A three-dimensional stereoscopic film (also known as three-dimensional
3D film or S3D film) is a motion picture that enhances the
illusion of depth perception, hence adding a third dimension. The most
common approach to the production of 3D films is derived from
stereoscopic photography. In this approach, a regular motion picture
camera system is used to record the images as seen from two
perspectives (or computer-generated imagery generates the two
perspectives in post-production), and special projection hardware
and/or eyewear are used to limit the visibility of each image to the
viewer's left or right eye only. 3D films are not limited to
theatrical releases; television broadcasts and direct-to-video films
have also incorporated similar methods, especially since the advent of
3D television and Blu-ray 3D.
3D films have existed in some form since 1915, but had been largely
relegated to a niche in the motion picture industry because of the
costly hardware and processes required to produce and display a 3D
film, and the lack of a standardized format for all segments of the
entertainment business. Nonetheless, 3D films were prominently
featured in the 1950s in American cinema, and later experienced a
worldwide resurgence in the 1980s and 1990s driven by
Disney themed-venues. 3D films became more and more
successful throughout the 2000s, culminating in the unprecedented
success of 3D presentations of Avatar in December 2009 and January
1.1 Early patents and tests
1.2 Early systems of stereoscopic filmmaking (pre-1952)
1.2.1 Introduction of Polaroid
1.3 The "golden era" (1952–1954)
1.4 Revival (1960–1984) in single strip format
1.5 Rebirth of 3D (1985–2003)
1.6 Mainstream resurgence (2003–present)
1.6.1 World 3-D Expositions
1.6.2 Reported audience decline
2.1 Producing 3D films
2.1.1 Live action
2.1.3 2D to 3D conversion
2.2 Displaying 3D films
2.2.2 Polarization systems
2.2.3 Active shutter
2.2.4 Interference filter technology
3 Health effects
4.1 Brightness concerns
5 See also
7 External links
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Early patents and tests
The stereoscopic era of motion pictures began in the late 1890s when
British film pioneer
William Friese-Greene filed a patent for a 3D
film process. In his patent, two films were projected side by side on
screen. The viewer looked through a stereoscope to converge the two
images. Because of the obtrusive mechanics behind this method,
theatrical use was not practical.
Frederic Eugene Ives
Frederic Eugene Ives patented his
stereo camera rig in 1900. The camera had two lenses coupled together
1¾ inches (4.45 centimeters) apart.
On June 10, 1915,
Edwin S. Porter
Edwin S. Porter and William E. Waddell presented
tests to an audience at the Astor Theater in New York City. In
red-green anaglyph, the audience was presented three reels of tests,
which included rural scenes, test shots of Marie Doro, a segment of
John Mason playing a number of passages from Jim the Penman (a film
Famous Players-Lasky that year, but not in 3D), Oriental
dancers, and a reel of footage of Niagara Falls. However, according
Adolph Zukor in his 1953 autobiography The Public Is Never Wrong:
My 50 Years in the Motion Picture Industry, nothing was produced in
this process after these tests.
Early systems of stereoscopic filmmaking (pre-1952)
Fairall in 1922
Fairall's 3D camera
Audience wearing special glasses watch a 3D "stereoscopic film" at the
Telekinema on the South Bank in London during the Festival of Britain
The earliest confirmed
3D film shown to an out-of-house audience was
The Power of Love, which premiered at the Ambassador Hotel Theater in
Los Angeles on 27 September 1922. The camera rig was a
product of the film's producer, Harry K. Fairall, and cinematographer
Robert F. Elder. It was projected dual-strip in the red/green
anaglyph format, making it both the earliest known film that utilized
dual strip projection and the earliest known film in which anaglyph
glasses were used. Whether Fairall used colored filters on the
projection ports or whether he used tinted prints is unknown. After a
preview for exhibitors and press in New York City, the film dropped
out of sight, apparently not booked by exhibitors, and is now
Early in December 1922, William Van Doren Kelley, inventor of the
Prizma color system, cashed in on the growing interest in 3D films
started by Fairall's demonstration and shot footage with a camera
system of his own design. Kelley then struck a deal with Samuel "Roxy"
Rothafel to premiere the first in his series of "Plasticon" shorts
entitled Movies of the Future at the Rivoli Theater in New York City .
