Capture: 3D Photos & Depth Mapping

08/06/2019 - 16:20
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Posted by Shawn H Nichols on Monday, August 5, 2019

Recently Facebook launched a feature that allows users to upload “3D” images to their timelines. To view the 3D effect mobile device users must tilt their phone, and hover over the image with the mouse when using a desktop.

Initially, this update was intended to allow advertisers to create more eye-catching marketing images, but recent updates and innovation in mobile photography has made the technology available to a much larger crowd.

For most users, this means utilizing the “portrait” mode on their Samsung or iPhone. When in Portrait mode each device makes use of the dual camera set up on the front and/or back of the camera to create a “bokeh” effect.

Traditionally the “bokeh”(the visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image) comes from the aperture blades of the lens mounted to the camera. This particular effect has become extremely popular over the last few years.

In commercial photography, this can mean purchasing a lens that is thousands of dollars to create a smooth background via a shallow depth of field.

In the mobile device, where the lenses are far too small to utilize an aperture blade, the camera actually takes two photos and uses the focal point you’ve selected to make this the main area of focus.

The processor compares the two images and creates a bokeh effect by blurring out the portions of the image deemed not to be the selected subject which then creates depth mapping. The image file and the depth map file are stored as a single file, with the depth map working as an internal sidecar storing XMP data.

Recently I learned that you can easily create a depth map on your own and utilize the same 3D functions even if you don’t have a smartphone.

To experiment I used a piece of my art to create this depth map below. My final attempt is after about 3-4 previous less successful attempts due to trial-and-error. While there are things I would go back and correct, I am still quite pleased with the results. It’s also a lot of fun to see my original 2D work in 3D!

Hopefully, other social media sites will jump on the bandwagon and allow this type of imaging soon. In my personal opinion much like the Cinegraph (resource intensive) or Plotagraph (costly membership fees), this option is a nice alternative to Video which has oversaturated the social media landscape.

Using this tutorial, I was able to understand the core concepts and create my first image in about 20 minutes. For reference and to show my work, below is the original 2D image, it’s depth map and my final 3D image hosted on FB.

Original 2D art

depth mask

Posted by Shawn H Nichols on Monday, August 5, 2019


Will you be adding 3D images to your timeline? Share your results & sound off below!

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