It all started with an innocent autumn stroll, when the venerable creator of this website decided to take his first photograph in 3D. It was an apple tree, whose scarlet burden hung languidly in the golden rays of the sun, lit up by sparkling dewdrops, like a thousand candles lamenting at the altar of human innocence. But on the camera screen it just looked like a cheap tablecloth. Damn.
When suddenly, an apple fell upon his head, which gave him the idea of the law of universal gravitation, but it didn’t help him with the problem at hand.
When suddently, later, he had the idea of taking a photo in 3D, by taking two separate shots, one with the lens facing the left eye, and the other facing the right eye. It wasn’t too complicated. In order to see the photo in 3D, each eye must see the corresponding photo. There are numerous gadgets for this kind of technology – glasses, television, smartphones, virtual reality hats… The problem was that even the cheapest method wasn’t worth it, just to see an apple tree in 3D, and above all, no method allowed him to show his friends and family, in particular his mother who lived a fair distance away.
Thus he decided to invent a 3D viewing machine, using only recycled objects and cleaning supplies found around the house, so that everybody would be able to build their own. He put his energies into the FocusCope, from the ancient roots of focus (fire) and scope (to see) in Latin, or Greek, I don’t remember. Just as a telescope allows its viewer to see far into the distance, the focuscope allowed him to see in 3D, using the distortion created by hot air, in turn created by a huge flame lit with petrol and other flammable liquids.
Despite the spectacular results, the project was abandonned –the creator’s mother had some reservations about the safety of the procedure. He had to find a less risky approach…
The outcome was a mesmerizing website that accompany the diverging and focusing of the vision, and a kind of magical formula to play with the mind – FocusCopus!
This method of viewing in 3D has existed for a long time. While for some it may seem rather unsophisticated, some old school viewers believe it affords the best sensation of 3D. Yet, it is rather difficult the first few times you try, as the method is not natural for your eyes. This website offers you a way of achieving this effect simply and gently, so that everyone can try it, not just a few old school nerds.
When you come up close to the screen, first your eyes cannot cross themselves enough, so the image doubles up.
As you come closer, your eyes will lose focus and the image will become fuzzy:
Your eyes relax, as if you are staring into space. Just as your eyes, your brain is in a resting place, it stopped superimposing the images and trying to see something clear. If you have put each eye in front of a circle, you should see two fuzzy overlapping circles. Now scroll to adjust the distance between the two circles until the distance between them is the same as that of the distance between your eyes. The circles should now be perfectly superimposed.
The eyes relate two identical images to the brain, which interprets them, as it usually does, as the same image and therefore that the eyes are looking at the same circle.The same fuzzy circle. All you have to do is to focus to see the circle clearly. This point of the ‘method’ (which is nearly over!) is pretty easy and doesn’t ask for much effort. All you have to do is bring your eyes close to the screen. The next part requires a touch more concentration.
So that the ‘focusing’ is possible you have to move back, but slowly enough that your vision remains fixed on the circle. At this step of the process the eyes look to infinity but focused just a few centimetres away, which explains why it is chaotic if the circles move too quickly. In order to see clearly much easier you can keep your eyelids just half-open because seeing through a smaller opening increase the depth of field. It’s the same for cameras – if you reduce the opening of the aperture stop you decrease the fuzzinesss of the background. Equally the same idea for short-sighted people who can read more easily while looking through a small hole in a page. So you just have to move your head back slowly, focusing on the fuzzy circle, with your eyes half-opened -almost closed.
The circle will appear clear and will seem to detach itself from the background, which will also appear in 3D. All that is left to do is to click in order to switch from the circles to the first 3D image. To show your amazement you can then wave your arms up while chanting ‘focus copus, focus copus!’, having checked that the babysitter has left and the curtains are drawn. This step is optional.
The image is repeated on the right and the left hand side, but in 2D. And so the peripheral vision of each eye is perfectly superimposed. Otherwise the superposition of the image seen by one eye and the desktop background seen by the other eye would cause an unpleasant visual bug.
