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[How to] Watch 3D movies on your non-3D laptop/desktop/TV screen

Saturday, October 13, 2012

NOTE: This article is totally original, like all the others on this blog. Please do not copy or rip it off (which unfortunately many technology writers have a knack of doing). As of 12th October, 2012, this is the only tutorial on how to watch 3D movies on a non-3D screen.

NOTE 2: Followed this tutorial successfully? To see some assorted images with excellent 3D effect, go to the following posts:
Set 1:
Set  2:



    If you're into movies and technology, you might have wished to be able to view 3D movies on your ordinary laptop/desktop/TV display - but upon searching, you found that you can't do that without a specialized (and very expensive) 3D-compatible display, right? If the answer is yes, then you might be glad to discover that you can actually do that. :)

But HOW - without a 3D-compatible display? The answer is simple - there are several methods to view 3D, and we'll follow one that doesn't need a specialized display. :) The 3D method in fashion on current 3D compatible screens is stereoscopic 3D. But we shall follow the ANAGLYPH method - because as mentioned, you'll not need a 3D compatible display for that.

If you have some insight, you will ask a couple of questions at this stage, like:
i. Isn't Anaglyph supposed to totally spoil the colours of the movie? 
         Technically, yes; which is why this method became obsolete in the first place - BUT I discovered a simple workaround to this, (which I shall mention in the end); and if you follow it, you can bring the colours to a near-perfect representation :) So, if you follow the method in this guide, the colours of the movie will not be spoiled :)

ii. But can we watch standard 3D movies (in side-by-side format) as Anaglyphs without conversion?
         Yes you can - but not on standard players like VLC or Windows Media yet, you'll need to download a player like KM Player (my recommendation), Stereoscopic Player or any other player with a similar feature (e.g. Cyberlink PowerDVD). Don't worry though, it's easy!

iii. Doesn't Anaglyph 3D produce a poor effect compared to newer versions?
         Newer methods use a specialized screen and powered glasses to project separate images from screen layers into each eye. This gives the effect of having a binocular vision in the screen, just like you see real objects.
         In Anaglyph, two colours at the opposite end of the spectrum are used at each eye. One colour wipes the other out and stops it from being perceived. As two separate images are then seen by the eyes on the screen, those images give a similar and hence equal 3D effect as the newer method. You just need to set the colours right!

The Steps:

Okay, so you've decided to try this out. Here's what to do!

1. Getting/designing your pair of Anaglyph 3D glasses!

         Anaglyph glasses have different colours for each eye. Although several combinations are available, we'll stick to the traditional type, i.e. Red for the Left Eye, Blue for the Right.

         If you can find it at your local glasses' shop, that'll be great! With some old magazines, they used to give a pair of anaglyph glasses on a card frame. See if you got one. I got one when I was a child with some Jurassic Park book - lost it because it wasn't much use back then. Did give me the idea though.

         If you can NOT find it at the glasses' shop, no worries - for you can always tell the shopkeeper to make a customized one for you (like I did). Ask him to show you red and blue variants of sunglasses and choose a a nice red and blue shade. I'll drop some important tips below.

    i. Choose a lighter shade of blue. i.e. the blue colour should be more of a blend with a Cyan shade.
    ii. Red should be deep and should necessarily be red - not brown/orange. 
    iii. Darkness level of both sides should not be mismatched. Both should allow relatively equal amount of light.
My anaglyph 3D glasses.
          Some people might tell you to use coloured markers over transparency slides to make these glasses.  Please don't do that or you'll break my heart. This method really sucks! (but yes, you're guessing right; I tried this first :P  )

2. Getting a 3D movie
          Choose a movie of your choice and download it. The only tip I'm giving here is to check if the movie name carries a 1080p - 3D tag in the name. Imagine the pain of downloading a movie and finding it wasn't 3D at all ;) Open up the file you downloaded in VLC/Windows Media Player. If it shows two separate sections showing a nearly identical video, then you're on the right track. It should look something like this:

(Click to enlarge - side by side 3D shows up like this in ordinary media players)

         I highly recommend using "IMAX Under the Sea 3D" when you're trying this. This one has a really cool 3D depth effect which you might not find in many other movies.

3. Getting a 3D Player

         Ordinary media players do not play 3D movies as they should be played for being viewed. They will show up something like the screenshot in the previous step.

         You'll need to download a player that can run these side-by-side 3D files as Anaglyph. 

EDIT (27/12/12): I now recommend you to use KM Player for playing 3D movies. Load your side by side movie in it and press the 3D button at the bottom left. Originally, I recommended Stereoscopic Player in this tutorial but now KM is the better option!

4. Open up the 3D file in the player 

We're almost there!

         Open up the 3D movie in KM Player or Stereoscopic Player. 

In KM Player, you will need to use the 3D button at the bottom left. Right click on the player window and choose Red/Green Color or Red/Green Dubious.

For Stereoscopic player, you'll see a box asking how you'd like it to play. Choose Side-by-Side; Right Image first. 

         For best results, click View, scroll to Viewing method > Anaglyph and choose Half-colour anaglyph Red-Cyan.
I recommend half-colour anaglyph for best results.

In case the video seems stretched, simply click view, scroll to aspect ratio and change it to half-width or half-height.

That's it! :) You can now watch the video in 3D wearing your glasses. Without the glasses, your video should look something like this:

5. Setting up your display to minimize colour changes while watching the movie

         Anaglyph glasses spoil the colours, no denying that. However, I discovered you can easily tweak your display and minimize/eliminate this problem :) Most computers have an Intel processor have the Intel Graphics Panel that you can use for this purpose. (Making up a 3D profile for these settings in the Graphics Panel will save you from the trouble of setting these values again every time)
  1. For Intel users, Right-click desktop > Graphics Properties > Colour Enhancement.  (Others have their own graphics panels in which the settings below can be similarly used)
  2. With "All Colours"option selected, take the saturation to around 20. 
  3. Take contrast to 52.
  4. All colours = 20, Contrast = 52
  5. Now choose "Blue" in the colour option and take the saturation for this colour all the way back to zero. (Depending on your display colour tone, you might wanna set blue according to your need. i.e. cooler/bluish colour tone means you may take blue to a couple of points more negative.)
Blue = Back to zero - other colours stay put.

With these values selected, coupled with the "Half-colour anaglyph Red-Cyan" in the above step; the colours will be just fine! :)

Some more pointers:

  • If you're wear glasses for distant vision, keep them on as well over the 3D glasses. You'll need them for optimal results and focus.
  • To view 3D on your TV, output the video via laptop with the above parameters set. Alternatively you can convert a side-by-side 3D movie to Anaglyph using Xilisoft Video Converter and play it on your TV.
  •  You can convert a non-3D movie to 3D via Xilisoft video converter but the effects may not be very pleasing in this case. In this case, choose a high 3D depth, left side of the side-by-side video for right eye and right side for the left eye.

That's it! :)
Have fun watching 3D and thumbs up and share if you liked the guide.

 EDIT - 03/01/2014:

3D Test

If you followed the tutorial above and want to try out your glasses, take a look at the following picture. If you see a clear image and feel a perception of depth, you did it right :) 

A mighty frost dragon from Skyrim. Courtesy of Phaota. Thanks! :)

You can find more 3D images by clicking on the following links.

 Like photography? Check out my tutorials here:
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