• Price When Reviewed: 550 . 5500 . 17000

  • Pros: Breakthrough software to create stereoscopic images for lenticular print or 3D monitors, with easy user interface.

  • Cons: Although a Lite version is planned, for the time being HumanEyes is pricey.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10 Best Buy We rate this 9 out of 10

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HumanEyes 3D is an interesting new technology that creates stereoscopic images for print or on-screen viewing. It was originally invented to allow a single digital camera to capture 360-degree panoramas for stereoscopic viewing – this hasn’t previously been possible with one camera. Technically it’s not true 3D, but ‘2.5D’ as the subjects only rotate slightly, but your eyes see a realistic continuous-depth impression.

The main application today is for preparing images for lenticular printing, where a plastic sheet of vertical or horizontal lenses is placed over the print, to give either an animation or 3D effect – an up-to-date relative of those old novelty bubblegum cards. Applications range from business cards to mouse pads, point-of-sale materials to folding packaging, posters, billboards, and illuminated signs – and it is used to great effect on the current issue of Empire magazine (Spiderman 2 issue). It will even work with the new generation of 3D monitors that don’t require special viewing glasses.

At present, HumanEyes lenticular output needs to be produced by a professional print shop, which can be expensive. HumanEyes is pitching this system to professional advertising and sign designers, who will then hire suitably equipped photographers and printers. Apart from 3D, the software can set up other popular lenticular effects such as multi-layer depth, flip, morph, and animation, using Photoshop layers as the basis of depth or movie-frame effects.

The software is available in several dongle-protected configurations, for photographers, content creators, and professional printers, with a wide range of prices – the professional print versions cost from £5,500 (for digital print of any size) up to £17,000 and £27,500 (for litho presses of various sizes). Print versions include a separate copy of the Studio software, which can be given to designers and photographers to pre-process the images for professional print.

Fortunately, there’s a more affordable Creative version, which can process photographs, create the effects, and output inkjet prints up to A4 size, for £550.

HumanEyes has previewed a ‘Lite’ consumer version that can output to standard desktop inkjets, due in later this year. It’s expected to cost around £50. The print fits into a third-party picture frame (such as i-Art – www.iart3d.com) with a lenticular sheet instead of plain glass.

Lite version images will work on 3D LCD monitors as well. At an exhibition in May, HumanEyes showed 3D images on a 42-inch 3D monitor from 4D, and on a tiny 3D cellphone from Sharp, which is already on sale in Japan.

Showing lenticular output on a 2D screen is impossible, so you'll have to imagine that these are from the same billboard viewed from different angles.

Previous stereo photography has needed either multiple cameras or a single camera that’s moved along a short rail. The HumanEyes system works by moving a single camera in an arc. While it works best if you mount the camera on a stand with a swinging boom (which can be a DIY job), the software can cope with your simply holding the camera at arm’s length and rotating your body on the spot with the shutter on a continuous or movie setting.

If you want a 360-degree panorama you swing the camera round completely, but it works just as well for non-panorama scenes, such as a studio set with still life objects or human models. HumanEyes recommends shooting one picture per degree of arc, though this doesn’t have to be exact.

The arc movement (rather than rotation around a point) means that each point of the scene is captured from many different viewpoints. Imagine a face in front of the camera. As the camera swings from left to right, first one side of the face, then the other comes into view. The software uses the different viewpoints to create a parallax image for human stereoscopic vision (where each eye sees a slightly different image that your brain processes to give a feeling of depth).

Lenticular software isn’t particularly new either. However, HumanEyes 3D has very easy tools to create and control the major effects. The Creative software lets you import the original photographs, either as a sequence of separate image files or as frames from a QuickTime movie. Blending and initial view creation is completely automatic, after which you define the ‘near’ and ‘far’ points.

You can define the number of views – the more views the better – but the number depends on the resolution of the printer and the pitch of the lenses. Finally, the print versions of HumanEyes 3D can create the interlace, taking into account the output resolution. Here the views are integrated into a single image of narrow interlaced stripes, aligned
to the pitch of the lenticular overlay. Final files are standard EPS, PostScript or CT/LW formats in RGB colour, which can be colour-separated by Photoshop or a printer RIP.

The software is certainly easy to use, and the PDF manuals on both photography and the software itself are clearly written. Today’s versions are strictly for commercial design and print work, but the consumer version may popularize the concept and generate demand for more high-end work in the future.

Simon Eccles