Layered 3D:
Tomographic Image Synthesis for Attenuation-based Light Field and High Dynamic Range Displays

Gordon Wetzstein Douglas Lanman Wolfgang Heidrich Ramesh Raskar

University of British Columbia - Imager Laboratory
MIT Media Lab - Camera Culture Group

ACM SIGGRAPH 2011. Transactions on Graphics 30(4).

Figure 1: Inexpensive, glasses-free light field display using volumetric attenuators. (Left) A stack of spatial light modulators (e.g., printed masks) recreates a target light field (here for a car) when illuminated by a backlight. (Right) The target light field is shown in the upper left, together with the optimal five-layer decomposition, obtained with iterative tomographic reconstruction. (Middle) Oblique projections for a viewer standing to the top left (magenta) and bottom right (cyan). Corresponding views of the target light field and five-layer prototype are shown on the left and right, respectively. Such attenuation-based 3D displays allow accurate, high-resolution depiction of motion parallax, occlusion, translucency, and specularity, being exhibited by the trunk, the fender, the window, and the roof of the car, respectively.

Image credit: UBC, Imager Laboratory; MIT Media Lab, Camera Culture Group


We develop tomographic techniques for image synthesis on displays composed of compact volumes of light-attenuating material. Such volumetric attenuators recreate a 4D light field or high-contrast 2D image when illuminated by a uniform backlight. Since arbitrary oblique views may be inconsistent with any single attenuator, iterative tomographic reconstruction minimizes the difference between the emitted and target light fields, subject to physical constraints on attenuation. As multi-layer generalizations of conventional parallax barriers, such displays are shown, both by theory and experiment, to exceed the performance of existing dual-layer architectures. For 3D display, spatial resolution, depth of field, and brightness are increased, compared to parallax barriers. For a plane at a fixed depth, our optimization also allows optimal construction of high dynamic range displays, confirming existing heuristics and providing the first extension to multiple, disjoint layers. We conclude by demonstrating the benefits and limitations of attenuationbased light field displays using an inexpensive fabrication method: separating multiple printed transparencies with acrylic sheets.

Project Sites


G. Wetzstein, D. Lanman, W. Heidrich, R. Raskar. Layered 3D: Tomographic Image Synthesis for Attenuation-based Light Field and High Dynamic Range Displays. Proc. of SIGGRAPH 2011 (ACM Transactions on Graphics 30, 4), 2011.


author = {G. Wetzstein and D. Lanman and W. Heidrich and R. Raskar},
title = {Layered {3D}: Tomographic Image Synthesis for Attenuation-based Light Field and High Dynamic Range Displays}, journal = {ACM Trans. Graph.},
volume = {30},
number = {4},
year = {2011},
publisher = {ACM},
address = {New York, NY, USA}