A view behind the curtain of StereoPhoto Maker
Interview with Masuji Suto
written for the Stereosite by Pascal Martiné (Germany), with special thanks to Gordon Au (USA) and Vanessa Grein (Germany)
Since Stereoscopy entered the digital age things have taken a huge step forward. Before digital imaging, misalignment, image rivalries, etc. made it very difficult to take sequential stereos with film. Special equipment was necessary for every photographer who wanted to enter the field of stereo photography. Sequential stereo photos benefited greatly from digital post-processing, and every mono camera suddenly became a viable possibility for taking stereo images.
However, for sequential pairs, when compared to images made with pre-made stereo cameras, alignment and the stereo window were still major issues. StereoPhoto Maker, a software developed by the Japanese stereo photographer Masuji Suto, made things a lot easier. This software includes Auto-selection of the corresponding files, easy parallax control, synced cropping, etc. However the most important feature of all is the auto-alignment algorithm! SPM has become the world standard for combining two individual images into a stereo photo. That counts even more since SPM supports different output formats such as parallel, cross-eyed, anaglyph, and many more.
Again, things have changed as smartphone cameras have developed. The smartphone is now a multi-tool for stereo photographers. It’s a camera for sequential or even simultaneous stereo photos or videos; it’s a computer that allows editing your photos right away; it’s a display in a convinient size for free viewing; and it allows you to share your photos with others directly online (read how to take and edit stereo photos entirely on your smartphone here). Fortunately, Masuji Suto has supported the stereo community once more by incorporating the central features of SPM to the Smartphone. His app 3DSteroid runs on Android, and i3DSteroid for iOS devices boosts the efficiency of stereo photographers of every age and level using their smartphones! According to the technical developments many different apps have followed since. You can find an overview of all the apps and their features on Masuiji’s website.
Believe it or not, he is not a professional software developer! Like most of us, Masuji is just passionate about stereoscopy and is happy to help the community with his software developing skills. Curious about him? We met him for an interview which follows below:
Stereosite: First of all, thank you for the opportunity of this interview! The stereo community is so lucky to have you: someone with expertise in both 3D photography as well as developing programs and apps. How did you get started in each of these areas?
Suto: I started programming around 1995, when random dot stereograms became popular in Japan, and I was so impressed with them that I saw the BASIC source code for making random dot stereograms in a magazine and tried to run it. I found that I could do many things relatively easily with the program, and since then I have been self- learning programming little by little by creating various programs. I had known about the existence of 3D photography for a long time, but it wasn’t until around 2000, when I happened to find an application for creating anaglyph photos in a magazine, that I realized I could do it myself. That was the first time. Once I started doing it myself, I found many things I wanted to do, but I just couldn’t do it with the existing applications, so I started making Stereo Photo Maker.
Stereosite: You said that you’ve found many things to explore. After the random dot stereograms and anaglyph stereo photos, which were the most exciting steps on your personal stereo journey so far?
Suto: I was happy when I was able to create an algorithm for automatic positioning, and the most exciting part of working in 3D was when I was able to get a great synchronized shot with David Sykes’ StereoDataMaker.
Stereosite: Since you started SPM you have also created many different mobile apps. What’s currently your preferred equipment and workflow to take your own stereo photos?
Suto: I mostly use Canon EOS M6 2 units or Canon Powershot S95 2 units + SDM, and Panasonic 3D1 (stereo camera).
Stereosite: Let’s get back to the app development. How long does it take to go from an idea to a finished app? What is the most challenging part of the process?
Suto: The time from idea to finished application varies, of course, from application to application. In terms of functionality, the time from idea to start programming can vary widely. Sometimes I start right away, and sometimes it takes years. Once I start programming, I can almost always implement it in a day or two. The difficult thing about programming is that I can get a lot of information about programming on the web nowadays, but I can hardly find any information about functions for 3D. So I often have to figure out the algorithm by myself.
Stereosite: This sounds really challenging. Were there times you just wanted to quit or have you always been confident?
Suto: It’s not my job, just my hobby, so I don’t take it that seriously. If I find a good algorithm, I just implement it.
Stereosite: You must keep quite busy with stereo photgraphy and programming! What else do you enjoy doing when you are not occupied with those things?
Suto: I am an office worker, so I go to the office on weekdays. On my days off, I enjoy walking, hiking, cycling, and short trips with my family. Since I do the programming in between these activities, I don’t spend that much time on it.
Stereosite: You seem to have an unlimited stock of ideas. What’s coming next?
Suto: When I get a new product, I want to try it out. In the past, I’ve tried mobile phones, 360 degree cameras, Oculus, Looking Glass, etc. I don’t have a specific idea for the next one. I’m thinking of making an Android app or a Mac app, which are highly requested by users, but it always takes me a long time to get started.
Stereosite: What do you regard as your greatest achievement? What are you most proud of?
Suto: I’ve never thought about achievements or pride. Basically, I’m making apps to achieve what I want to do, and I’m releasing them because I’m sure there are others who want to do the same thing. So, I’m happy if there are people who enjoy 3D with my apps, even if only a little. My greatest pride is that thanks to doing 3D, I have made wonderful 3D friends all over the world.
Stereosite: SPM and your apps have enabled a new generation of 3D fans and creators worldwide. How do you feel about this?
Suto: I would be very happy if I could contribute in any way to the birth of a new generation of 3D fans and creators around the world.
Stereosite: I’m sure you do! Thank you again for the interview.
Masuji Suto (Ibaraki, Japan)
I’m a 3D enthusiast, photographer, app maker, and I’m interested in all things 3D. I’m interested in all things 3D, including stereo rigs, how to shoot, sync, view, etc. I also like VR, AR, and Looking Glass. My most popular apps are StereoPhoto Maker for Windows, i3DSteroid for iPhone, 3DSteroid for Android, but I’ve also created a variety of web apps. I am a member of Stereo Club Tokyo and ISU.