Stereo 3D Display Options

From PyMOLWiki
Revision as of 09:01, 26 August 2010 by Inchoate (talk | contribs) (Hardware)
Jump to: navigation, search

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)

  • Samsung 2233RZ - On the market. Quad buffered stereo in Linux works with a G8x based graphics core or better Quadro FX card with the 3 pin mini din stereo connector (currently, the cheapest card that works in Linux is the Quadro FX 3700), 195.22 (or newer) nvidia linux binary driver, and the Nvidia 3d vision kit. Even though the Quadro FX 1400/3450/4000 cards have a 3 pin stereo connector, these will not work with Nvidia 3D vision since these have core versions less than G8x. For more information see this forum post at the Nvidia Forums. - SP
  • 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
  • The 195.22 Nvidia linux drivers do not support the Samsung 2233RZ in Stereo mode 3 or 10 for quad buffered stereo with other stereo kits, emitters, or goggles such as those purchased from NuVision, Stereographics, or Edimensional. You cannot use NuVision, Stereographics, or Edimensional goggles with the Nvidia 3D Vision emitters. - SP
  • NVidia 3D NVision kit only supports DirectX software for GeForce (gaming cards) on Windows; users are reporting that they are not able to run PyMOL with NVision with these cards. Get a newer model low end quadro (> G8x graphics core) without the 3 pin mini din (e.g. Quadro 370) or with the 3 pin mini din (e.g. Quadro 3700) for Windows.

NVision Setup

The NVidia 3D NVision setup provides a very nice 3D experience. You need the following to enable PyMOL to show NVision 3D:

  • Monitor: 120 Hz LCD: a 2233RZ or a Fuhzion vx2265wm
  • Cable: Dual Link DVI cable; most 120Hz monitors will come with this cable--regardless, the cable is necessary
  • Quadro Card: recent Quadro series graphics card (not a GeForce card) such as an FX 380 or 570 or later. The GeForce cards do not support windowed openGL stereo, so we do not support these series of cards for the NVision 3D solution
  • Emitter: 3D Vision hardware kit (an emitter with 3D shutter glasses)

  • Uninstall the existing display drivers, disconnect the USB emitter, and reboot.
  • Run the Window XP graphics driver installer and reboot.
  • Launch the Vista 3D Vision driver in order to extract the files you need, but do not yet click Next on the Welcome page...just leave it open for not close the installer.
  • Plug in the USB emitter. Windows should throw up the Found New Hardware Wizard**. Choose "No, not this time" and go to the Next page. Select "install from a list or specific location" and click Next to continue. Choose "Search for the best driver", "include this specific location...", and click Browse. Now c comes the hard part: you must select the folder which contains the file "nvstusb.inf". On my system, that file was unpacked into c:\Documents and Settings\Warren~1~000\Locals~1\Temp\pft16~tmp - your copy may be in a similar location. You may need to use Windows Search to find the file. Once you've chosen the correct folder, click Ok and then Next. You may then be asked to locate "nvstusb.sys", which should be in the same folder. Click Ok once you've found the file, and then Finish. This should complete installation of the USB driver.
    • If Windows doesn't throw up the Found New Hardware Wizard, use the

Device Manager to locate the device and then update the driver for the device using the same process described above.

  • Now allow the 3D Vision Installer to continue. Since your on XP, not Vista, it will complain and throw up one warning and one error message, but it should still complete. Reboot when prompted. The rest of the instructions are basically the same as for Vista:
  • Open the NVIDIA Control Panel, and increase the display refresh rate to 120 Hz using the display resolution tab. Then go to the 3D Settings tab and set the Stereo display mode to "Generic active stereo (with NVIDIA IR Emitter)", click Apply, and then set Stereo - enable mode to "on", click Apply, and then close the NVIDIA control panel.
  • Launch PyMOL 1.2r1 for Windows. You should get the message: "OpenGL quad-buffer stereo 3D detected and enabled."
  • Now load a PDB file and issue "stereo on". The emitter should light up and the glasses should activate.

Congratulations -- you should now be able to view PyMOL molecular structures in stereo 3D on a 120 Hz LCD using Windows XP!

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