Anaglyph images are used to provide a stereoscopic 3D effect, when viewed with 2 color glasses (each lens a chromatically opposite color, usually red and cyan). Images are made up of two color layers, superimposed, but offset with respect to each other to produce a depth effect. Usually the main subject is in the center, while the foreground and background are shifted laterally in opposite directions. The picture contains two differently filtered colored images, one for each eye. When viewed through the "color coded" "anaglyph glasses", they reveal an integrated stereoscopic image. The visual cortex of the brain fuses this into perception of a three dimensional scene or composition.
Anaglyph images have seen a recent resurgence due to the presentation of images and video on the internet, Blu-ray HD disks, CDs, and even in print. Low cost paper frames or plastic-framed glasses hold accurate color filters, that typically, after 2002 make use of all 3 primary colors. The current norm is red for one channel (usually the left) and a combination of both blue and green in the other filter. That equal combination is called cyan in technical circles, or blue-green. The cheaper filter material used in the monochromatic past, dictated red and blue for convenience and cost. There is a material improvement of full color images, with the cyan filter, especially for accurate skin tones.
Video games, theatrical films, and DVDs can be shown in the anaglyph 3D process. Practical images, for science or design, where depth perception is useful, include the presentation of full scale and microscopic stereographic images. Examples from NASA include Mars Rover imaging, and the solar investigation, called STEREO, which uses two orbital vehicles to obtain the 3D images of the sun. Other applications include geological illustrations by the USGS, and various online museum objects. A recent application is for stereo imaging of the heart using costly 3D ultra-sound with plastic red/cyan glasses.
Anaglyph images are much easier to view than either parallel (diverging) or crossed-view pairs stereograms. However, these side-by-side types offer bright and accurate color rendering, not easily achieved with anaglyphs. Recently, cross-view prismatic glasses with adjustable masking have appeared, that offer a wider image on the new HD video and computer monitors.
A pair of eyeglasses with two filters of the same colors, once used on the cameras (or now simulated by image processing software manipulations) is worn by the viewer. In the case above, the red lens over the left eye allows only the red part of the anaglyph image through to that eye, while the cyan (blue/green) lens over the right eye allows only the blue and green parts of the image through to that eye. Portions of the image that are red will appear dark through the cyan filter, while portions of colors composed only of green and blue will appear dark through the red filter. Each eye therefore sees only the perspective it is supposed to see.
The correction is only about 1/2 + diopter on the red lens. However, some people with corrective glasses are bothered by difference in lens diopters, as one image is a slightly larger magnification than the other. Though endorsed by many 3D websites, the diopter "fix" effect is still somewhat controversial. Some, especially the nearsighted, find it uncomfortable. There is about a 400% improvement in acuity with a molded diopter filter, and a noticeable improvement of contrast and blackness. The American Amblyopia Foundation uses this feature in their plastic glasses for school screening of children's vision, judging the greater clarity as a significant plus factor.
The following monochromatic method assumes that the stereo pair is available as a digitized image and that access to general purpose image processing software and computer is available.
Starting with a pair of color images, or a sepia (toned) image, first convert each to grayscale (shades varying between black and white). Select the right image and paste it into a new document. Convert the new document to color (it still looks black and white, with all channels identical). Returning to the grayscale stereo pair select only the red channel of the left image and copy that channel to the clipboard. Select new the anaglyph document as the destination window. Using the channels window select the red channel and paste in the left image. The images may then be flattened, color adjustments applied as outlined below, and the image saved in an appropriate transmission and viewing format such as JPEG.
There are several computer programs that create color anaglyphs without Adobe Photoshop, and a traditional, more complex compositing method can be used with Photo-shop, as explained below. To make an anaglyph containing color information using color images, replace the red channel of the right-eye image with the red channel of the left-eye image. To do this, select the entire right eye image (if the original is a crossed eye stereogram this will be on the left) and make a new document. Paste the right eye image in. Move the selection to the left eye image (with consideration as above for crossed eye stereograms) and using the channels dialog select the red channel. Copy the red channel from this source image. Return to the new document and select the red channel. Paste the left eye image into the red channel. Fine details of the process, can provide many advantages, that space considerations don't allow in this article context.
Using color information, it is possible to obtain reasonable (but not accurate) blue sky, green vegetation, and appropriate skin tones. Color information appears disruptive when used for brightly colored and high contrast objects such as sigs, toys, and patterned clothing when these contain colors that are close to red or cyan.
Anaglyphic processes are not always able to reconstruct full-color 3D images. Colors which are combinations of red-green (yellow);and red-blue (magenta) would reproduce. However, to get full-color photos or movies, a polarizing filter system (or an adapted Russian LCD shutter system) must be used. Polarizing filters steer the vibrations of light analogous to a Window blind. Two synchronized projectors are used, overlapping the images into an aluminum screen. The shutter system, on the other hand, switches back and forth rapidly for left- and right-eye images, synchronized to the image input, and alternating so fast that the eye cannot detect the changes. This is similar to how LCD shutter glasses work.
According to entertainment trade papers, 3D movies are now more popular than ever. The modern processes allow maximum comfort and minimum eyestrain. 3D provides an entertainment experience still not possible with television (though certain experimental processes, the quasi-holographic "volumetric displays", have been used, for example, to show real images of cars in a display setting, with no viewing glasses required).
Those portions of the left and right images that are coincident will appear to be at the surface of the screen. Depending upon the subject matter and the composition of the image it may be appropriate to make this align to something slightly behind the nearest point of the principal subject (as when imaging a portrait). This will cause the near points of the subject to "pop out" from the screen. For best effect, any portions of a figure to be imaged forward of the screen surface should not intercept the image boundary, as this can lead to a discomforting "amputated" appearance. It is of course possible to create a three-dimensional "pop out" frame surrounding the subject in order to avoid this condition.
If the subject matter is a landscape, you may consider putting the frontmost object at or slightly behind the surface of the screen. This will cause the subject to be framed by the window boundary and recede into the distance. Once the adjustment is made, trim the picture to contain only the portions containing both left and right images. In the example shown above, the upper image appears (in a visually disruptive manner) to spill out from the screen, with the distant mountains appearing at the surface of the screen. In the lower modification of this image the red channel has been translated horizontally to bring the images of the nearest rocks into coincidence (and thus appearing at the surface of the screen) and the distant mountains now appear to recede into the image. This latter adjusted image appears more natural, appearing as a view through a window onto the landscape.
In all probability it will use similar glasses in the blu-ray release. The greater clarity of blu-ray, and the learning curve at Disney, has greatly improved red-cyan anaglyph, especially in relation to close overlay of the 3D images, such as they have followed in their animation projects. Most Disney theatrical 3D images show far less mal-registration, compared to old fashioned polarized or anaglyph technique.
These techniques have been used to produce 3-dimensional comic books, mostly during the early 1950s, using carefully constructed line drawings printed in colors appropriate to the filter glasses provided. The material presented were typically short graphic novels of a war story, horror, or crime/detective nature - similar in content to some modern Japanese manga. These genres were largely eliminated in the US by the rise of the Comics Code Authority. Anaglyphed images were of little interest for use in the remaining comics, which emphasized bright and colorful images, unsuited for use with the viewing and production methods available at the time, which were usually red-green rather than red-cyan.
Three dimensional display is useful for the display of various data sets and for illustrating certain mathematical functions. Anaglyph images are useful since they are suitable for both paper presentation and non-moving video display.
Chemical structures, particularly for large systems, can be difficult to represent in two dimensions without omitting certain information. Therefore most chemistry computer software can output anaglyph images, and some chemistry textbooks include them.