM on April 23, 2007

posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 1:03 PM on April 23, 2007

delmoi, the difference is that Jim's modern pictures are taken for the purpose of wiggling, while the two historical shots are attempts to apply the same technique to old historical stereocards. Given that, I think the effect is pretty cool. The best way to see them is still the old crossed-eye method.
posted by blahblahblah at 1:04 PM on April 23, 2007

I actually have my great grandmother's stereoptican stored in the cedar chest in my living room with a bunch of original viewing cards. It's made out of wood & metal with a nice folding handle. I remember playing with it a lot as a kid.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:04 PM on April 23, 2007

And I just realized that "delmoi's link" is a link in the FPP...
posted by brundlefly at 1:05 PM on April 23, 2007

Those naked eye ones were pretty cool. I've always been able to "unfocus" my eyes to find the hidden pictures in the dots or whatever they're called. I wish the images had been bigger. I really liked "The Cinque Torri "

Great post! Thanks!
posted by lysdexic at 1:09 PM on April 23, 2007

I don't know if you people have seen Disney's "Meet the Robinsons" in 3-D, but it is sensational. Especially in the depiction of rounded shapes. There is no irritating consciousness of watching an "effect." It is a fully integrated viewing experience -- at least after the first minute or so as you get used to the glasses. I highly recommend it. (In theaters, the film is preceded by a Disney animated short from the early 1950s that has a 3-D effect based on the separation of planes, but which is pretty strong in its own right.)
posted by Faze at 1:13 PM on April 23, 2007

your "these" link is NSFW.

Oops, sorry about the accidental 3-D tushy.

If someone with the power wants to put a NSFW next to "wiggle images," they can...
posted by blahblahblah at 1:16 PM on April 23, 2007

I had three great aunts, all nuns, that I was forced to visit periodically as a child. Their apartment wasn't exactly stocked for an eight-year-old boy; I think they had an Archie comic from the fifties and a couple matchbox cars. You can only read the same Archie so many times and I was discouraged by my parents from making the cars crash in the presence of three nuns. So these visits were pretty damn boring.

One of the nuns realized this and pulled out a stereoscope. She presented it to me tentatively, as if fully aware that a kid of the eighties--with access to television and video arcades--wouldn't find much entertainment in a simple eye trick. Maybe it was the dearth of other entertainment or the novelty of discovering an obsolete technology, but she was dead wrong. While my parents caught up with the nuns, I sat on the floor staring fixedly at images of the Eiffel Tower and the Thames and dozens of abandoned abbeys and convents. I couldn't read Archie more than once but those 3-D photos never got old.

Great post, blahblahblah.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 1:32 PM on April 23, 2007

sto-o-o-op wiggling!
posted by MtDewd at 1:40 PM on April 23, 2007

Oh man, that "zeppelin wrecks" link started java, which really did a number on my computer.
posted by !Jim at 1:47 PM on April 23, 2007

But holy crap is the content cool. I had no idea you could view these the same you can those magic eye things. Thanks!
posted by !Jim at 1:49 PM on April 23, 2007

Related Newsfilter: NASA today released the first 3D images of the sun (NASA site, CNN article)
posted by inflatablekiwi at 2:06 PM on April 23, 2007

As someone who lost an eye in high school, those wiggle images can *sometimes* trigger that old part of the brain that sees things in 3-D.

It's like an old friend come to visit unexpected. Oh, I missed it so.
posted by unixrat at 2:12 PM on April 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Eisenhower was a 3D photographer, and there was a lot of expectation after WWII that 3D would be an emblem of the coming optimistic space age. Somehow it neer happened. Ever been to a 3D photography convention or meeting? Man, those guys can out-nerd anyone.

As a hobbyist myself, in possesion of a 3D slide depicting the flowers my father sent my mother the day after they met, I've been asked "why? what does it really add?"

The best answer I've heard is that it is vivid.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:40 PM on April 23, 2007

all hail the great viewmaster!

I had this snoopy one where he was an ace pilot downed behind enemy lines. These little chiaroscuro dioramas of a dog hiding in the brush. It was so surreal and enveloping.
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:13 PM on April 23, 2007

Picked up some great Van Gogh cheapies in Amsterdam. Very cool, and yeah, I could stare at them near-endlessly.

Which, considering the awesome 3-Dness of the room I'm currently sitting in, is a tad odd, I'll admit.
posted by dreamsign at 12:42 AM on April 24, 2007

I recently got into making 3D photos, of the anaglyph variety.
posted by Happy Monkey at 4:32 AM on April 24, 2007

US National Parks in 3D (anaglyphs)

3D (stereo) photos of cave. Click the "See photos in 3D (side by side)" link at the bottom of each thumbnail page.

A whole buch of 3D stereo nature photos

Miscellaneous 3D stereo photos
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:47 AM on April 24, 2007

If you know anyone with a lazy eye, these images are great exercise to strengthen their ocular muscles. Both my brother and I have a lazy eye (mainly the left), and we don't need stereoscopes to view them in 3D... it takes good control, but it's a blast when you can "lock in" and get the full effect without any aid.
posted by bloomicy at 8:11 AM on April 24, 2007

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