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Mindat.org in 3D

Last Updated: 6th Apr 2015

By Jolyon & Katya Ralph

Mindat in 3D

For many years people have been taking stereoscopic photos of minerals - that is two photos which when viewed by crossing your eyes (or relaxing your eyes, depending on the method) merge into a single three dimensional photo. This can work great, but with the availability of cheap 3D TVs and Monitors, we can do much better than this!

Here's an example of a 3d stereo pair

How a stereo pair normally appears on mindat.org

If we want to see this properly in 3D, we need a 3D monitor. And before you buy one you need to know how to choose the right one.

There's a long and a short answer to this - the short answer is "Buy an LG 3D television", the longer answer needs us to explain how 3D works on a TV and how we can use it on mindat.

Firstly… back in the days when had my first home computer, they plugged into the aerial socket of a TV and the display quality was awful. Why are we now talking about using a TV instead of a dedicated computer monitor? Simply because modern TVs ARE computer monitors, they are essentially exactly the same except with a TV tuner attached. Smart TVs even have some quite reasonable computing power inside the TV.

3D TVs were hyped around 3-4 years ago as the "next big thing", and certainly their popularity has faded somewhat. But they are still available, and they are a really good idea to use with mindat.

Depending on your computer you should be able to use a 3D TV as your only computer monitor - replacing your existing one, or you may (as I am doing right now writing this article) use it as a secondary monitor, for example if you have a laptop.

There are two types of 3d systems. Active and Passive.

Active 3D works by refreshing the screen twice as fast as normal (100hz to 120hz). It then communicates with your 3D glasses, which contain a small battery and two polarized filters. They rapidly flick on and off alternating between the two eyes so at any one time only one eye is shown the TV image. Samsung is the primary supplier of Active 3D TVs.

Passive 3D works by interlacing both images together, so that left and right images are shown on alternate lines of the display. A polarized filter is built into the top surface of the screen carefully aligned so that each alternate line is polarized in the opposite direction to the previous. This allows each eye to see only every alternate line, giving you the 3D effect. LG are the primary supplier of Passive 3D TVs.

Active 3D shows a higher resolution image, but at a cost. Many people (myself included) notice a distracting flicker when trying to use the glasses, especially if there is daylight coming into the room where you are using it. The glasses are heavier and need recharging. In terms of use with mindat, active 3D is more restrictive because the TV needs to be specially turned into 3D mode. On a passive TV simply putting the image on screen and wearing the glasses is all that is needed.

I have tested mindat's 3D system with both active (samsung) and passive (LG) displays, and the passive display provides the easiest experience. But if you already have an active 3D display you may still be able to use it with mindat - read on.

Here is the TV I have chosen to use with my Mac. the LG 27MT93V (this particular model may not be available in your territory but similar ones will) - this 27" TV is the perfect size to sit alongside my 27" Apple Thunderbolt monitor - and if you have the desk space for two monitors the productivity improvements of using it every day are significant. This is not just a toy to display 3D images, it's an excellent 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution computer monitor that I use every day.

LG 27MT93V 3D Television

There are some things you need to do to ensure your 3D TV is set up properly as a computer monitor.

Firstly, you should connect it via HDMI if possible. Some TV/Monitors have a VGA input, but only use this if you absolutely must - HDMI is by far the preferable option. If you have a Mac or MacBook you may not have an HDMI port, check with your Apple supplier about the correct cable to link your computer to an HDMI TV/Monitor.

Next, once the TV is connected, you need to select the correct external input on your TV remote control. You may also need to relabel it - most TVs give the option of labelling an external input to say what type it is (eg DVD, games console, PC, cable box, etc). Select the PC option - because this helps configure the input to use the screen correctly - and without this the 3D simply won't work!

Finally, on your computer ensure the resolution is set to match the exact physical resolution of your screen. This will normally be 1920x1080 (1080p) but if you've bought a brand new 4K 3D screen it will of course be much higher. Don't buy an expensive 4K 3D screen until you are SURE your computer is capable of driving it at the full resolution, many are not!

Now you have your 3D TV set up as a monitor, it's time to open your favourite web browser and drag it over to the new display (if you are using two monitors). If it doesn't seem to like dragging to your monitor you probably have the monitor arrangements set up wrong. Look in your monitor settings in your system control panel to see how to arrange multiple screens so that the two are listed on your computer in the right order.

Navigate to mindat.org and open one of these pages:

Press the '3' key and the image will merge into a single image. It won't look anything special until you put your 3D glasses on!

The really neat thing about mindat's 3D code is that this works in exactly the same way as normal photos - you can pan and zoom in to see the detail - but this time you see it in 3D!

In some cases you may find the two images are the wrong way round and the 3D effect looks strange. If so then press the '4' key and it swaps the left/right images around.

This all works great for a passive 3D system, but what if you have an active 3D screen like the Samsung? You should be able to press the 3D button on your remote control and then select the interlace option (with lots of horizontal lines).

The main benefit of the active 3D system is increased resolution, but when using a computer input to generate the 3D display as we are doing now the resolution is no better than on the passive display - so you're probably much better off going for the more convenient LG passive 3D display to work with mindat.org.

If you want to create your own 3D images then there is an excellent article on mindat.org - see this article for the details.

Article has been viewed at least 11325 times.


Jolyon - I will struggle to get this working on my Sony Bravia, by HDMI connection (maybe you have a hint for me?). Just wondering if you will be able to implement pan-and-zoom of cross-eyed stereo pairs for technically challenged users like me, while we try to catch up.


Tony P.

Tony Peterson
9th Apr 2015 1:25am
Hello. I´m using a special glasses with mirrors for see 3D images in my screen computer. But the glasses use the left image for the left eye; and the right image for the rigth eye; and the volumes are inverted... You explain that if I press the "4" key, the pair will swaps. Not in my screen... Is possible to do it in a screen computer? I´m using a Imac, but a normal keyboard...



José Antonio Soldevilla Gonzalez
5th May 2015 2:39pm
Jose, the '4' key only switches the images when displayed on a 3D TV/monitor.

It is something I will add in the future.

Jolyon & Katya Ralph
8th May 2015 1:44pm
Something I found interesting is that I found it impossible to see the big image when squinting my eyes, but the small images on the page was easy to see so then I sat further away from the screen squinted my eyes and the big picture worked too then I managed to slowly move forward to keep the image. I am one of those people who do not see the 3D effects in the cinema so sterio 3D in the squinting method is about the only 3D that works for me.

Reinhardt van Vuuren
11th May 2015 3:39pm

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