Anaglyph: Stereo Effect in Red and Cyan

An anaglyph is a method of viewing a three-dimensional effect on a flat medium: a photo or a screen. There are several techniques to achieve that stereo effect. Motion pictures nowadays often work with polarized light. Chances are you’ve seen Harry Potter, Avatar or Dune that way.

A garden in stereo

Red and Cyan

The anaglyph method is much older. Movies were made using this technique as early as the 1950s. In an anaglyph, two images are superimposed; the image for the left eye in red, the image for the right eye in cyan. So, just like with those cinema films, you always need glasses to see the 3D effect. Without glasses, the pictures in this blog post are of little use.

Simple red and cyaan glasses in ee cardboard frame for viewing 3d images
Red and cyaan glasses are essential…


I was first introduced to anaglyphs when Pathfinder landed on Mars in 1997. That little rover sent fascinating 3D images of rock-strewn landscapes back to Earth. On later Mars missions NASA also made use of these spatial images.

Anaglyph of the design for the Marstunnel in Zutphen, The Netherlands
Anaglyph of the Marstunnel in Zutphen


For my presentation work at VHP and Royal HaskoningDHV I also experimented with anaglyphs. After all, you don’t necessarily need a high-tech camera. Two computer renderings, taken from a slightly different viewpoint, can also serve as a basis. For example, I made stereo images of the Promenade Bridge (now known as the Lentloper) in Nijmegen, the Marstunnel in Zutphen and the Ferry Pier in Deventer.

The cut-away 3d model of the European Mars Analogue Research station also asked for an anaglyph. And with later projects such as the spaceship Ares from Red Mars and the Bijenkorf from Dudok, I once again couldn’t resist making such a stereo image.

3d anaglyph of the design for the ferry pier at Worp Park in Deventer, The Netherlands
The Ferry Pier in Deventer


In some images, the 3D effect is more spectacular than in others. The more layered the image is, the better. In other words: the more things in the image are partially covered by other things, the more depth you see. Objects that seem to protrude from the image, such as the Promenade Bridge below, can also create a wow effect.

Anaglyph of the design for the Promenade bridge in Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Promenade bridge (Nijmegen) in 3d
Stereo image, viewable with red/cyan glasses, of the design for the European Mars Analogue Research Station
Anaglyph of Euro-M.A.R.S.


Anaglyph images are usually in shades of gray; that is how the effect works best. However, 3D images in color are also not completely impossible. This is evident from the pictures below of the Ares and the Bijenkorf.

3d stereo image of the space ship Ares from Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Spaceship Ares from Red Mars


Still, there remains one major drawback to using anaglyphs for presentation purposes. You always need those glasses and most of us don’t have them in our bag as a standard item. Those pictures of Nijmegen, Zutphen and Deventer that I made for Royal HaskoningDHV were never used to convince clients. In fact these stereo images are nothing more than a gimmick. But it’s still fun to give them a try every now and then.

3d image, viewable with red/cyan glasses of the Old Bijenkorf department store in Rotterdam by architect W.M. Dudok
Dudok’s Bijenkorf in stereo

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