Picture of Make a 3-D Stereoscope Slide and Video Shooter
Stereoscope Slide & Video Shooter

3-D is a really hot topic these days, and for those of you with lots of cash, Panasonic just released a new 3-D video camera that will connect to the new 3-D TVs, so with several thousand bucks you can get in on the 3-D action with home movies.

Step 1: History

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Meanwhile, if you just want to have a little fun, this project might be appealing. See, my family has always enjoyed getting out our ancient Victorian Stereopticon Viewer and we have an amusing pile of old slides from the era. I believe ours dates back to my Grandparent's youth around 1900. I did see a set of slides on Antiques Roadshow from the civil war, and these were worth thousands.

But these antique viewers and sets of common slides are often available on ebay for around $100, and I also saw some very cute wooden "Holmes Stereoscope Kits" for sale there recently for $39.95. These antiques are admittedly primitive, but fun to pass around in the parlor after dinner.

At one time in the late '70s I made a rig using two Polaroid cameras mounted side by side that could more-or-less fire the two cameras simultaneously. These could be stapled or taped to a card and viewed in the Stereopticon viewer quite well. But very often there would be a miniscule delay with one camera or a slight difference in color or exposure, so the slides were never all that great. Today, the same thing could be done using two digital cameras, but the same disadvantages would exist. Plus, video would be challenging and require special software, etc.

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Hi! I would like to know the angle between the two little mirrors... the sketch shows some 125° but in the end which angle where used? should it be fixed to that? Thanks!

courtervideo (author)  Miguel AgustínM3 months ago
I just did my best to measure the angle that I ended-up with, and it is 115 deg. I must admit, however, that my main disappointment with this project is the rather narrow field of view, which is limited by the mirror size and focal length of the moderately wide lens I am using. After wishing for a stereo system that is much wider (we recently visited Bryce Canyon Nat Park, where you have these amazing but very wide views, for example) I bought a second little 16 megapixel Nikon and mounted it along side the one I already had. I just try to press the two shutter buttons at the same time. More work sizing and pasting in Photoshop (and remembering which is right and left) but the results are awesome.

Thank you very much, so fast answer!

Cambenora4 months ago

Cool idea. I've been thinking of doing something like this for a while. Now I might try it. :-)

Now all we need is a 3-D viewer (Stereo-opticon) to go with the prints and we have a total system.
Anyone have some ideas?
First, there are the antiques, and then I recall someone making one that was plastic and cardboard recently.
You know, this ought to make a nice project! I smell an instructable here! And a camera jig to allow shooting the stereo pictures with a neat common point focus allowing for interpupillary distance offset from a fixed tripod mount...hum-m-m-m-m-m! Wheres my sketch book?
I have been making things using my Epilog laser out of 1/8 inch (3mm) plywood. Maybe I could make a stereopticon. The tricky part would be the lenses, since they would have to focus on a point which would probably be about a foot behind the two pictures, but I could imagine it!
The lenses focus on the image plane, (the pictures) I found a rough plan for a stereo viewer, This is a good starting point at least.

perfect : ) just what I was looking for, thanks

courtervideo (author)  trike road poet4 years ago
I wonder where to get lenses?
You may NOT need lenses, the viewer separates the two images and presents them for viewing so the brain can integrate the images for the stereo view.

I'd scale the viewer from the drawing to the size prints you are going to use, and try it from there. You can check with any local astronomy club in your area, they can help you if lenses are needed.
courtervideo (author)  trike road poet4 years ago
OK, I think you are right if one were to print images large enough so that your eyes didn't have to strain to converge or focus. I am extremely old, and so I need to use reading glasses to see anything closer than about 5 feet. This might mean using prints that would be about 3 feet X 3 feet! Maybe this is worth a try...
Just wear your readers and look through the holes in the face plate and you ought to be OK!
courtervideo (author)  trike road poet4 years ago
Will definitely give this a try
There are places to purchase lenses through the mail. Two I can think of are www.sciplus.com and edmund scientific.
courtervideo (author)  thepelton4 years ago
With respect to the lenses, the ones on our antique one have a focal length of about eight inches. But they are also slightly prismatic -- maybe 3/16 in. thick on the inside edge and almost 1/4 in. thick on the outer edge, and to make matters even more complicated, they are angled slightly inward!

I do have a little folding "post card" viewer that has very simple lenses with a focal length of only about five inches, and it works quite well also.

I am going to try and make a much smaller version and use it with the google cardboard VR headset

courtervideo (author)  tom.wynnowen6 months ago
The little cardboard viewer looks great to me. I am going to order one and play with it. Thanks, phil
much easier to just cross your eyes
courtervideo (author)  freakmonkey4 years ago
Yes, as trike road poet said, a lot of folks have trouble crossing their eyes and getting the images to "come together." Plus, the cards have the image for the right eye on the right side, etc, so when you view it with crossed eyes, each eye is getting the incorrect picture and the 3D is weird. I did make a test print with the images switched, and the crossed eye technique works great for those who can do it.