Also in December 1922,
Laurens Hammond (later inventor of the Hammond
organ) premiered his
Teleview system, which had been shown to the
trade and press in October.
Teleview was the first alternating-frame
3D system seen by the public. Using left-eye and right-eye prints and
two interlocked projectors, left and right frames were alternately
projected, each pair being shown three times to suppress flicker.
Viewing devices attached to the armrests of the theater seats had
rotary shutters that operated synchronously with the projector
shutters, producing a clean and clear stereoscopic result. The only
theater known to have installed
Teleview was the Selwyn Theater in New
York City, and only one show was ever presented with it: a group of
short films, an exhibition of live 3D shadows, and M.A.R.S., the only
Teleview feature. The show ran for several weeks, apparently doing
good business as a novelty (M.A.R.S. itself got poor reviews), but
Teleview was never seen again.
Frederic Eugene Ives
Frederic Eugene Ives and Jacob Leventhal began releasing
their first stereoscopic shorts made over a three-year period. The
first film, entitled Plastigrams, was distributed nationally by
Educational Pictures in the red-and-blue anaglyph format. Ives and
Leventhal then went on to produce the following stereoscopic shorts in
the "Stereoscopiks Series" released by
Pathé Films in 1925: Zowie
(April 10), Luna-cy! (May 18), The Run-Away Taxi (December 17) and
Ouch (December 17). On 22 September 1924, Luna-cy! was re-released
in the DeForest
Phonofilm sound-on-film system.
The late 1920s to early 1930s saw little interest in stereoscopic
pictures. In Paris,
Louis Lumiere shot footage with his stereoscopic
camera in September 1933. The following March he exhibited a remake of
his 1895 short film L'Arrivée du Train, this time in anaglyphic 3D,
at a meeting of the French Academy of Science.
In 1936, Leventhal and John Norling were hired based on their test
footage to film MGM's Audioscopiks series. The prints were by
Technicolor in the red-and-green anaglyph format, and were narrated by
Pete Smith. The first film, Audioscopiks, premiered January 11, 1936,
and The New Audioscopiks premiered January 15, 1938. Audioscopiks was
nominated for the Academy Award in the category Best Short Subject,
Novelty in 1936.
With the success of the two Audioscopiks films, MGM produced one more
short in anaglyph 3D, another Pete Smith Specialty called Third
Dimensional Murder (1941). Unlike its predecessors, this short was
shot with a studio-built camera rig. Prints were by
red-and-blue anaglyph. The short is notable for being one of the few
live-action appearances of the Frankenstein Monster as conceived by
Jack Pierce for
Universal Studios outside of their company.
While many of these films were printed by color systems, none of them
was actually in color, and the use of the color printing was only to
achieve an anaglyph effect.
Introduction of Polaroid
While attending Harvard University,
Edwin H. Land conceived the idea
of reducing glare by polarizing light. He took a leave of absence from
Harvard to set up a lab and by 1929 had invented and patented a
polarizing sheet. In 1932, he introduced Polaroid J Sheet as a
commercial product. While his original intention was to create a
filter for reducing glare from car headlights, Land did not
underestimate the utility of his newly dubbed Polaroid filters in
In January 1936, Land gave the first demonstration of Polaroid filters
in conjunction with 3D photography at the Waldorf-Astoria
Hotel. The reaction was enthusiastic, and he
followed it up with an installation at the New York Museum of
Science. It is unknown what film was run for
audiences at this exhibition.
Using Polaroid filters meant an entirely new form of projection,
however. Two prints, each carrying either the right or left eye view,
had to be synced up in projection using an external selsyn motor.
Furthermore, polarized light would be largely depolarized by a matte
white screen, and only a silver screen or screen made of other
reflective material would correctly reflect the separate images.
