Difference between revisions of "Stereo 3D Display Options"

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Revision as of 16:26, 20 January 2010

This page is for aggregating the latest know-how and links to current Stereo 3D display options best suited for molecular graphics applications like PyMOL. Please strive to provide objective factual information based on first-hand experiences while using the displays for real work and teaching.

Let's figure out together what stereo solutions work well in this brave new post-CRT world!


  • Active Stereo 3D -- requires expensive and/or bulky shutter glasses. For decades, this has been the standard solution for stereo 3D molecular visualization on the desktop.
  • Passive Stereo 3D -- requires inexpensive lightweight polarized glasses. This is the standard solution for delivering stereo 3D to audiences of more than a small group of people.
  • Autostereoscopic 3D -- means that no glasses are required. However, current autostereoscopic displays tend do not to work well for molecular graphics due to their inability to faithfully represent fine detail such as thin bonds and wire meshes.

Active Stereo 3D (High-Refresh) Displays

This solution would be analogous to using desktop CRT monitors with shutter glasses.

LCD Displays (120 Hz)

Are any of these displays on the market yet?

  • Samsung 2233RZ - On the market. Quad buffered stereo works with a G8x based graphics core or better Quadro FX card with the 3 pin mini din stereo connector (e.g. Quadro FX 3700), 195.22 nvidia linux binary driver, and the nvidia 3d vision kit. USB only based stereo with the 3D vision kit works only in MS Windows (e.g. with a low end Quadro FX 370 that has no 3 pin mini din stereo connector). For more information see this forum post at the Nvidia Forums - SP

DLP Projection Televisions

Projection televisions tend to be too large and fuzzy for desktop use. Also, a band of about 20 pixels around on the edge of the display are invisible, and this limitation cannot be eliminated through overscan since the image must be scanned at native resolution in order to support stereo 3D. The workaround is to shrink the PyMOL window to cover the visible portion of the screen. It is worth noting that true 3D-capable LCDs (as distinct from 3D-capable HDTVs) do not suffer from this problem.

Aside from the above concerns, the quality of the DLP stereo 3D effect is exceptional: there is absolutely no ghosting or cross-talk between the two images.

  • Samsung 3D-Ready DLP HDTVs - work with PyMOL 1.2b3 & later without any special drivers. Quadro driver support is still lacking as of Feb. 1st, 2009 - WLD

See The 3D HDTV List for more 3D-capable HDTV options.

Passive Stereo 3D Displays

One Piece Multi-layer LCD Displays


  • Zalman 22-inch 3D LCD monitor - works with PyMOL 1.2b3 & later without any special drivers. Great stereo quality provided that all drawn lines are at least 2 pixels thick. Menus are a bit awkward to use while in stereo mode, but even so, this 650 USD display provides excellent 3D molecular visualization in both full-screen in windowed modes. - WLD (The Zalman ZM-M220W is DeLano Scientific's RECOMMENDED SOLUTION as of Feb 11, 2009!).
  • IZ3D - works with PyMOL 1.2b3 & later without any special drivers. However, this display exhibits far too much cross-talk and interference between the two stereo images. Not suitable for professional use. - WLD

Mirror-based Multi-LCD Solutions


  • Planar3D "I have used these displays with nVidia Quadro graphics cards under both Windows and Linux running both PyMOL and Maestro. They work well, and the stereo quality is excellent!" - WLD.
  • Omnia MIMO

Autostereoscopic LCD Displays

Some autostereoscopic displays have the ability to switch between 2D and 3D display modes. Others are built for 3D only.

Stereo 3D Projectors

Although these displays require shutter glasses out of the box, when combined with the adapters below and a special "silvered" screen, they can be used to project Passive Stereo 3D to a large audience.

Active Stereo 3D DLP Projectors

Passive Stereo 3D Adaptor Hardware for Active Stereo 3D Projectors

These devices make it possible for a large audience to see projected stereo 3D using inexpensive polarized glasses.

Who Says What?

If you provide a specific quote or endorsement above, please say who you are so that everyone can know the source of the information.

  • WLD = Warren L. DeLano of DeLano Scientific LLC
  • SP = Sabuj Pattanayek of the Center For Structural Biology, Vanderbilt University