Introduction: Make 3D-action Videos for a Budget-price

About: I like to explore new things and try out stuff. At the moment I'm in to electronics, BLE and LEDs.

You know those gopro action videos, but a gopro is much to expensive?

Do you like 3d-videos and you already have a good smartphone?

Then go get yourself some stuff for less than 150.- and make yourself some 3d-action-videos!

YES! 3d! Action! Wow! I can't wait! Let's do it!

Step 1: Gather the Stuff

The biggest trick to reduce the cost of shooting 3d is using two cheap cameras.

You need:

  • 2x Full-HD Action Cams with IR-remote (ebay 100.-)
  • stereo bar to mount two cameras (5.-)
  • 2x micro-SD-cards 32GB (15.-)
  • Google-Cardboard adapter for your smartphone (20.-)

I don't want to promote a special offer, you find hundreds of them if you search for "full hd action cam IR". These cameras normally come with a waterproof housing, some mounts and the IR-remote.

Then you need a stereo camera-bar, where you can mount two cameras side by side. These cost below 5.-€. Or you go with a cardboard-Box or print yourself some housing. See Step 10.

And of course you need two micro-SD cards. These cameras normally take only up to 32GB, which is more than enough.

For comparison: To shoot 3d with an original Gopro you need:

  • 2x Gopro Hero 3+ black (2x 380-€)
  • 3d-gopro-housing and connector (230.- €)
  • 2x micro-SD-cards 32GB (15.-)

That sums up to 990.- for only the cameras!

Step 2: The Trick With the Cameras

3d usually requires precise mounting and operation, but these cheap action cams overcome these restrictions. See how:

  1. Precise mounting: The view angle of the action cams are so big, that the final video will overlap for about 98% in any case. Even if the mounting is not perfect. Because the observer concentrates on the middle of the scene any way, this fits really well.
  2. They even have a display on the back, where you can roughly check the pitch and yaw angle.
  3. Care must be take for the roll-angle. Because this is hard to see on the screen and hard to correct for the eye when watching the final video.
  4. These cheap action cams even provide a function to set the white-balance! Only the original GoPro Black provides this feature, but not the silver or "+" versions!
  5. Synchronisation: Stereo-videos have to be in sync down to the single frame or the effect is lost immediately. This is where the IR-remote comes handy. Both cameras receive the same signal and start and stop at the same time. With my cameras this worked perfectly. Only one video out of 80 with a moving wind-shield wiper was not perfect. The landscape still had a good 3d-effect, but the wipers for the right and left eye differed a few centimeters in reality.

I mounted the cameras with the open housing on the stereo bar. But I plan to build a custom housing for both an include the IR-remote into this too.

You can also use some tube and mount it with the water-proof housing and the bike-mount.

Or you use the waterprove housing and the 1/4'' screw mount. These cameras come with a lot of equipment.

Step 3: Adjust the Camera-settings

This is a very important step to make sure the two videos are easy to combine.

With my camera I can adjust:

  • Resolution and framerate: 1080, 30fps
  • best quality
  • white-balance: sun
  • Slow motion : off
  • Motion detection: off
  • Date-Stamp: off
  • Date and time: Set to current time!

These are the most important options.

You can also adjust the language, the power-save time and the screen-power-save time.

Step 4: Shoot Your Movie

Start both cameras and point them to the object you want to shoot.

Then take the remote in front of them and point it straight to the lenses. Press start and both cameras should start recording.

If you messed up the angle and one camera didn't start, stop the running and try it again. The start of the movie has to be real synchron, the end might be different, although it is best if it is synchron too.

Step 5: Extract and Prepare

Now that you have two sd-cards full of movies and pictures, copy the content to your computer.

Make a "left" and a "right" folder and put the content in there.

I found it best to add a _L and a _R at the end of the name before the file extension. I wrote myself a little shell script for that. You can download it and place it to your /home/bin/ folder. Then you have to call

sudo chmod +x postfix 

to make it executable. And then just use it like this:

postfix L MOV<br>

This adds an "_L" to each name before the .MOV. If your files have a different extension use this of course!

Now that you can see which movie is for which eye you can mix the files together.

Next step is to identify the fitting videos. I usually have a lot of 3-5MB files that don't fit, because one camera didn't trigger. So either identify it by the time-stamp or by file-size.

To mark these videos I usually add increasing numbers to the start of the name. After that step you have a lot of and files. This has to be done by hand.

Step 6: Convert Two 2d-videos to One 3d-video

Now it is time to convert the individual files to a single 3d-video file.

There are a lot of different 3d-video formats and you can find some information here: 3d-file-formats

If you want to view it with your smartphone I recommend using the "side-by-side" format.

I started out with the GoPro-Studio on the Laptop of a friend. And I really had a lot of trouble importing and converting the film. I got a lot of error messages, it took endless time but finally it worked. And if the films do not have exact the same length it doesn't work at all.

But the good news is: You don't need the GoPro-Studio!

I do it on Linux better, quicker and for free!!!

"ffmpeg" does the job on almost any linux out there. Just search the web on how to install it if you don't have it already.

