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3D Vision - Some Tips to Help You Live In It

So, you got yourself a sweet new 3D Vision system, you been to the surgeon to fix your jaw after you cracked it on your desk, and now you're ready to get into the 3D swing of things. Let's get to work.

Depth & Convergence

First let's talk depth. By default, your depth will be set pretty low - like 20% or something. It does take some time to get used to having full 3D effects so I would recommend keeping it there. Play your games for a few days (or at least hours) at that setting and you should start to notice that, instead of being fully 3D, your games look a bit more like there are lots of cardboard cutouts at various depths. Excellent. Now it's time to start cranking the depth up.

The depth control handles how deep your viewing area can be. Say you look at the sky in your game and see a star. If your depth is really low, that star may appear to be a couple of inches beyond your monitor. Increase the depth and it will appear to be two feet beyond your monitor. Increase it even more and it looks to be infinitely far away. Increase it still more and... oh wait, now there are two stars??

That's called divergence. As an object gets further and further away, your eyes go from looking cross-eyed to looking straight ahead. When an object is in the far distance, you're eyes are looking perfectly straight. Well, by increasing the depth too far, your eyes would have to actually look outward.... anti-cross-eyed... jeez, there isn't even a word for it! That's doesn't happen in the real world so your brain refuses to buy into it and you see two objects.

How high you want to crank the depth up is something of a matter of taste but mostly is a matter of projection geometry. If you've got a typical monitor (maybe 22") then you'll probably want it up near 100%. If you've got a monster 42" monitor and you're sitting close to it then that original 20% might have been too much. If you've got a monster monitor and you're sitting back on the couch.... well, you'll have to experiment. Find a nice game where you can see things that are very distant (open world RPGs are great for that) and push the depth up so objects that are far in the distance look like they are far in the distance. You do not want to go right up to the brink of divergence, though. If you do, moving your head forward even just a bit will cause divergence and spoil the effect. So get it up close then back off a little bit.

But wait, there's more! Open up your NVIDIA control panel and go to the 'set up stereoscopic 3D' section. See that business about "advanced" in-game settings? Enable them! The convergence settings are NOT advanced and you're likely to need them fairly often. The save option is handy, too. (Frustrum... not so much. I change that keyboard setting to control-alt-shift-F11 just to make sure it doesn't get in the way of anything. I haven't found a use for it yet.)

Roughly speaking, the convergence controls where your monitor screen is in game. If you increase the convergence then your monitor goes deeper into the scene and you get more pop-out. Reduce it and your monitor pulls back, which makes for less pop-out.

One odd thing about convergence is that it sometimes has to change quite a bit before you'll see any difference. Then it will suddenly start changing a lot. Here's a handy tip for folks that have the NVIDIA "pyramid": you can control both depth and convergence with the dial on the front of the pyramid. If you twist the dial while 3D is showing, it will change the depth. If you hold down the green button and twist the dial then it will change the convergence. That's a lot easier to remember than the key combinations! (Not so handy if you're sitting back on the couch, though.)

Pop-out

Pop-out is cool. It's neat to have distant things look distant but having things jump out of the screen is just awesome! Unfortunately, it also can break the immersion really easily.

Say there's a tree branch sticking out of the screen. All well and cool. But say that your hit point bar is covering up part of that branch. The hit point bar is part of the user interface (UI) so it covers up everything. However, you can see enough of the branch to know that it should be sticking out of the screen. So the 3D effects are telling you that the branch is about a foot away but it is being covered up by a hit point bar that is two feet away! The branch is being covered up by something that is behind it!?!? Heaven only knows what your brain will make of that but one thing is for sure, it will look very very wrong. So, if you're going to have pop-out, it's best to have a game with as little UI as possible.

Unfortunately there's one thing that is going to stay at screen depth forever: the edges of your screen. This can be a real pain for first person shooters where you can see your gun at the bottom of the screen. (For some reason, most first person shooters have you bracing your gun against your cheek bone instead of your shoulder.) I'm afraid there's nothing for it but to lower the convergence.

3D Toggle

By default, control-T will toggle 3D on and off. You will want to use this so memorize that keystroke! (Or, better yet, make it something easier to remember. I use the scroll lock key for it, personally.) As you've probably already seen, 3D makes your game darker. If you get dropped into some dark cave/basement/monster gullet/dimension, for pity's sake turn the 3D off! It only takes a second. Maps and option screens are sometimes crazy, too. Or maybe you'll get into some foggy area and the fog isn't rendered correctly in 3D. The 3D toggle makes it trivial to just turn off the 3D then pop it back on again when you want it.

The List

NVIDIA provides a list of games that work with 3D Vision right in the driver control panel. BEWARE this list!

When 3D Vision was first introduced, it replaced an older 3D product from NVIDIA. 3D Vision is a much improved system but NVIDIA dumped support for OpenGL and older versions of DirectX when they went to it. However, they did not bother to update their list of 3D games! That means there are tons of older games on the list that say they work fine with 3D Vision when, in fact, they do not work at all.

Worse yet, some games just aren't rated very well. Crysis 2 is rated as 'excellent' when it doesn't even have full 3D. Some games start out 3D compatible but later patches break that compatibility. Plus there are plenty of games that don't work well out of the box but, with a quick HeliX mod (see below), they can look incredible - or at least passable.

Screenshots

NVIDIA has actually provided a built in function for taking screenshots. Unfortunately, they don't seem to want you to know about it. By default I think the keystroke is control-F1 but I always change it. The 3D Vision Blog explains how to do this very nicely: http://3dvision-blog.com/3053-modifying-all-3d-vision-control-key-combinations-as-you-need/

Your screenshots will be saved in your documents directory in a subdirectory named "NVStereoscopic3D.IMG". When you take a screenshot, you'll see 'image saved' pop up on your screen and a JPS file will be saved in the directory. Double click on that JPS file and the NVIDIA image viewer should pop up and show you your screenshot in full 3D! (A JPS file is actually just two JPG images stuck together, side by side. You can even rename it to be a .JPG file and view it.)

If you've got plenty of disk space and want higher quality images, you can change the format to PNS (which is two PNG images side by side). The 3D Vision blog explains that nicely, too: http://3dvision-blog.com/5265-making-better-quality-stereo-3d-pns-screenshots-with-3d-vision/

One thing to watch - you can only make 99 images for a given game before the system runs out of numbers (999 for PNS files). If you're taking a lot of screenshots, be sure to go in to the image directory between sessions and move those files someplace safe.

Links to Stuff

3D Vision Blog is linked above and is a fine place to get news on the 3D world.

If you would like to take 3D videos of your games, FRAPS is your ticket. It doesn't cost much and you get free updates: www.fraps.com

MTBS has a great website. They've got forums, you can upload pictures there, they get some really good news stories, but best of all is the GameGrade 3D Database which lets player rank games. It's a lot more reliable than NVIDIA's list - IF it covers the game you're interested in. http://www.mtbs3d.com/

You can also save/view screenshots and even videos at 3D Vision Live: http://www.3dvisionlive.com/

The official NVIDIA forums for 3D Vision are very lively and have a lot of up to date information: https://forums.geforce.com/default/board/49/3d-vision/

Finally, there's the HeliX mod crew at http://helixmod.wikispot.org/ For the past year or so, these folks have been taking games that have looked awful in 3D and made them into great games. Even with games that can't be made great, they can at least fix up some of the nastier problems.