Macs in Chemistry

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3D stereo viewing on a Mac


A little while back I posted a comment on the Apple SciTech list asking about options for stereoscopic viewing of molecular modelling on a Mac.

Many thanks to those who contacted me directly, it seems there are a number who have suffered the trials and tribulations of trying to set up stereo viewing. I suspect the combination of different graphics cards, driver, emitters, special connectors, special glasses, program software, X11, operating system changes means that this is a real pain to coordinate support., something always seems to get "updated" breaking everything else.

Which is why this email from Stephan Keith caught my eye.

Let me tell you my solution.  It is not necessarily cheaper, but for me, a whole lot easier. I am a 3D software engineer, but I am seriously interested in stereoscopic 3D.  I program in C, OpenGL and GLUT. I became weary of all the glasses, buffers, nVidia cards that didn't really work, emitters ... the whole mess. What I do, now, is I write my OpenGL software to create a sidexside or top over bottom stereo display that takes up the entire screen. I then connect an HDMI connector to my LG Stereo 3D Television.  I turn on the Stereo3D, put on my RealD glasses.  The S3D is passive, not active, so I don't get the annoying flicker, and I don't have to worry about nVidia 3D glasses running out of power (most annoying, at what was $185 a pop). No special glasses, no emitters, no special code, no special connectors.  All .... Gone.

I thought I’d try this out, so armed with a copy of MOE a MacBook Pro and a mini display port to HDMI cable I headed down to PCWorld in Cambridge to try it out (many thanks to the people at PCWorld who were really helpful).

Passive 3D

I first tried out an LG ELECTRONICS 27MT93V LG MT93V . The first thing I’d say is that the set up was trivial, from connection to viewing a protein in 3D was only a couple of clicks. This gave a good impression of a 3D protein structure, both in stick display to see side-chains and in cartoon display to see the overall structure of the protein, colours were excellent. However I found that it was necessary to sit facing absolutely in the centre of the screen to get a good display, also if you move close to the screen then the 3D effect is lost and you get jagged line artefacts. This might not be an issue for a TV but if you paln to use it as a computer monitor I suspect it might be a deal-breaker. I suspect it would be difficult to sit alongside colleagues and have them all have a good 3D impression.

Active 3D

I then tried an active 3D display on a Samsung UE46F6800 46-inch Widescreen TV, this was much larger than I needed but I understand there are smaller models available. Once again setup was a breeze, this gave a good impression of a 3D protein structure, both in stick display to see side-chains and in cartoon display to see the overall structure of the protein, colours were excellent, and the brightness did not seem to be impacted at all by the active glasses. The 3D viewing was acceptable at a wide range of screen angles and distances and it should be possible to sit beside colleagues to discuss a project and all have a good 3D view.

I wear prescription glasses and I found the active glasses fitted comfortably over my glasses. They were also a lot more lightweight than I remember in the past. In the past active shutter glasses have been very expensive but prices have dropped significantly.

Personally I found the Active 3D much superior, especially if you planning to use this mainly as a computer monitor rather than a TV that you view from the comfort of your sofa.

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