Maybe this DIY prism can help for those of us who find it difficult to cross their eyes, to view side by side cross eye images :- Posting a link for the instructable.


It works beautifully !! Let me know what you think. :-)

3d prism.jpg
Some folks just can not focus that close, the viewer allows every one to see the effect easily.
There are many foldable viewers available.
I prefer this one from an austrian 3D photographer: http://www.3dfoto.at/3dviewer.php
You can prepare your stereo cards with Photoshop or with StereoBookMaker.
Mother made stereoptical pictures by taking two shots from different places of the same object. She sometimes got 'ghost images" because someone walked into the picture before the second shot was completed.
courtervideo (author)  thepelton4 years ago
Saaaay maybe this is just the ticket for a new ghost thriller movie!
courtervideo (author)  pixelpartner4 years ago
Yes, that looks like a sweet little viewer. The model shown above is mighty sweet also.
courtervideo (author)  trike road poet4 years ago
That's right. I mentioned in the instructable somewhere that they are often available on ebay, and the last time I checked there were some nice looking kits on there for $39.95 or something.
books4ume1 year ago

A very nice instructable. Will try to make one for myself.

BTW, Here is a DIY prism which can be helpful for those
of us who find it difficult to cross their eyes to view side by side
cross eye images :- Posting a link for the instructable.


It works beautifully !! Let me know what you think. :-)

3d prism.jpg
courtervideo (author)  books4ume1 year ago
Absolutely brilliant!!!
fado19862 years ago
Hi. First of all, really nice intructable, so glad I finded it. Second, Im trying to replicate your device, but there arent enought measurements of the hole thing, angles for the mirrors, distance between the small and large mirrors, distance between the lens and the small mirrors, ect. I just wanna ask you if you could help me with the missing measures, and also if you have tried to make it a little more portable. Thanks
mickeynurse2 years ago
Can you elaborate on the angles that the mirrors have to be positioned? I tried 45 and got two different images (like the photo was cut with a scissor). I am guessing the outside angles have to be a bit narrower in order to show the same object.
courtervideo (author)  mickeynurse2 years ago
The rig actually does produce two images side by side. There is a photo of one of the printed stereo pictures shown under step one of the instructable. When you use the stereoptigon viewer, your eyes blend the two pictures into one.
khourig3 years ago
By adjusting the angle of the large mirrors, you are changing the parallax angle. It would be great to also be able to adjust the spacing. This could be done, to a point, by adjusting the angle of the small mirrors. This page has a great discussion of what spacing and parallax works best for people viewing the imagery.
courtervideo (author)  khourig3 years ago
The biggest parallax issue with my rig and some of the ones shown on the link you added is that the spacing is too wide -- for normal 3D the spacing between the two images (or two cameras in some rigs) should be about the same as the spacing between a normal person's eyes. My rig, where the spacing is too wide gives an exaggerated amount of apparent depth, which is cool but unnatural. But I chose to use large mirrors with wide spacing so that a fairly wide angle of overall view could be obtained.
If with the front pair of mirrors you arrange a top and bottom mirror(instead of left and right), angled leftward on top and rightward on bottom, you only need to tilt the camera and the front pair with respect to the rear set of mirrors (a slight 10 degrees or so) to even up the horizon. With this method you can achieve a wide format aspect ratio, with the left eye set on top and the right eye set on bottom of each camera frame.
I was toying around with the idea in a 3D program to see if it was possible to get the wide angle shot. Directly in front of your camera you will split the view in two, the top side directed leftward and the bottom side directed rightward. You have to slightly tilt the camera and this set of mirrors with respect to the back mirrors, in order to have a horizon cutting across the middle of both the top and bottom mirrors. It would be easiest to micro adjust the rest of the angles by sight.
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courtervideo (author)  longhairedartist4 years ago
OOOOHHH I get it! Very interesting idea! Have you actually tried it?
I was getting pretty close to matching up the images in the 3D app, but I was only interested in knowing if it was possible. Plus it takes some time to nudge the mirrors and render them, a bit like fooling around in the dark. Your angles should be very close to the same as you have now. Your first pair is just moved to top and bottom position instead of left and right. And you'll see the sky in the top mirror and the ground in the bottom until you skew this pair (and the camera) with respect to the rear pair...
I found a source of $1 mirrors at the dollar store so I might just try to assemble something LOL
courtervideo (author)  longhairedartist4 years ago
I think I would be tempted to try mounting the small mirrors on a single, simple post and make the vertical adjustments with the large mirrors.
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