Converting Stereoscopic Photos into GIFs

stereoscopic_images_06

Stereoscopic GIFs (also called twitchy GIFs) like the one above and on these pages:

… are awesome, but what if you want to convert old stereoscopic photos into the digital age quickly and cheaply?

(Negatives and slides are another issue. I’ll address how to cheaply scan these in a future post.)


Quick and Easy 60sec Smartphone Method

If you have an iPhone, you are in luck. (If you have Android, may be you are in luck, too.)

Here are the test images that I found on Wikimedia and printed for the tests.

125_Ossington_Ave_-_old_bicycle-600
2014-02-16_Stereoscopy_-_Parkdale_-_07_Skyline_Restaurant-600Dubbelporträtt,_stereobild._The_Old_and_New_Style_-_Nordiska_Museet_-_NMA.0052110_1-600

Step 1: Take photos

Install the Office Lens app (by Microsoft) (free). Some images may be better processed with an app like Scanner Pro by Readdle (pay), but Office Lens is quick and easy for our needs here.

Block out the left or right image with paper so it is surrounded by one color, then position the Office Lens app so it sees only that one image.

20150914 223232 iPhone5C_DCE

Office Lens should automatically detect borders like this.

20150914 205646 iPhone5C_DCE 20150914 205704 iPhone5C

Take the photo and if it looks good, save it to your camera roll and then do the same for the other image.

Step 2: Make your GIFs

Install GIF Maker by gi-bong kwon for sumzzal.com or another GIF building app (search for “GIF maker” in the App Store).

Below is what you can get. The whole process from taking 2 pictures to making the GIF took less than a minute each.

Click to enlarge.

20150914 153641 iPhone5C gif maker 640x481 20150914 153802 iPhone5C gif maker 635x481 20150914 153824 iPhone5C gif maker 480x568

For the most part the faster the “twitch” the better the effect. I’ve seen better examples of Stereoscopic GIFs (see links above — one of my favorites is the alligator jumping through the air), but this is a quick instruction guide.

Once you have created your GIF, move on to Sharing Your GIF below.


Slower but do-able PC method

Step 1: Convert into good digital pictures

There are lots of good, inexpensive photo scanners out there that give you good results with usually more dynamic range and details than ones taken with a smartphone. By capturing good, detailed files, you have good raw materials in case there are better ways to show off stereoscopic photos in the future (virtual reality glasses).

Step 2: Create the GIF

You don’t need to install freeware (but there are probably good ones out there). Just search for “create animated GIF” in Google. Here are two I found right now, but there are many others:

  • ezgif.com/maker is a nice one (and doesn’t save the files on their server for you privacy fans)
  • gifcreator.me is also a nice simple one (and also doesn’t save files on their server)

Both of these don’t save images on their server for long which is great for privacy. Both also show live changes to animation speed which is essential in making your animation work.


Showing off your GIF

At the time of this writing, Facebook doesn’t support animated GIFs uploaded directly into Facebook. There are ways around this, but it usually involves uploading it into Dropbox, OneDrive or another online service first that might make the image public.

Fortunately for iPad and iPhone users, Apple mail displays GIFs included in email correctly. (Android is probably ok, too.)

Strangely enough, the native Photos apps doesn’t animate GIFs, but luckily for you there are plenty of good apps that can.

  • Documents app by Readdle is a nice one. I use it for everything except, unfortunately, it doesn’t allow enlarging of GIFs.
  • Stash by Hedonic (free or full version) and Albums also by Hedonic (free or full version) are older apps, but work great at displaying animated GIFs AND allow resizing them. FYI The free versions are limited in the number of files you can store.
  • With all of these apps, you can get files into them using Dropbox, OneDrive or if you email yourself the file, you can do a quick view then send it to the apps.
  • I have an old Android tablet somewhere around here, but I don’t offhand recall any specific apps for viewing animaged GIFs.

I have the file now on my Windows PC, but how do I show it moving?

  • Open a browser and drag the file into your browser to show the animated GIF.

How about showing them off on a TV or Blu-Ray/DVD?

  • iPhones and iPads have HDMI adapters
  • iPhones and iPads can mirror their screens via an Apple TV
  • Creating movies or converting looping GIFs to movie format may be a bit tricky, but here are some options
  • You can create videos using Windows Live Movie Maker (free from Microsoft).
    • Just add the two photos over and over again and put a very short duration between the photos (200 ms or 0.2 seconds is a good start).
    • If Windows Live Movie Maker can’t do it, there are lots of other freeware out there designed to create movies out of still images.
    • Once you have the movie, a lot of TVs and Blu-Ray/DVD players can now play MP4 via a flash drive.
  • There are probably GIF to MP4 converters out there, too, but since your GIF is just a 2 frame loop, I’m not confident those tools will have the option to loop your GIF over 100 times per minute.
  • And, of course, you can go old school and just take a video of your GIF playing on a smartphone using another smartphone. Viola!
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