3D on Linux

Stereo (3D) for Structural Biology Workstations

Last update: October 11, 2013

Stereo technology has fully transitioned from using CRT monitors with emitters and shutter glasses to LCDs with either shutter glasses or passive image polarization. Whereas CRT stereo technology sprouted from the demands in engineering and research, LCD stereo is being targeted largely towards the gaming community. This, combined with the fact that LCD support is relatively new to the consumer market, means we can't be certain to what extent the stereo LCD technology will develop for Linux research workstation purposes. Regardless, we'll continue to test the latest options available and advise structural biologists that recognize a benefit in stereo 3D imaging.

What are our LCD Stereo Options?

There are two recommended stereo LCD configurations. The technology you choose is largely dependent on your budget, workstation type (Mac/Linux) and desired application support.

Active LCD Stereo

Active stereo is provided through LCDs that offer a high refresh rate (120Hz). This allows LCDs to provide a similar stereo experience as the old CRTs. And like the CRT stereo solution, it requires the purchase of an NVIDIA quadro card and an emitter/glasses (the NVIDIA 3D Vision kit). This solution is Linux-only.

Nvidia maintains a list of monitors compatible with their 3D Vision technology. Click here to access their list.

Notes on select 120Hz monitors:

  • The Asus VG278H and VG236H have been working great for us and are our current recommended monitors.

Required graphics cards:

  • NVidia Quadro FX 3700 or higher graphics card. Linux support requires the card to have a 3-pin DIN output. According to the NVIDIA driver documentation, you cannot use USB emitters without the 3-pin cable for Linux stereo. The latest NVIDIA drivers are required for the best Linux support. Newest drivers support dual monitors, where one is in 3D and one in 2D.

Required emitter/glasses:

Passive LCD Stereo

Passive LCD monitors superimposes two images onto the same screen through different polarizing filters. As each filter passes only that light which is similarly polarized and blocks the light polarized in the opposite direction, each eye sees a different image. Despite its overall lower cost, passive stereo is qualitatively lower quality than the NVIDIA solution and in stereo mode, you have half the monitor's vertical resolution available to you due to the underlying polarization technology. Because it doesn't require specific graphics cards / drivers, this solution is the only viable stereo for Mac users.

We don't have much recent experience with passive monitors as most of our stereo users on using Linux workstations.

Available Passive LCD Monitors:

  • LG DM2352D-PZ

Previous Passive LCD Monitor Recommendation:

  • Zalman ZM-M240W - The Zalman requires software to be explicitly configured to support the monitor. PyMOL and a few other applications do have support (email us for the latest list of SBGrid software with support).

Required graphics card:

  • No special graphics card is required, so you can use this monitor with Macs as well as Linux workstations.

Required emitter/glasses:

  • No emitter is required for passive LCD stereo. Polarized glasses are included with the monitor.

Can We Stick With CRT?

The problem with CRTs is that they are only available as used/remanufactured from 3rd party vendors and the Quadro cards required to drive them are becoming increasingly expensive. That said, if you have a CRT monitor (or can find one) that's capable of sufficient refresh rates and a Quadro NVIDIA card with a 3-pin stereo DIN, you can continue to use them for your stereo needs.

What you need for CRT stereo:

  1. NVidia Quadro FX 3700 graphics card or one of the cards in their “Ultra-High-End” product line. Or, if you search for older models, any Quadro FX with the 3-pin Mini DIN stereo output.
  2. CRT display capable of at least 100Hz refresh rate @ 1280×1024+. These are becoming very hard to find. The latest model we saw produced with these specs was the ViewSonic G225fB, but it is no longer available. Try searching eBay for ”SGI 061-0061-001”. Visit http://pymol.sourceforge.net/stereo3d.html for some more recommendations. Note that at this point, if a CRT has problems or fails, it may be very difficult to replace or repair.
  3. CRT Stereo emitter and glasses (http://www.reald.com: E2 emitter and CrystalEyes 3 glasses)

Software configuration required

  1. Install the latest NVidia "Linux AMD64" binary drivers
  2. For CRT stereo displays only: * Edit the “Screen” section of /etc/X11/xorg.conf to include:

           Option "Stereo" "3" Option "AllowDFPStereo" "1" Option "UBB" "1"
  3. For LCD stereo displays only: * Edit the “Screen” section of /etc/X11/xorg.conf to include:

           Option "Stereo" "10" Option "AllowDFPStereo" "1" Option "UBB" "1"
  4. Add the following to the end of your xorg.conf:

    Section "Extensions" Option "Composite" "Disable" EndSection

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