Later that year, the feature, Nozze Vagabonde appeared in Italy,
followed in Germany by Zum Greifen nah (You Can Nearly Touch It), and
again in 1939 with Germany's Sechs Mädel rollen ins Wochenend (Six
Girls Drive Into the Weekend). The Italian film was made with the
Gualtierotti camera; the two German productions with the Zeiss camera
and the Vierling shooting system. All of these films were the first
exhibited using Polaroid filters. The Zeiss Company in Germany
manufactured glasses on a commercial basis commencing in 1936; they
were also independently made around the same time in Germany by E.
Käsemann and by J. Mahler.
In 1939, John Norling shot In Tune With Tomorrow, the first commercial
3D film using Polaroid in the US. This short
premiered at the
1939 New York World's Fair
1939 New York World's Fair and was created
specifically for the Chrysler Motors Pavilion. In it, a full 1939
Chrysler Plymouth is magically put together, set to music. Originally
in black and white, the film was so popular that it was re-shot in
color for the following year at the fair, under the title New
Dimensions. In 1953, it was reissued by RKO as Motor
Another early short that utilized the Polaroid 3D process was 1940's
Magic Movies: Thrills For You produced by the Pennsylvania Railroad
Co. for the Golden Gate International Exposition.
Produced by John Norling, it was filmed by Jacob Leventhal using his
own rig. It consisted of shots of various views that could be seen
from the Pennsylvania Railroad's trains.
In the 1940s, World War II prioritized military applications of
stereoscopic photography and it once again went on the back burner in
most producers' minds.
The "golden era" (1952–1954)
What aficionados consider the "golden era" of 3D began in late 1952
with the release of the first color stereoscopic feature, Bwana Devil,
produced, written and directed by Arch Oboler. The film was shot in
"Natural Vision", a process that was co-created and controlled by M.
L. Gunzberg. Gunzberg, who built the rig with his brother, Julian, and
two other associates, shopped it without success to various studios
before Oboler used it for this feature, which went into production
with the title, The Lions of Gulu. The critically panned film was
nevertheless highly successful with audiences due to the novelty of
3D, which increased Hollywood interest in 3D during a period that had
seen declining box-office admissions.
As with practically all of the features made during this boom, Bwana
Devil was projected dual-strip, with Polaroid filters. During the
1950s, the familiar disposable anaglyph glasses made of cardboard were
mainly used for comic books, two shorts by exploitation specialist Dan
Sonney, and three shorts produced by Lippert Productions. However,
even the Lippert shorts were available in the dual-strip format
Because the features utilized two projectors, the capacity limit of
film being loaded onto each projector (about 6,000 feet
(1,800 m), or an hour's worth of film) meant that an intermission
was necessary for every feature-length film. Quite often, intermission
points were written into the script at a major plot point.
During Christmas of 1952, producer
Sol Lesser quickly premiered the
dual-strip showcase called Stereo Techniques in Chicago. Lesser
acquired the rights to five dual-strip shorts. Two of them, Now is the
Time (to Put On Your Glasses) and Around is Around, were directed by
Norman McLaren in 1951 for the National
Film Board of Canada. The
other three films were produced in Britain for
Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain in
1951 by Raymond Spottiswoode. These were A Solid Explanation, Royal
River, and The Black Swan.
James Mage was also an early pioneer in the 3D craze. Using his
16 mm 3D Bolex system, he premiered his Triorama program on
February 10, 1953, with his four shorts: Sunday In Stereo, Indian
Summer, American Life, and This is Bolex Stereo. This show is
3D film during the boom was the Lippert Productions
short, A Day in the Country, narrated by
Joe Besser and composed
mostly of test footage. Unlike all of the other Lippert shorts, which
were available in both dual-strip and anaglyph, this production was
released in anaglyph only.