With some practice (a dozen or so attempts), you can enlarge the images by scrolling and also come closer to the screen, so that the 3D image takes up a larger space in your field of vision. Then you will be able to skip the business with the circles and addapt your vision naturally in front of the photos.
This technique does not damage the eyes or vision; in fact, it can be seen as a kind of gymnastic training programme. Often our eyes remain in the same position, especially at work where you stare at a computer screen or pages for hours on end. This kind of behaviour is the real risk to our eyesight. Splitting your vision in parallel is a bit like stretching your legs, after a long car journey for example. Like any kind of gymnastics, it can benefit your health in the long-term, you just have to practise in moderation. Importantly, children must be careful, as their eyes are not yet fully developed. For more information, visit this website of American optometrists network.
A new approach to 3D
Some people find that after a long hard day at work the eyes naturally diverge. These are precious moments – when your head is floating in cloud nine, your eyes are staring into space… before a colleague slaps his hands and sniggers at you. When your eyes do this it is a sign of tiredness and generally wanting a break.
Instead of reaching for another redbull-coffee the next time this happens to you, try going to FocusCopus, let yourself go, let the circles superimpose without moving your head towards the screen. Let your vision adapt to your worn-out gaze, rather than the other way round, and you’ll see that it is rather pleasant sensation.
FocusCopus claims a form of "slow technology" which goes against the tendency to make any instinct accessible with one clickat any moment: information, entertainment, sex, shopping… Then all this loses sense and contributes as fodder for our bland lives. The slightly long-winded process you have to go through when you view in 3D for the very first time is not to be regarded as a constraint, but rather as a part of the experience. It is not everyday that a website can have such a direct impact on your body, trick your senses, make your nose touch the screen, push you to explore an unknown part of your brain. It is a kind of initiation test. After all, you don’t appreciate the view from a mountain in the same way if you got there by foot or by car.
FocusCopus proposes a new way of seeing in 3D, free and accessible to all users of a computer with internet. FocusCopus also proposes a new way of considering 3D which stems from and fits perfectly to Slow Technology.
Watching a film or playing a video game in 3D for two hours can be exhausting for the eyes and the brain. This is why most 3D films have a stunning scene in 3D at the beginning, for the ‘wow’ effect. They then decrease the field depth for the remainder of the film, so the film-goers don’t vomit all over the carpet when they leave. Similarly most gamers using Nintendo 3DS switch to 2D after a while, for more comfort. Not to mention the failed attempts for television or smartphone in 3D.
This is due to two factors:
-1 : 3D is fine for a few minutes, then it gives you a headache and you don’t notice it anymore, especially when it moves around to much.
Even if films don’t decrease the depth after five minutes, we get used to it anyhow, the ‘wow’ effect dwindles, and furthermore it tires us out. Regardless of the revolutionary technology of 3D vision, you still have to watch a flat screen. While the shift between the elements seen by each eye will indicate a variation in depth, the focus of eyes, which is another indicator of the depth, will indicate the same depth, that of the screen.
Each time the shot changes, these two different indicators fail to agree about the depth of the scene. Just like when you are on a boat and your vision tells you that you are not moving, but your internal ear signals that you are in fact moving up and down all the time. In both these situations the brain reacts the same way, with a big red button called ‘horrible nausia’. And not only does that tire the eyes, but short and snappy scenes also reduce the 3D effect. It seems that the more the scene moves around, the more the brain is engaged in analyzing each movement, and doesn’t take into account any depth which is not essential to understanding.
This is why FocusCopus takes the time to present the photos leisurely, in order to appreciate a « Sensitive and contemplative 3D » rather than « Full-on blockbuster-style 3D ». And it doesn’t last more than five minutes.
