How to watch 3D

The computational requirements for 3D video are orders of magnitude greater than those for 2D. It takes a big bag of tricks to coax 3D out of today's hard- and software… Until more powerful devices enter the marketplace and HTML5 web standards become as ubiquitous as promised, follow the hints in this guide for best results.

3D Player Functions

3D players and viewers have many more options than their 2D counterparts. Users appreciate the time to look them over, so we don't hide any user interface elements automatically. To show and hide the entire UI, click or touch anywhere on the player. The buttons have a similar toggle function. Nothing happens unless you explicitly click or touch an item.

toggle resolutions
toggle 3D displays
swap stereo views
toggle volume slider
enlarge to browser
enlarge to screen

3D Display Modes

parallel viewing
cross-eyed viewing
2D view, left eye
KMQ under-over
Holoblade over-under
right eye mirrored
red-cyan anaglyph
yellow-blue anaglyph
green-magenta
line interlaced
column interlaced
checkerboard
3DTV over-under
3DTV side-by-side
NVIDIA 3D Vision

Supported 3D Hardware

3D With a Desktop or Laptop Computer

Our HTML5 players and viewers have been tested thoroughly with current versions of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari. For watching 3D with our players, we can recommend (in this order) Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Opera. Combined they make up the largest number of web browsers in use today. More →

Occasionally, Google Chrome may render fullscreen 3D displays sluggishly, which means GPU hardware acceleration is likely disabled. To find out, enter chrome://flags/#gpu in the browser. Type chrome://flags/#ignore-gpu-blacklist to fix the problem. Click Enable to override Chrome's built-in software rendering list and permit GPU acceleration on unsupported configurations. Especially if you're running experimental GPU drivers, enabling this flag will probably shorten load times for games and videos, too. Don't forget to relaunch the browser for the change to take effect.

Internet Explorer must be at least version 9, as the older IE versions are simply not standards-compliant. Expect sluggish performance with anaglyph (“funny glasses”) displays processed in real-time. Pre-boosted anaglyph video and all other 3D modes are no problem. Fullscreen display can be reached by pressing the F-11 key and clicking the fullscreen icon in the player.

Apple Safari performs somewhat satisfactorily only at the lowest resolutions, because it still lacks an animation timer. Safari for Windows also squanders resources by drawing video from an external QuickTime installation, which sadly, is a prerequisite for playing video in Safari at all. Most annoying, it isn't possible to seek to a video portion which hasn't been downloaded yet. Changing resolutions is therefore a bit of a hassle. Owing to the poor implementation of HTML5 in Safari, there are other quirks, too. We can't recommend Safari except for a 3D sneak peek. Mac users should prefer Google Chrome over Safari.

3D With a Tablet or SmartPhone

On devices with Android 4.1 or greater, our HTML5 players will perform best in the Google Chrome browser, provided the device has a modicum of processing power and a fast network connection. Mozilla Firefox also gives good results, albeit at lower resolutions. These two browsers account for the lion's share of the Android browser app market. More →

Among others, we tested the FlashOver3D.com website on an Asus Memo Pad HD7, a low-cost, low-end tablet running the Android 4.2.2 OS. Both in Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, we had enjoyable 3D viewing experiences. Even a Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini smartphone (Android 4.1.2) does 3D quite well, although the display is a bit small for 3D.

Please note, browser apps opening in-line videos in a fullscreen player by default (e.g. Opera) are not 3D-capable, as they are showing the unprocessed stereoscopic source rather than the viewable 3D video. Browsers relying on the Android WebView (Android system browser and “Me Too” browsers like Puffin or Dolphin) will work only in a very limited fashion and with some quirks. The Android WebView doesn't give access to video bitmap data for real-time processing, which is a requirement for 3D. At this time, we can only recommend the Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browser apps.

iPad and iPhone: A Poor Showing

The biggest disappointment are Apple iOS devices: Considering how vocally the good folks in Cupertino demonized the evil, proprietary ways of Adobe's Flash (which can do 3D quite easily), they should have hands-down the best and most current implementation of HTML5 standards around. Not so! As of now, it is still not possible to process 3D in real-time on any iOS device.

Just like on the desktop, the iOS browser apps lack key ingredients long since standardized and implemented by Apple's competition. Conclusion: Apple needs to spend a little more time on product improvements, and a little less effort on frivolous patent lawsuits against companies whose products are actually getting better with every development cycle. Better luck with iOS 8 perhaps…

Update:
We have anecdotal reports from a few iPhone users who say that our 3D image viewer works on newer iPhones. We would appreciate if you could find the time to contact us and tell us about your experience with your iPhone or iPad. Thank you!

