Turning a 2D image into 3D by mol smith August 2013                 {PAGE 1}

The problem with most images taken with a microscope is their 'flatness'. This invariably is caused by the fact that many specimens are indeed... well... flat! When using a compound optical microscope, not a lot of depth is really perceived. A true binocular stereo microscope does provide true depth information but either two cameras are required to photograph specimens for a 3D final image or the camera has to be swapped from one eyepiece to the other. Fine for inert 'dead' subjects but no good when a moving subject's actions need to be synchronised in both views at the same time.

We recently launched our 3D microscope. Subjects displayed are a mix of macro, micro 2D images along with SEM images taken by Dennis Kunkel in Hawaii. I converted them to give a 'feeling' of 3D. I say 'feeling' as any 3D depth information is entirely missing in the original 2D picture and has been conjured up by a mix of artistic interpretation and software trickery. However, the resultant effect does help most people to more readily perceive the extraordinary processes of living and non-living entities existing just beyond the scope of our un-aided human eyes.

So how do we, that's us here at Mic-uk (er... namely me) make a 'fake' 3d image from a 2D one? The quick answer to that is with great patience and a lump of software. The compound answer is what follows - a step by step guide for you to try. We'll work on one of Dennis Kunkel's fabulous SEM images of a bed bug.

Please note: this image is copyright Dennis Kunkel and must not be used without his permission.]

Now, how'd you like a few of these handsome critters in your bed? I think it will look even more formidable in 3D so I've loaded the image into Photoshop ready to start work on it. We need to create a depth map grey scale image to accompany it. This type of image is used to 'inform' a software program on which parts of the image are closer to us and which are further away. The whiter the component, the closer it is. The further back in the picture, the darker or blacker it is.

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