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Bored With 2-D? Make Your Photographs Wiggle

Lately I've been obsessed with all things 3-D, especially when done in a MacGyver-ish low budget way. One technique I used for an NPR Music YouTube feature is cutely called "wiggle stereoscopy." The basic idea: take a few photos of one thing, shifting the camera slightly for each frame, and then play them back quickly like a flipbook. Anybody with a camera can make stereographic photos, but here are some interesting examples I've come across in my 3-D research.

San Francisco-based artist Joshua Heineman is taking the vintage approach. "Although stereo photography has existed almost as long as photography itself," he wrote in an e-mail, "that we have a staggering collection of stereo imagery from the past seems to be largely unknown."

Heineman digs up old stereographs at the New York Public Library, some of which date as far back as the 19th century. Historically, they would spring to life with the use of a stereoscope. But Heineman converts them to animated GIFs, which he has now compiled in a series called "Reaching for the Out of Reach."

Mexico City-based photographer Jaime Martinez, on the other hand, makes his wiggles from scratch. He began creating animated GIFs from images he'd found online. But things got serious when he started using his own vintage multiple lens camera.

His 3-D animations caught the attention of the popular musician M.I.A., who signed him to her record label. These days, Martinez spends much of his time traveling and photographing musicians, often with his old 3-D camera.

Taking it a step further, there are even people making wiggle videos:

There are many different methods of making something look 3-D — or wiggly. But one of the simplest ways to enliven a flat image, which requires no extra tools or glasses, is the cross-eyed method. Place two images of the same thing, taken from slightly different angles, side by side. The image taken from the left goes on the right, and the image from the right goes on the left. Cross your eyes and line the images up. (Use the red dots in this example to make it easier.)

NPR Music's Stephen Thompson

NPR Music's Stephen Thompson Mito Habe-Evans/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Mito Habe-Evans/NPR

Or, if you want to create a simple two-image animated GIF like the ones Martinez and Heineman make, there's a program that makes it easy. Do you have 3-D creations? Leave them in the comments. And be sure to check out NPR's Intern Edition, now in 3-D. Also related: Brian May of Queen discusses his passion for stereographin'.

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