3D With a 3DTV

For the time being, you will likely need to connect your 3DTV to your computer. The 3DTV should be configured as an un-mirrored extension of your desktop. Launch your browser and drag the browser window onto the 3DTV or extended desktop. In the FlashOver3D™ player, click the icon, and click to select 3DTV display. Click to turn on the player's fullscreen mode. Use the 3DTV remote to select the side-by-side input layout. More →

If you own a 3DTV with a passive, polarized 3D display (e.g. LG) it could be advantageous to switch the player to its anamorphic over-under display mode. To try this, click and on the player to select over-under 3DTV display. Click to turn on the player's fullscreen mode and use the 3DTV remote to select the over-under input layout. On passive 3DTVs, this mode could yield a better resolution, depending on the original 3D source provided by the website you're actually viewing. We recommend you simply try both 3DTV modes to see which one looks best with your TV.

We understand, some of the newer SmartTVs are equipped with Android. In theory, those 3DTVs should be able to run our 3D players just like mobile devices, provided the 3DTV's on-board web browser could be substituted with the Google Chrome browser app. So far, we have not been able to test this theory. Please contact us if you own an Android SmartTV and have managed to get our players to run. Thank you for your help!

Using a Polarized Monitor or 3D Notebook

Our 3D players are easily adjusted to stereoscopic displays requiring interlaced imagery. For line-interlaced devices like the LG, Zalman, and Hyundai 3D monitors, or for Acer Aspire 3D notebooks, click on in the 3D player or viewer. Then click on the icon to change the display mode. Click to swap sides if needed. To set the player to a column-interlaced display, click on and select the icon. Clicking the icon will result in a checkerboard display. More →

For 3D notebooks (or computers) which use NVIDIA 3D Vision shutter glasses instead of polarization, our 3D players provide a special display mode. The original, un-processed video stream is sent directly to the display. At the same time, the NVIDIA browser plugin is embedded in the web page with the 3D player. To activate NVIDIA mode, click in the player and select the icon.

Please note, the correct functioning of NVIDIA 3D Vision is subject to many requirements. Your machine needs the right hardware, operating system, drivers, and plugin. The participating website must follow video encoding guidelines to show video in 3D Vision. Quite frankly, for many webmasters (us included), the NVIDIA flicker fest is more hassle than it's worth, so don't expect too much from this display mode.

Viewing 3D With Anaglyph Glasses

100 years young and still going strong: the anaglyph 3D system works on any color monitor or screen. All you need is a pair of “funny glasses”. Chances are, you have some red-cyan ones around the house. In the 3D player, click and select the icon. To use yellow-blue glasses, click the icon instead. This mode is compatible with ColorCode 3-D™. Set the player to green-magenta by clicking the icon for use with TrioScopics™ glasses. Default: left eye = red = yellow = green. Swap sides if needed.

3D With Parallel Prism Viewers

Parallel prism viewers make it easy to enjoy full-color 3D from 2D screens. For larger computer monitors and greater viewing distances, the Loreo Pixie Viewer might be just the ticket. With tablet screens, the Loreo Lite 3D Viewer delivers an almost cinematic 3D experience. Both viewers are lightweight, foldable, and dirt cheap. A stereo card lorgnette also works well on small screens. In the 3D player, click on and for a side-by-side display.

3D With a KMQ Prism Viewer

In the 1980s, as an alternative to cross-eyed viewing, the physicists Christoph Koschnitzke, Reiner Mehnert, and Peter Quick invented a new type of prismatic viewer that tilts the right eye view slightly up and the left eye view slightly down. To adjust our 3D player for use with the KMQ viewer, click on the icon and select the mode. By default, the view for the right eye is the top image on screen. For best results, click to enlarge the player to full screen size.

3D With a Holoblade Viewer

If you happen to own one of those clever Japanese first-surface mirror gizmos, you can watch full color 3D on any regular screen. On our 3D player or viewer, click and select the icon. Then hold the Holoblade below your eyes and slightly tilt your head down. Adjust the mirrors until the images fuse into the 3D view. With the Holoblade viewer, the view for the left eye is on top.

3D With a Household Mirror

For a sneak peek at 3D, you can experiment with a household or pocket mirror. Click and select the icon on the 3D player. Place the mirror over the bridge of your nose, perpendicular to your face and the screen, with the mirror surface on the right. The left eye looks directly at the normal image. Adjust the mirror to catch the image on the right and stop when the two pictures superimpose and fuse. Be patient, it takes some fiddling and some practice, but it's a fun experiment.

Cross-Eyed and Parallel 3D Freeviewing

With a little practice, you can see 3D without any viewer. Cross-eyed viewing is usually easier to master and suitable for larger images and screens. On the 3D player, click and select the icon to activate a cross-eyed display with the right eye view on the left of the screen. (Click the icon if you prefer a parallel display.) You can best learn the cross-eyed and parallel freeviewing techniques from The Optometrists Network.

Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Idea Go, Naypong, Michal Marcol, Boians Cho Joo Young, Loreo Asia Ltd., Thomas Kumlehn, HitDesign Ltd., Emery, and WikiMedia Commons.