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Off-Ramp visits the 38th annual National Stereoscopic Association Convention

by Kevin Ferguson | Off-Ramp®

3D Photographer David Starkman with a Stereo Realist, a 3D camera from 1947. Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

The 3D world is familiar ground for Off-Ramp.

We've interviewed Queen guitarist Brian May about his collection of 3D photography that dates back to 1850, toured museums filled to the gills with stereoscopic photos.

Most recently, Off-Ramp producer Kevin Ferguson went to Costa Mesa for the 38th annual National Stereoscopic Association Trade Show and Convention to see how 3D loyalists are receiving their newfound popularity.

At the Hilton in Costa Mesa, guests check out, and a flight attendant waits for her shuttle to John Wayne Airport. It's an otherwise typical day if it weren't for the slow trickle of men and women carrying odd-looking equipment into the hotel's Catalina Ballroom.

Welcome to the National Stereoscopic Association's trade fair. It's like Comic-Con for 3D enthusiasts: There are hobbyists, professional photographers, artists and even those hoping to make a few bucks by selling old stereoscopic equipment to people even more fanatical than they are.

"It all started at a garage sale, I picked up a box of Viewmaster reels from the 1950s," said David Starkman, who is selling cameras at the convention. "Being the age I am it reminded me of the ones I had as a kid that I no longer had. I thought these were cheap and it might be fun to collect."

Barry Rothstein is a 3D photographer specializing in photographic phantograms, which can resemble holograms. "Its almost like holographic photography, its the illusion that that object is truly there, that you would reach out and touch it," said Rothstein. "Most of the time if its in paper you're going to use a pair of red and blue anaglyph glasses."

Anaglyph is just a fancy way of saying red-and-blue 3D glasses. You know, the cheap, flimsy paper ones most of us have used at one time or another?

Believe it or not, 3D is not all that new. They might not have had James Cameron's "Avatar" back in the 19th century, but that doesn't mean they didn't know how to produce 3D images.

"They took more 3D photography during the Civil War than anything else," said David Richardson of Civil War In 3D. "They were't using red or blue glasses, what they had was they had a viewer called the Holmes Viewer. You would see the left hand view and the right hand view. Looking in there would produce and actual 3D stereo image for you to see."

Richardson's company takes old Civil War photographs and retouches them to add color, cleans up damage and then transforms the 2D images into 3D. You can see a sampling of the images on his website... if you have a pair of anaglyph glasses handy, of course.

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