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Hardware Stereo in Chimera

For interactive scientific visualization applications, and especially for visualizing and manipulating protein and nucleic acid structures, three-dimensional stereo graphics is extremely helpful. This is because it eliminates the depth inversion problem where one accidentally sees the back of the structure as the front. Motion parallax and perspective are not always sufficient.

Stereo displays and glasses from several vendors are known to work with Chimera.

Chimera provides several techniques to view the graphical display in stereo while keeping the interaction dialogs in 2D. Two techniques stand out:

row interleaved stereo
A simple solution that works with all graphics cards, and has high color fidelity, is row interleaved stereo. Alternate lines lines of the display are right- and left-circularly polarized, so when you wear matching (passive) glasses, you see a stereo image. This works well for a single viewer. The disadvantage is that 2D text is hard to read when you're wearing the glasses.

3D TVs that use passive glasses typically use row interleaved stereo. Older examples of row interleaved stereo monitors were the Zalman ZM-M220W, the Hyundai W220S and W240S, and the Miracube G240M.

sequential stereo
The stereo technique that provides the best fidelity, with full color and spatial resolution, is sequential stereo, a.k.a., hardware stereo in a window. Historically, only workstation graphics cards supported hardware stereo in a window — like the AMD FirePro graphics cards, and the NVIDIA Quadro graphics cards. Fortunately, starting with Microsoft Windows 8, hardware stereo in a window is also supported by AMD Radeon graphics cards connected to a 3D TV. At the time of this writing (September 2014), NVIDIA's GeForce graphics cards only do full screen stereo for OpenGL applications like Chimera.

In addition to a graphics card, you'll need a display that supports stereo viewing. For desktop use, a great choice right now is to use a 3D TV with an AMD FirePro or Radeon. Also good would be a NVIDIA Quadro, with NVidia 3D Vision glasses and emitter, and a compatible monitor.