Creating stereoscopic images in 3ds Max

Stereoscopic images have been around for years now and are an ever-popular aspect of visualisation and film, featuring in the recent box-office hit Beowulf.

Stereoscopic images are used to create 3D images that give the illusion of depth.

They work by filming the same point of focus from two points, two inches apart. Using traditional cinematography it can be really tricky to set up two cameras focused  on exactly the same point. However it can be done very simply in 3D applications such as 3ds Max 2008 and then imported into any scene.

We’ve come up with a quick workflow that illustrates how to set up cameras and helpers and add them to your scene to create stunning stereoscopic animations.


This walkthrough will presume that you have an understanding of how to create basic objects, move and rotate them, and also how to navigate around the Create and Modify tabs in 3ds Max 2008+.

Firstly, we need to set up the correct unit scheme for our blank scene. To do this, select Customize->Unit Setup from the menu and set this to US Standard, Fractional Inches. It is easier to set this up now so when you place the cameras  they will be exactly 2 inches apart – you can always change back to your preferred unit setup.

positioning cameras in 3ds Max

The next step is to place our first target camera into the scene. For now it doesn’t matter where the target is pointing as we’re going to add helpers to control the camera later. Once the camera is in, select the Move tool and set the co-ordinates of the camera to 0,0,0. Then select the target and set the X to 60 and Y/Z to 0.

Select the camera again. This time we’re going to change the Y co-ordinate to 1. Now make a clone of that camera by pressing the keyboard shortcut CTRL+V which will give you a dialogue box asking you if you would like to create a Copy, Instance or Reference. In this case we want a copy. Then click ok. As we already have the new camera selected, change the Y co-ordinate to -1. You have now created two cameras that are 2 inches apart from each other.

Creating a stereo rig in 3ds Max

We’re now going to add the helper objects that will allow us to move and control the camera/target. This will make your life easier when trying to set up the camera view in your scenes.

What we want is to set up an object from which we can control the camera completely, while also keeping the cameras’ focus on the same point.

The best way to do this is to create a 3D spline that surrounds the cameras, which is easy to grab and manoeuvre.

Firstly, let’s draw a Circle Spline on the scene with a radius of 3 inches, and set the co-ordinates to 0,0,0 so that it sits around the two cameras.

circle splines in 3ds Max

Next, create an Instance of the spline by using the keyboard shortcut CTRL+V, and rotate it 90 degrees on the X-axis.

Repeat this process till you have made circles with the following co-ordinates:

1. 0,0,0
2. 90,0,0
3. 0,90,0
4. 90,0,45
5. 90,0,-45

Now that we have our circles, convert one of them to an editable spline (right click one of the circles, and select Convert to Editable Spline) and from the Modifier tab select Attach Mult to attach all the splines together.

attaching splines in 3ds Max

At this point, I would recommend that you change the colour of the spline to blue, purely to have some consistency with the 3ds Max colour scheme, as blue is associated with cameras.

changing colour schemes in 3ds max

Next we need to link both the cameras to this control object. Select both the cameras either by holding CTRL and clicking on them, or by using the keyboard shortcut H to bring up the Scene Selection window.

The problem with this is that if we move the camera around, the target stays locked in its place, which means the angle of the cameras will not generate the correct image – the target needs to be directly in front of the two cameras. This can easily be solved by adding a helper object.

From the panels on the right-hand side, select the Helpers tab and drop in a Point helper. Again, change the colour to blue.

using helper tools in 3ds max

Use the Align tool to centre the helper into the camera targets and, using the same method as before, link the two targets to the helper.

linking targets in 3ds max

You can now quickly check that when you move the helper both the targets move, and also that if you move the camera helper, the cameras move. Link the point helper to the control object and we’re done!

Part 2 coming soon…
We will add this camera rig to your own 3D scene and show you how to composite the images for your final render….

For further tips and advice call the 3D team on 03332 409 309 or email Visit our website


Call us: 03332 409 306

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *