A delightful night for the PHSC. Our host for the presentations was Joanna Beyersbergen of Ryerson. We had two key speakers: Bob Wilson of the PHSC on the history of stereo and 4th year Ryerson student Marissa Frosst on the technologies of the DME Lab. Both speakers addressed the audience in the amphitheatre of Ryerson University Student Learning Centre located at Yonge and Gould. Click on any image in this post to view a larger version.
Dr Robert Wilson. Bob gave a brief, professionally illustrated, talk on the techniques and history of stereo images, viewers and cameras. He began his talk by asking the audience to perform a simple finger exercise to show the variation in views from one eye to the other. His wireless microphone began cutting out and was quickly replaced by the Ryerson staff.
He spoke of the evolution of stereo image creation from local photographers to world wide corporations well able to market their stereo products – especially after Queen Victoria so enthusiastically and publicly embraced the new medium. The stereo card served as the movies and TV shows of its era, entertaining viewers and showing students and potential tourists the features of far away destinations.
Stereo cards and glass lantern slides were offered to schools as educational tools in well organized wooden cabinets. The educational sets came with a book covering a description of the content of every card. For example, the 1000 card set had a substantial instruction book of over 500 pages including an index. A teacher could look up a subject, refresh him or herself on the topic and select the correct views/slides covering the material. Dr Wilson projected typical stereo cards to illustrate evolutionary changes.
Once the viewers were covered, Bob turned to cameras, noting the first cameras used for stereo were ordinary cameras of the day with a single lens. Both camera and lens were shifted slightly between exposures to make a stereo pair. Under close observation, it was evident the right eye and left eye photos were taken at slightly different times. He showed an example where a blow-up of each view showed a carriage and horse in one view but not in the other. More elaborate cameras allowed a single lens to be shifted to expose a second plate and view. It was only when dual lens cameras came along that two shots could be taken in the same instant, allowing movement in the scene to be captured correctly.
After the brief history of stereo, Dr Wilson used anaglyphs to show us the 3D effect of monotone stereo cards taken coast to coast a century ago. He pointed out that care was taken to include a near object in each scene to enhance the stereo effect. Bob told me he created the anaglyphs himself. The original stereo cards were scanned and the files fed into a free computer program called StereoPhoto Maker. The program aligns the left and right images and adds an overcast of red on the left image and blue on the right image. Using Special anaglyph glasses with one red and one blue lens enabled the audience to see the anaglyph images in monotone 3D. Below are six samples of the images shown by Dr Wilson.
Marissa Frosst, like all people of her age, Marissa is prominently featured on social media. She gave an equally exciting overview of some modern day stereo technology as a prelude to our visit to the Isaac Olowolafe Jr. Digital Media Experience (DME) Lab, an initiative of the Ryerson Library. Marissa spent the past summer working for a small high-tech company, Kapow! 3D in Santa Monica CA. Her work there provided the examples she shared with us tonight. Her talk, “3D Scanning, Printing & 360 Photography”, began with scanning. In 3D scanning, a digital camera is used instead of a traditional scanner. The camera uses point clouds and photogrammetry to map any 3D object. Her example was a motorcycle engine. The engine’s owner needed a computerized 3D model so he could make experimental revisions in a computer before modifying his engine.
To illustrate 3D printing, Marissa told us of a craft artisan. The artisan requested a dozen physical replicas of a unique broach, as she was too busy to make the complex objects in time. For another example, she explained that Kapow! 3D made a plastic replica of every currently offered digital camera for a client. These replicas, much cheaper than real cameras, were sent to factories world wide who designed cases for each camera.
Her last topic was called 360 photography. She compared 3D printing to 360 Photography as “taking objects to people… vs… taking people to places…). She described how complex 360 Photography uses a special camera and fish-eye lens (Ricoh Theta S) to take and stitch in camera a special immense photo. The resulting image is transferred to an iPad and thence to an iPhone which becomes the viewing screen when placed inside a Google Cardboard device.
Motion up, down and side to side by the person using the Google Cardboard makes the image viewed change the same so one can look down from a roof top, up in the air, and around the city as if perched on the roof top instead of the camera and tripod. Scary. What the wearer saw was also viewed on the monitor by the audience as a 2D image or pair of images. A few in the audience tried the Google Cardboard. One, Felix Russo of PhotoEd magazine (who provided the anaglyph glasses) said the experience was quite realistic – it was a long way down when he looked down!
Isaac Olowolafe Jr. DME Lab. After the two presentations, the audience was offered a tour of the DME Lab by its coordinator, Namir Ahmed. First up was a sandbox with a Kinect device and a BenQ projector overhead. The box showed topographical lines on the sand and when you “raked” the sand and placed your hand over the resulting valley, its topography changed and simulated water entered the sand box, flowing to the low point. Mark Singer mentioned he had seen a similar set up the previous day on the Discovery network.
We moved on to the 3D printers which were simple devices using a laptop to generate x,y,z points. Namir mentioned the DME received the printers as kits so the first students learnt the principles of 3D printers first hand when they assembled them. Items are made from a plastic cord and are recyclable. The plastic cord must first be heated in the printer, then once heated to the melting point, a nozzle sprays liquid plastic material on the printer platform building up the 3D model layer by layer. It was pointed out these printers were available free for use as are similar printers in the Toronto Public Library system. Each printer uses a high end laptop at the moment. The lab team is coding a simple Raspberry Pi computer to operate the printer, freeing up the laptop. The printers can then be linked to Ryerson’s network and used from any location. Since they are offered free, only basic coloured plastic – like a glue gun uses – is offered. A flexible version of the plastic can be used to create clothing.
Some of us tried Google’s “Tilt Brush” device as well. This gadget uses a 3D helmet set to infinity vision (my eyes worked without glasses). Two hand held paddles are used. One is a pointer/pen while the other is a series of menus. Stepping inside the visual “box”, one can use the selector to choose colour and pen style, then paint in 3D. I made my initials in white, then moved to a rainbow brush pen style. Another audience member chose the stars pen style option to generate a sea of stars as she moved the pointer/pen paddle. The paintings were displayed in real time 2D on a monitor and a large flat screen display panel.
While we investigated the lab, the 3D printer finished its small replica of the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre building. An enchanting and interesting evening – a terrific start to our fall programme and our new/old programme director!