With the two files and you need this command to combine it into one file:

ffmpeg -i -i -filter_complex "pad=in_w*2:in_h, overlay=main_w/2:0, scale=in_w/2:in_h, scale=-1:1080" -b:v 13000k -vcodec libx264 -ac 2 01.mp4

The result is a movie called 01.mp4 which has full HD dimensions, but two different views in one.

I also wrote myself a little script to do this job. And if you don't want to type in a lot of file names do it like this:

Download the script "create3dsbs" and install it like the postfix in the step before.

Then open a shell and type in

ls *.MOV >filelist 

This lists all MOV-files and writes them in a new text-file called "filelist". Now open this textfile and add "#°/bin/bash" in the first line, and "create3dsbs " before each video-pairs and a new file name behind the pair. Just look at the screenshots.

Save, close it and in the shell execute "sudo chmod +x filelist", this makes it executable.

Now you created a new shellscript.

If you then call


the script create3dsbs is executed several times and creates the 3d-videos. You might have to wait several minutes, but then it's done.

Step 7: View It in Google Cardboard With a Smartphone

If you have a monitor or display that provides 3d-functionality you can directly try to view it there.

To view it with the cardboard adapter upload it to you phone and use the app: SBS 3D Player

There might be other app out there, but this works fine for me.

Start the app, open the video, insert the phone to your cardboard and enjoy!!

That's it.

Really easy, isn't it?

Step 8: Share It Via Youtube

If you want to share your video with your friends, you might want to use Youtube.

In the options of the uploaded video you can click a box if the video is "3d". This changes the default display from 2d to "3d anaglyph". And it adds the small cardboard button to the video if you watch it in the app.

While the anaglyph doesn't look good for this video, it might work for other videos. If you choose the cardboard mode, then the display looks a bit different. The video itself gets smaller, because the ratio is correct now. And the display moves like you are standing in a cinema and looking at the screen.

I don't know if it is possible to view it in 3d on a Smart-TV, maybe someone can try this.

You can mail the link to friends or do this straight from the app.

Very cool!

Step 9: What I've Learned

Here are some hindsights I made while shooting my first films.

  • 3d with these cheap cameras only works in good light outdoors. Indoor is possible, but worse.
  • Moving the camera should be much much slower than normal. Best would be to mount it on a tripod or something else. If you sit at home and view a very shaky 3d-video that might cause you nausea.
  • Under no circumstance, never ever tilt the camera upright! Always keep it horizontal.
  • never change the angle of the cameras to each other during a movie, this irritates the viewer!
  • Hold the two cameras in the middle. This reduces the differences in jiggle between the two cameras.
  • When filming out of the car, look to the front, not to the side. I don't know if it is the weak jpeg-compression or small miss-synchronisation, but the 3d-effect is not very good for fast moving scenery.
  • Invest in a good google-cardboard clone! The fist real cardboard cardboard didn't last long then it was broken. The second for 15.-€ had a wrong distance between the smartphone and the lenses. The third one with fully adjustable lenses and a good head-strap is really worth every cent!
  • Cyan-red-Anaglyphes need more adjustment than the cardboard-side-by-side version! 3d-videos that worked fine on the cardboard didn't work on cyan-red because they were visibly shifted and rotated. The eye corrects most of this when using cardboard, but not with cyan-red.
  • If the shift and rotation mentioned before is too big, you get dizzy when viewing it in cardboard. I guess there are some 3d-Video-editors to correct this, but I didn't try them so far. If you have a good hint: Please post as comment!

Step 10: Better Case: From Cardboard to Cardboard

While my google-cardboard is no cardboard any more, I got back to cardboard as the primary mount for the cameras.

This solves some issues:

  • Shift- and tilt-deviations are reduced. You get a better picture or video.
  • The remote-control is connected to the mount itself by a rubber string, this greatly reduced video- or picture-singles.
  • It is easier to carry and if I would paint it a little even less obvious.

I can not provide you some pattern, just start with the outer dimensions and cut holes wherever they are needed.

Perfect would be a 3d-printed housing, but until now I don't have access to a printer. Maybe someone could help me here? :-)

Step 11: Next Steps...

Well what to do next?

You could:

  • Edit the 3d-video like any other video in any video editor. Although some effects might not work on 3d. Kdenlive imports and modifies these videos perfectly.
  • Cut, trim and modify the video as you want.
  • 3d-print your own housing.

Additional tip for 2d-footage: Just use the script of step 6 to combine two identical videos. You don't have the 3d-effect, but you can include "missing" scenes you forgot to film in 3d! Or from another camera.

What I would like to do:

  • View the video like a 360° video with a reduced view angle of course. I didn't manage to do this, I don't know how or what is missing.

A final word to the original GoPro: Yes I own a GoPro Hero 3+ Silver and it shoots very good videos. Much better than these cheap cameras, of course. BUT: No chance to synchronize a second cam, or to fix the white balance. I am really happy that I realized this before I bought a second one! And 300€ for a two year old camera is just too much. If it had these features and cost maybe only 150€ then I would have gladly invested the money, but until then I go for the "better" clones...

Step 12: And Finally: the VIDEO Itself!

I know you have been waiting for this all steps long!

And here it is: The first viewable 3d-action movie shot with equipment below 150.-€!

Have fun and post your videos too!

Let's go 3D!

Full Spectrum Laser Contest 2016

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Full Spectrum Laser Contest 2016