Hologram 101

Capturing and displaying holograms can be achieved with a variety of methods, including depth maps, camera rail captures, Neural Radiance fields (NERFs), and more.
Having a holographic display is great but making holograms for it is even better. We'll go over the best ways to view, create, and share holograms here.

What are holograms anyway?

Holograms are a type of 3D media that display content in 3D, just like how we perceive the real world. Different types of holograms can have different properties.
Generally for Looking Glass, the term refers to the content that's viewed on Looking Glass Displays, Blocks, or in VR / AR devices.
Hover over and wiggle. Credit: Jay Howse's Holographic Candy Bar, embedded via Looking Glass Blocks

What are the different types of holograms are out there?

There are four main formats that we can use for holograms.

1. Depth photos and videos (RGB-D)

Depth photos and videos generally refer to holograms generated from a single perspective that also have accompanying depth information. Depth can be displayed in a few different ways, but the most common is a black and white gradient as seen here below.
A baby photo of our CEO and co-founder, Shawn Frayne.

2. Light fields

Light fields are the "raw image" equivalent of holograms, they are comprised of the full image set of a holographic capture and can be stored as either an image sequence, or video. This extra data gives the ability to refocus a light field more substantially than a quilt and retains all the information about lighting and specularity of the moment of capture.
Currently Looking Glass software only supports uncompressed light fields as an image sequence. If you want to make holographic videos, you'll want to use the quilt format.

3. Quilts

Quilts are a Looking Glass specific file format that was designed to make it easy to share holographic files with a standard format. Think of them as the .jpeg or .mp4 of light fields. Quilts compress all the data present in a light field into a single image with each view only containing the necessary data for each view.
Usually, quilts are encoded with a specific aspect ratio in mind. The example below is a quilt designed for the Looking Glass Portrait which has a 4:3 aspect ratio.
Quilts are comprised of multiple perspectives of the same scene, usually between 48 and 100 different perspectives depending on the Looking Glass Display. Quilts are also what power Blocks, our online hologram sharing platform. You can learn more about quilts here.

4. 3D models

3D modeling is used extensively for film, games, architecture, product design, advertising and more. Since 3D models are inherently three-dimensional, you can view them in a Looking Glass easily. We've got plugins for Blender, Unity and Unreal Engine so you can view your scenes and creations directly in those tools. If you're using another 3D engine that we don't support directly you can try capturing your scene as a light field or exporting your scene as a .usd or .gltf to one of our supported tools.

Interactive applications

So far, we've only touched on holograms as a media format, but you can also make holographic applications, games, and even websites. Head on over to the Unity, Unreal or WebXR documentation on how to get started making your own 3D applications.

Creating holograms

There are a variety of ways to create holograms, including depth maps, photo rails, Neural Radiance Fields (NeRFS) and more.
The guides on the following pages will walk you through how to capture holograms in the real world with cameras, or virtually in 3D environments like Blender, Unity, Unreal and more.
Just like learning photography, there's an art to hologram capture.
Check out Making Great Holograms for inspiration and tips on how to make your work shine!