Sunday, November 22, 2009

YouTube supports 3D stereoscopic video

Google's video service YouTube now supports stereoscopic video. This is great news. I predict that soon it will be possible to stream stereoscopic YouTube videos to stereoscopic monitors.

The only technical information so far is one very long help thread. The Google engineer behind 3d YouTube, "YouTube Pete", participates in that thread.

I would like to take a moment to thank YouTube Pete for his beautiful work on the 3D YouTube project. Kudos to Pete. It is much appreciated.

My hummingbird video

I made a hummingbird video to test out the 3d features myself. The embedded video below does not show the 3D interface. You must go to the YouTube page itself to see the full range of possibilities. Grab a pair of red/blue 3D glasses if you have one.

Remember to check out the original movie to see all of the 3D viewing options.

This hummingbird movie could be improved in several ways
  1. The left side is out of focus. I meant to set the focus for both cameras to 15 cm, but it looks like the focal length of the left eye was set too short.
  2. The sound doesn't seem to work. I plugged in a microphone, and selected the one audio option that was available in AmCap, but I don't hear any sound in the video. This needs to be investigated.
  3. I should register Stereoscopic Multiplexer, to avoid those watermarks on the video. It will cost about $90. Ouch.
  4. It would be good to get more light on the bird. Unfortunately, the sun won't shine on my patio until summer.
  5. The format is Left-Right (parallel), but the emerging YouTube standard is Right-Left (cross-eye), so I should use the Right-Left convention in the future. Plus I have an easier time free-viewing cross-eye, so it will be more convenient for me when viewing embedded videos like the one above. I used the YouTube tag "yt3d:swap=true" to correct for this inversion.

Other YouTube 3D videos

The following are examples of other stereoscopic videos on YouTube, created by others:

This so-called biodiversity documentary contains professional-quality footage of domesticated ducks, geese, and honeybees in India. The narration is done with a top-quality computer generated voice. The voice is only slightly creepy.

This next one is taken with a helmet camera. It is interesting and entertaining. It includes some cityscape images. Unfortunately, a cityscape shows little depth when using a normal human interpupillary distance of 60 mm or so. Hyperstereo might have been nice here.

There are many many other stereoscopic videos on YouTube. Search for "yt3d" on YouTube.

How I made the hummingbird video

I created my hummingbird video using two USB pen cameras. So I could get the two cameras as close as possible. This setup is suited for small, close subjects, such as hummingbirds. Because the two cameras are only 14 mm apart, as opposed to the 60 mm separation of human eyes, my setup yields a view as seen by another hummingbird, rather than what would be seen by a person. This is called hypostereo.

Two USB pen cameras and a portable netbook style computer are the basis of my stereoscopic video system. I created a custom bracket for the cameras so I can mount them on a tripod. The bracket is carefully shaped to compensate for the idiosyncrasies of these particular cameras. These very cheap cameras do not point in exactly the same direction.

The narrow 14 mm distance between the camera lenses is crucial to producing a subtle 3D effect with small close subjects such as the hummingbird. I chose these pen cameras because this form factor permits the smallest camera separation I could find.

Here is a shot of the whole setup prepared to take hummingbird videos.