A Hands-On, Step By Step How-To For Affordable 3D Now
The allure and excitement of 3 Dimensional Stereovision movies (and now home theater television) has not only become big business, but it is having a deep effect on how immersively we perceive recorded events. Fueled by recent hit movies like Avatar, Toy Story and Shrek people are fascinated by 3D movies. Even though the concept for making a 3D image is simple and has been around for a while, displaying a 3D image on traditional 2D display devices has always been a challenge. 3D display technology has made amazing quality improvements from the old anaglyph (red-cyan glasses) to the more modern polarized glasses.
Recently the cost of tools for making and displaying your own 3D videos has become surprisingly affordable. In this article we will walk you through the steps to make your own 3D movie on a very low budget. Our example 3D camcorder is small enough to attach to your RC car, plane, boat, heli or robot!.
Making your own 3D movies requires only 3 types of equipment. The recording hardware, the editing software and the display method.
It is no secret that video cameras are getting smaller, better and less expensive every day. We wanted to put our 3D camera in a small indoor foam RC airplane so light weight was mandatory. This light weight requirement makes it very easy to use other transport devices such as your RC car, Helli, robot or even your pet Yorkie!
We used a pair of TME microDV Camcorders. This video camera offers 720 X 480 video at a very small size and light weight. We mounted it to a small piece of 3/16″ balsa mounted eye distance apart ( approximately 2.5″ ). The further apart the cameras are the more exaggerated the 3D effect becomes. You could also use lite ply or thin metal for the mount. You simply want it to be sturdy and stiff. Our mount was approximately 3-3/4″ X 3/4″. Yours may vary depending on the size of your cameras.
There are many software editing packages out there to choose from. What you want is a program that will allow you to perform a picture in picture effect. This will allow you to combine two videos playing simultaneously. In our case we want them to appear in two windows side by side.
There are several free video editing programs out there. Most of them can be made to do the picture in picture effect.
We used Pinnacle Studio 14 to do our video. Another popular low cost program is Adobe Premier Elements. If you are a professional video editor you may already be using Adobe Premier Pro or Final Cut Pro programs. The important thing is that you will want to place the two videos side by side with the right eye footage on the left side of the screen and the left eye video on the right. This is called cross-eyed 3D. Once in this format it will be converted to several formats by YouTube when you are done.
Up until recently displaying 3D was the trickiest part of the puzzle. However recently Youtube has been experimenting with a special 3D feature on their site. If you upload a video in cross-eyed 3D format and tag your video with a special code they will automatically convert your video into 14 different 3D display schemes. These 14 display modes range from different colored glasses to parallel vision 3D. At the time this article was written, YouTube even has some experimental interlaced modes in beta that should work with interlaced polarized glasses like Nvidia 3D Vision glasses.
10 STEPS TO MAKING YOUR 3D VIDEO
After having collected the equipment you plan to use it is time to get busy putting the cameras together so that you can begin to shoot.
3D TIPS & TRICKS
When images are close, your eyes cross naturally to center your subject in each eye. Angle cameras inward to frame close objects in center of frame and you can crop in post editing for a more natural look. To artificially increase the 3D effect when shooting objects greater than 20 ft away, increase the distance between cameras for a hyperstereo effect.
STEP 1: MAKE YOUR 3D CAMERA
Clip the two cameras onto the stiff board eye distance apart ( approximately 2.5″ ). Make sure cameras are perfectly square and at the same height and tape securely onto stiff board. If using the TME camcorder DON’T FORGET the camera lens is on the clip side of the camera. It looks like a little hole above the clip.
STEP 2: MOUNT THE CAMERA
Now securely tape the entire structure onto the RC robot, land, or air vehicle so that it will not come off during expected G loads and any unusual attitudes. Test by shaking the camera host over a carpeted floor to make sure nothing falls off. For airplanes and helicopters make sure you attach the camera close to the CG and retest CG before flying. Make sure that the CG has not changed as a result of adding the camera pair. Using the TME cameras you will be adding about 1.5 oz so please insure you can carry the extra load with light airframes
STEP 3: START RECORDING
When you are ready to roll push both record buttons as close to simultaneously as practical. (you will re-sync later during editing ) The less time difference you have in the beginning, the easier it will be to synchronize. TIP: Before performing any action, record your hands clapping once in plain view of the camera at the beginning of the video. You can use this hand clap to assist in synchronizing the tracks easily and perfectly later on.
STEP 4: STOP RECORDING
When done recording turn off the record function on both cameras. Off time is not as critical at the end of your video take.
STEP 5: IMPORTING
At the end of your video recording session, connect your cameras into your computer and download the videos. TIP: Be sure to separate the left eye video takes from the right eye video takes. Most import programs allow renaming your video files during import. It is advisable to label left and right files for later identification.
STEP 6: EDITING
Import the two clips into your video editing program and put the right eye video on the left side of screen and put the left eye video on the right side of the screen. Use the hand clap to synchronize the start of the video. Do this by moving either one of the videos forward or backward slightly in the timeline. You will want to zoom into a frame by frame view of your video so that the hand clap occurs at the exact same frame in both left and right videos. When done, check the synchronization near the end of the clip to make sure that dropped frames or camera frame rate differences did not cause the two videos to go out of sync.
STEP 7: GET CREATIVE
Here is where you can get creative and add music to your production and any special effects. If you have cut away video or stills that you want to insert into the synchronised segment it will be a lot easier to mix down and export your stereo segments into a single left and right cross-eyed video first. After exporting, you can then re-import the combined stereo clips into your final video. This simply makes it more manageable to in keeping the stereo 3D time-lines in sync. If your editing program allows you to lock two tracks together then use that instead.
STEP 8: OUTPUT THE VIDEO
When you are done editing you will want to output your video as an MPEG-4 file type preferably in 1080p to preserve the image quality for YouTube. Remember even though you may have started with 480 lines of resolution in the vertical direction, when you put two videos side by side you are now adding the horizontal resolution. In the case of two 720X480 cameras side by side you will need 1440 or more horizontal pixels in your video to prevent degrading the final image. 1080p has 1920 horizontal pixels and 720p has only 1280 horizontal pixels. That is why the 1080p preserves the best quality for your final output.
STEP 9: UPLOAD THE VIDEO TO YOUTUBE
Upload to YouTube.com and make sure you add the following into the TAG information without the quotes as one of your tags: “yt3d:enable=true yt3d:aspect=3:4”
This tells YouTube that you have a 3D video and they will process it that way and convert it into all the different display formats for you automatically.
VIEWING CROSSEYED 3D LEGO NXT MINDSTORMS robot is shown in cross-eyed 3D. Look at both images from a comfortable distance then cross your eyes and concentrate on the 3D composite image that appears in the middle!
STEP 10: ENJOY AND SHARE YOUR 3D CREATION!
That’s it, it will take YouTube a few hours to process your videos into all the different 3D formats they support and at all the resolution options (they usually convert your video to low resolution first and continue to your higher resolution versions as time goes on. Be patient!). Now tell all your friends and post links to your videos on all you social media sites and forums. Go ahead, its your turn to feel like Steven Spielberg and amaze the world with your bots new stereoscopic creation.
With today’s technology, the power to make 3D movies with a pair of inexpensive camcorders and a computer is now a reality. As new software and 3D blue Ray players and Televisions arrive, these creations will eventually play on your home theater.
But for now you can easily show your published 3D videos on YouTube. The unique perspectives from our robots and RC models gives us a radically different way of looking at things that is sure to get lots of attention.
Albert Tejera is a contract electronics engineer with 35 years experience in the control and communications electronics industry. He is president of TME Inc. and specializes in robotics applications, among others.