Q: Is there a way to run a VPython program in a browser web page?
A: Python itself does not run in a browser, so this is not possible. However, there is a similar 3D programming environment called GlowScript (glowscript.org) which makes it easy to write 3D animations that run in a browser web page. Here is an overview of GlowScript.
Q: Is there a way to generate POV-Ray source files automatically from a VPython program?
A: Yes, the povexport module in the Contributed programs will do this.
Q: Is there a way to capture VPython graphical output as a movie?
A: There is no built-in feature to do this.
On Windows, Taksi is an excellent, easy to use freeware video capture tool for Windows. It produces avi files which are playable not only on Windows but also on the Mac with QuickTime.
CamStudio is also a good freeware program for capturing to avi format on Windows; at one time the help menu didn't seem to work, but you can get help from the start menu entry for CamStudio. For capturing VPython animations you probably want to choose the menu option "Region" in which case when you start recording it waits for you to draw a capture rectangle.
A good shareware utility for Windows is Snagit (www.techsmith.com, $40). Let us know of other utilities you have used. Or google "screen capture utilities".
In the contributed programs is a program by Kelvin Chu for creating a QuickTime movie on MacOSX.
From Ruth Chabay: I use a somewhat complex method to make large, high-quality movies from VPython animations, that can include sophisticated effects such as shadows, transparency, refraction, etc. It involves several steps.
Michael Cobb produced a video of a very lengthy VPython computation (see contributed programs) by doing this: "On Windows the Python Imaging Library (PIL) has a grab image function that I used periodically to capture (screen dump) a pre-defined section of the screen and make a jpg. I then used Gimp to encode all the files (933 of them) together into an avi file. I wish the ImageGrab function worked on Ubuntu as computations are about 2-3 times faster than on Windows." This is adequate for his purposes, but of course lower quality than the raytraced images produced using PovRay. Details:
Q: Is there a way to create a stand-alone VPython application?
A: From Andrei Makhanov, for Windows:
from distutils.core import setup
Alternatively, you can use the file setup.py, in which case you don't need to perform step 8 below. You will need to change the "script" option to replace the name "stars.py" with the name of your own file.
6) Place the files setup.py and stars.py (or your file name) in a folder that's easy to get to.
Q: What stereo glasses should I buy to use with scene.stereo?
A from Bruce Sherwood: The cheapest reasonably good scheme is red-cyan glasses, with the red lens on the left eye (scene.stereo = 'redcyan'). Google red-cyan stereo glasses for options; cost is less than a dollar each. For occasional use I find the handheld variety to be preferable to ones with earpieces, because the flat handheld glasses are easier to store, hand out, and retrieve. Red-cyan is far preferable to the older red-blue (scene.stereo = 'redblue'), because red-blue scenes are essentially monochrome (red or blue), with ugly magenta in overlap regions, whereas red-cyan permits full color (albeit pastel), and overlap regions are white.
Red-cyan glasses can be used with any computer, including laptops or computer projectors. No special graphics card is required. Colors are not true due to the necessity of adding some white to pure colors in order to get stereo. For example, a pure red sphere would provide no image for the right (cyan) eye, so some white is added to the red to make a pink. The effect is that all colors are pastel. Another disadvantage of red-cyan glasses is that there is some bleed-through of the red or left image through the cyan filter to the right eye, and some bleed-through of the cyan or right image through the red filter to the left eye. This is probably unavoidable, because not only are the cheap filters not perfect, but the standard red-green-blue emitters used in displays are not pure red, green, and blue but contain some colors in the other regions of the spectrum. Nevertheless, the stereo effect with red-cyan glasses is quite striking, no special graphics equipment is needed, and the price is right.
Another option is to use side-by-side stereo (scene.stereo = 'passive') with relatively inexpensive stereoscopic viewers such as those available at http://www.berezin.com/3d/viewers1.htm. As with red-cyan stereo, no special computer equipment is required.
Some people are able to train themselves to see small stereo scenes with no glasses (scene.stereo = 'crosseyed'). Put your finger between your eyes and the screen and focus on the finger. Move the finger toward or away from you until the two screen images merge. Then, without changing the directions your eyes are pointing, change the focus to the screen, and you'll see a full stereo view. Similarly, if you're able to look "walleyed" (eyes pointing nearly parallel, to the far distance, but focussed on the screen), you can see stereo for small scenes using scene.stereo = 'passive'.
With all of these scheme, the effect is enhanced by rotating the scene as you view it.
Due to a bug, quad-buffered stereo did not work with VPython 5.x previous to 5.41.
A good option for showing high-quality stereo (scene.stereo = 'passive') to large groups is to buy an appropriate "quad-buffered" graphics card such as the NIVIDA Quadro series that can present the left and right views to two side-by-side (or over and under) computer projectors, each with a polarizer, projecting onto a special non-depolarizing (metallic) screen. The audience wears polarizing glasses (again, you can find these from the same sources identified through Google, and these glasses are only about 50 cents each). Ordinary screens don't work, because the polarization is destroyed on reflection. For a lot of detail on this option, Google Geowall, a consortium of people using this option in geography research and education. Polarization can be either linear (horizontal and vertical) or circular (left and right circular polarization); you need different polarizers and different glasses for the two schemes. A minor disadvantage of the linear polarization scheme is that the stereo effect is more easily disturbed when you tip your head.
What is "quad-buffered"? A standard graphics card is "double-buffered": it holds an image in one buffer and continually hands it to the display to refresh the screen. At the same time in a second buffer the card can be accepting from the computer the creation of a new image. Upon completion of drawing the new image (in the case of VPython, using OpenGL to create that new image), the card switches to refreshing the screen from the second buffer. A quad-buffered graphics card has two double buffers ("quad"), one for the left image and one for the right. It can give two computer projectors left and right images.
With a quad-buffered graphics card, "shutter glasses", and a fast 120 Hz display, you can achieve very high-quality stereo on a computer (scene.stereo = 'active'). Shutter glasses alternate opaque and transparent states of the lenses in front of the left and right eyes, so that any instant you only see the view appropriate to the eye. To avoid flicker, ideally the display should run at 100 Hz or more (50 or more images for the left eye per second), which is why this scheme isn't good with most displays that run at only 60 Hz. The graphics card must also furnish (as quad-buffered cards normally do) a synchronization signal to the shutter glasses to switch view. This can be infrared (wireless shutter glasses) or wired; Google "shutter glasses".
Important: The NVIDIA "3D Vision" GeForce graphics cards do NOT currently support OpenGL stereo (they only support Microsoft DirectX stereo applications). Only the NVIDIA Quadro cards can be used for VPython active stereo.