What is Stereoscopic Video?

Stereoscopic video, also called 3D video, brings viewers into a world beyond the flat screen.

Instead of presenting an image moving on a flat screen (like a normal 32″ or “43” inch TV would), stereoscopic video creates depth and we humans experience this depth through depth perception in our natural vision.

By presenting slightly different video feeds to each eye, stereoscopic video re-creates the 3-D perception on a flat screen, and gives us very realistic three dimensional images that can be viewed without any special eyeglasses!

Depth Perception in Humans

Depth perception comes naturally for humans and its one of the prime reasons that we’ve survived and thrived so far 🙂

Because we receive slightly different images from our two eyes, we can determine the distance and spatial relatioship between objects in our view.

Stereoscopic video works in much the same way.

Two video streams are captured from cameras slightly apart from each other but pointing in the same direction and at the same scene. When viewed with the right equipment, these two streams are presented to the two eyes separately, and the streams or images are combined in the brain to produce a single image which gives us the perception of depth.

How is Stereoscopic Video Delivered?

One way that stereoscopic video is delivered to viewers is with 3D glasses. 3D glasses use either colored filters or polarized lenses to separate the two video streams for your eyes.

A simpler solution is to forgo the glasses altogether. These glasses-free approaches to 3D, often called autostereoscopic displays, use a variety of techniques to direct a distinctly different image to each of your eyes, but they can only do so from specific angles. This is also referred to as Free Viewpoint Television and as a research topic, it was pretty popular in the late 2000s and early 2010s, but has since died out as a topic.

The most immersive 3D experience comes from head-mounted displays (HMDs) such as VR headsets. These put a separate display in front of each eye, essentially creating a completely enclosed virtual environment.

Usecases for Stereoscopic Video

The implications of stereoscopic video are very broad and touches a large number of fields and industries.

Entertainment: For example, 3D technology can be used by films or video games to produce stronger depth and absorption, which makes the viewers or gamers fall into the story or gameplay better. Imagine watching a basketball game in your living room with Stephen Curry rushing past your face – that’s an experience in itself, right?

Education and Medicine: Besides entertainment, stereoscopic video has a chance to change the world, like science or education field. Complex scientific visualization can be easy understandable for readers or scientist through the more intuitive presentation. Furthermore, the teaching content can be developed more in the user interactive ways to create a learner more enjoyable learning environment for a richer learning result.

And, robotic + remote surgeries that require an accurate sense of depth for the surgeons is a prime candidate for stereoscopic video to make an impact.

Cons of Stereoscopic Video

Although stereoscopic video is full of possibilities there are still a few things to think about.

  • To view the video you have to have special glasses or displays.
  • Not all video content is made in a stereoscopic format.
  • And finally, one can experience eye discomfort or discomfort if you watch a 3-D film for too long.

Recently, Apple launched its Apple Vision Pro that requires videos to be encoded in the MV-HEVC video codec. To learn more about it, go here for a simple explanation of how MV-HEVC works.