-2 : If 3D doesn’t add anything to the image meaning, it isn’t worth five minutes
Firstly, some scenes are vastly improved when seen in 3D (like apple trees), and others not. Just like how a black and white photograph can better embody the spirit of the scene than a colour photograph, and vice versa. 3D is not « better », but complementary and occasional. All the history and the scenes of a feature film have little chance to be relevant in 3D. The short and quiet FocusCopus format is more able to capture the essence of 3D as a whole.
This kind of 3D is not just a technical aspect which allows us a better representation of volumes, but rather an intimate and subtle sensation. This point merits at least a short chapter with the ambitious title:
***Manifesto for a Sensitive and Contemplative 3D***
"Damned, what a verve!". Whatever anyone says, 3D is far too often associated with a vulgar funfair curiosity at best (« come see a T-rex jump out the screen », « swim in a coral reef and touch the exotic fish »), or at worse as a simple marketing technique to flog more seats, at a higher price, for a film without even the ambition for full immersion. This is explained by the high costs of production and distribution for 3D films. Only the he very large film production companies seized this media – so it has to respond to the imperatives of profitability while remaining an entertainment for the masses.
3D should not just serve to exaggerate the realism of a scene, and even less to sell inflated tickets. Above all else it is a sensation which brings about instincts which are deeply anchored within us. Without 3D vision, it is nigh on impossible to climb a tree, hunt, gather or fight. These far from insignificant activities may not be needed for survival in the modern world, but they remain part of our DNA as we are the descendants of those who had the best 3D vision. People born with one eye in the middle of the forehead were quickly eaten by bears. When we see an image of a aggressive man in 3D we are naturally more alert than when seeing the same image in 2D. A 3D image doesn’t just give us more information about the depth of the elements, but also a tactile feeling, the impression that we are living in the image. If you look at a simple photo of a door handle in 3D and your subconscious has already opened it, you know how it feels in the hand, its shape and texture. Imagine what effects could be generated by an erotic image…Ü
We do not see mountains in three dimensions, nor ants. What does the 6cm between our eyes represent compared to the hundreds of metres of a mountain or the millimetres of an ant ? Ideally we see best in 3D at a distance of 1-10 metres, such as a domestic or urbain environment, and especially people. Thanks to neuroscience we know that when we watch somebody we internally mime their facials expression and body language, and even their feelings – such as sadness, joy and anxiety. You see now at what point empathy will play a more important role with a 3D photograph than one in 2D. This is what inspired the conception of the photo-series « Still Hands ».
One can take old historic photos from the pre-Nazi era, transform them into colour and put them into 3D, in order to better feel and live the 1930s, either as the future persecuted or the future persecuters. Not only knowing it or understanding, but feeling it, lets you make a parallel between them and what we see on the faces of people everyday – the same fustrations, anxieties. If this extremely sensitive subject can be approached with pertinence, then that surely proves that we have here a completely new conception of 3D. It goes without saying that the blockbuster conception would approach it with less tact : « New! Come see the Genocide in 3D Real Max as if you were there!... Soon in cinemas near you! Order your limited edition mug now!... ».
If we don’t see the landscape in relief with our own eyes, we can take a 3D photograph of it, by taking two shots at a distance of a few metres. And so in this way we will create a new approach for landscape photography – a more sensitive and intimate way of viewing the outside world. It is a sensation which reflects how you feel watching the scrolling countryside from a train window, a car or even a moped, like the journey made in South America by Ernesto Guevara, to whom another photo-series is dedicated. This photo-series aims to create the impression of emotions as felt by the future revolutionary. He was a young utopist with his head in the clouds, whose thirst for freedom was larger than the continent he traversed, and larger even than the political figure that the trip would make him.
Besides giving a tactile dimension to the landscape, the stereoscopy reduces the size (just as it can increase the size of ants) and so allowing it access to our own domestic or urban environmental scale. We can also have the impression of seeing a model, and it is this very impression which will be exploited in a future photo-series about the ‘museum-ification’ of France, with 3D landscapes seen from a helicopter.