The Holiday Season is here, and it’s time to render some falling snowflakes (or leaves) with parallax.
VUE 2016 R4 was released yesterday, with some exciting new features worth dedicating a post to. Stereoscopic rendering is now finally available! [More exactly, it’s finally possible in standalone mode as well… ;)] …Though I’m not planning to render movies or even longer, higher-resolution stereo animations in standalone until I build up some serious rendering budget buffer, I’ll definitely have a lot of fun rendering stills and viewing them in my VR headset.
In this article, I’ll tell you…
- What’s new in R4 – Stereoscopic render options
- The VERY basics of stereoscopic rendering… in case this is new to you
- Mobile apps to view your renders
And of course, I’ll show you some of my stereoscopic renders you can download in high resolution.
What’s new in R4? Stereoscopic render options!
We can all agree that stereoscopic rendering is the best new feature in a long time next to EXR output, but besides stereoscopic rendering, R4 also comes with several other new features and improvements. You can find a detailed list of new stuff here at E-on Software’s website. I would like to thank the crew again for using my lantern panorama for the promo – I’m thrilled!
So let’s get into it.
These are the new stereoscopic render options in VUE. It doesn’t seem much, but you can find all necessary settings here to render an image with nice 3D (parallax) effect. You can set the interpupillary distance (by default it’s at 6.4 cm), you can choose the stereo mode/layout (side-by-side or top-bottom), you can select the convergence mode and determine the parallax depth.
Sounds good…. So what are these?
If you use any other major 3D application and are familiar with these terms, you can skip ahead, download my stereoscopic images and enjoy. 🙂
If stereoscopic rendering is new to you, stick with me. I was already familiar with stereoscopy from work, though I never had to deal with it directly, so I did do some extra research on the topic to walk you through it. I’ll also link some very good articles I found that explain the principle behind stereoscopic rendering.
The way we see through our eyes
The purpose of stereoscopic rendering is to simulate the way we see through our eyes, and the way our brain processes depth, the proximity of objects to our natural cameras on our heads. When stereoscopic rendering is enabled, two images of the same view gets rendered simultaneously – one as if the scene was seen through the left eye and one through the right. When we are looking at a certain object, the axes of the eyes rotate to point at the location of the object, resulting in convergence. The interaction of the distance between the two eye pupils (interpupillary distance) and the proximity/distance of the object in focus determine the convergence angle, which produces the parallax effect – the way our brain perceives depth in space. The closer an object is to our eyes (or the camera), the wider the convergence angle is, and the stronger the parallax effect gets. This is a short, but great article that explains the basic optometrics behind stereoscopy.
Interpupillary distance: The distance between the two eye pupils. By default it’s set to 6.4 cm, but you’re free to adjust it. In most headsets, and also in several mobile VR apps, the image/lens distance is adjustable, and it can be fine-tuned when you’re viewing the image. However, too big or small distance can cause eye strain, headache or dizziness, so I would stay within a +/- 0.1 range.
Layout/Stereo Mode: In VUE, you can currently choose between side-by-side and top-bottom (we’re lobbying for anaglyph as well…). This specifies the way in which the left- and right-eye image pixels are put together. This choice depends on the type of hardware to display the image. If you’re rendering VUE scenes for your amusement in your VR headset, both available layouts work nicely. As far as I know, the player/viewer E-on Software uses at Cornucopia3D or Picture of the Day prefers top-bottom layouts at a square aspect ratio (e.g. original/mono render size: 4096 by 2048; stereo image size 4096 by 4096), so if you’re planning to share your render on C3D or you’re shooting for a PoD, keep this in mind.
If you want to learn more about stereo modes, check out this Blender Doc.
Before going into the convergence modes, it might be a good idea to say a word or two about projection planes. They are virtual planes that indicate the distance from the camera where the negative and positive parallax effects meet (it’s also often described as the plane that represents your screen). The alignment of the projection planes give the Zero Parallax Plane, the invisible line that separates the pop-out and deep-in effects. Objects in front of this line appear closer to our eyes (as if they pop out of the screen – negative parallax), and objects behind this point appear as if they were placed behind the line in the depth of the distance (positive parallax).
Convergence mode: Determines the relative orientation of the cameras; the way the view of the two cameras converge (note: the “two cameras” is more of a figure of speech here. You don’t actually have to add an extra camera for stereoscopic rendering). In VUE, 3 convergence modes are available:
- Parallel: In this mode, the cameras are placed next to each other, offset by the interpupillary distance, but their orientation is aligned – they’re facing front parallel. The projection planes align, but are shifted horizontally. In this mode, parallax depth settings are disabled. If you render a panorama, regardless of the preset or angle, this is the only available (and currently technically possible) convergence mode. For non-panoramic images, this mode is not recommended. By now we’ve all learned that by focusing on an object, the axes of our eyes converge, so keeping the cameras parallel is unnatural. The parallax effect is also minor compared to other convergence modes.
- Off-Axis: This is the most recommended convergence mode. The camera axes converge, but the projection planes are shifted horizontally, so they align perfectly. This is the most natural mode, resulting in less ringing artifacts and a more enjoyable 3D experience.
- Converged (or toe-in): In this mode, the camera axes do converge, but the projection planes are perpendicular to the axes, resulting in an intersection of the projection planes. In this case, since the two planes don’t align, the zero parallax plane doesn’t exist. In this mode, it can be more difficult for our eyes to converge at the edge of the screen/image.
Parallax Depth: This indicates the distance between the camera and the Zero Parallax Plane (or the intersection of the projection planes in converged mode). You can select it to be at the same distance as the camera’s focus, or you can set a custom distance. Since the projection planes and the zero parallax plane are not visible in VUE, I prefer leaving the parallax depth the same as the focus, since I can make the focus always visible. Plus, that’s also the way our eyes work. You’re looking at an object, and there is stuff in front of that object and behind the object.
…are you still with me? 🙂
After processing all of this, let’s just sit back and look at some of my stereo renders. You can download the entire pack in high-resolution via the link under the images.
Feel free to download the renders via the link above, so you can view them in your VR headset. The renders are compatible with all VR headsets and platforms. If you’re viewing them in a headset that works with your mobile, here are a couple of apps you can download to view stereoscopic renders:
VR Media Player: Very simple to use, with all basic functions to view the renders. However, you can’t adjust the interpupillary distance and can’t edit the image.
VaR’s VR Player PRO: A more advanced player with adjustable eye distance, lens correction and image correction.
Mobile VR Station: Very advanced player where you can tweak just about anything. You can also customize your background. By default, the background makes it look like you’re viewing your image at a movie theater.
I’m pretty sure there are a lot more options out there. If you can recommend a good player, feel free to leave a comment!
Have fun viewing my stereoscopic images, and enjoy creating yours!