April 1953 saw two groundbreaking features in 3D: Columbia's Man in
the Dark and
Warner Bros. House of Wax, the first 3D feature with
stereophonic sound. House of Wax, outside of Cinerama, was the first
time many American audiences heard recorded stereophonic sound. It was
also the film that typecast
Vincent Price as a horror star as well as
the "King of 3-D" after he became the actor to star in the most 3D
features (the others were The Mad Magician, Dangerous Mission, and Son
of Sinbad). The success of these two films proved that major studios
now had a method of getting filmgoers back into theaters and away from
television sets, which were causing a steady decline in attendance.
Disney Studios waded into 3D with its May 28, 1953, release
of Melody, which accompanied the first 3D western, Columbia's Fort Ti
at its Los Angeles opening. It was later shown at Disneyland's
Fantasyland Theater in 1957 as part of a program with Disney's other
short Working for Peanuts, entitled, 3-D Jamboree. The show was hosted
by the Mousketeers and was in color.
Universal-International released their first 3D feature on May 27,
1953, It Came from Outer Space, with stereophonic sound. Following
that was Paramount's first feature, Sangaree with
Fernando Lamas and
Columbia released several 3D westerns produced by
Sam Katzman and
directed by William Castle. Castle would later specialize in various
technical in-theater gimmicks for such Columbia and Allied Artists
features as 13 Ghosts, House on Haunted Hill, and The Tingler.
Columbia also produced the only slapstick comedies conceived for 3D.
The Three Stooges
The Three Stooges starred in Spooks and Pardon My Backfire; dialect
comic Harry Mimmo starred in Down the Hatch. Producer
Jules White was
optimistic about the possibilities of 3D as applied to slapstick (with
pies and other projectiles aimed at the audience), but only two of his
stereoscopic shorts were shown in 3D. Down the Hatch was released as a
conventional, "flat" motion picture. (Columbia has since printed Down
the Hatch in 3D for film festivals.)
Joanne Dru and
Macdonald Carey starred in the Jack
Broder color production Hannah Lee, which premiered June 19, 1953. The
film was directed by Ireland, who sued Broder for his salary. Broder
counter-sued, claiming that Ireland went over production costs with
the film.
Another famous entry in the golden era of 3D was the 3 Dimensional
Pictures production of Robot Monster. The film was allegedly scribed
in an hour by screenwriter Wyott Ordung and filmed in a period of two
weeks on a shoestring budget. Despite these
shortcomings and the fact that the crew had no previous experience
with the newly built camera rig, luck was on the cinematographer's
side, as many find the 3D photography in the film is well shot and
Robot Monster also has a notable score by then up-and-coming
composer Elmer Bernstein. The film was released June 24, 1953, and
went out with the short Stardust in Your Eyes, which starred nightclub
comedian, Slick Slavin.
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox produced their only 3D feature, Inferno in 1953,
starring Rhonda Fleming. Fleming, who also starred in Those Redheads
From Seattle, and Jivaro, shares the spot for being the actress to
appear in the most 3D features with Patricia Medina, who starred in
Phantom of the Rue Morgue and Drums of Tahiti. Darryl F.
Zanuck expressed little interest in stereoscopic systems, and at that
point was preparing to premiere the new widescreen film system,
The first decline in the theatrical 3D craze started in August and
September 1953. The factors causing this decline were:
Two prints had to be projected simultaneously.
The prints had to remain exactly alike after repair, or
synchronization would be lost.
It sometimes required two projectionists to keep sync working
When either prints or shutters became out of sync, even for a single
frame, the picture became virtually unwatchable and accounted for
headaches and eyestrain.
The necessary silver projection screen was very directional and caused
sideline seating to be unusable with both 3D and regular films, due to
the angular darkening of these screens. Later films that opened in
wider-seated venues often premiered flat for that reason (such as Kiss
Me Kate at the Radio City Music Hall).
The few cartoons made in 3D had a "cardboard cutout" effect, where 3d
cannot process anything 2 dimensional.
A mandatory intermission was needed to properly prepare the theater's
projectors for the showing of the second half of the film.
Because projection booth operators were at many times careless, even
at preview screenings of 3D films, trade and newspaper critics claimed
that certain films were "hard on the eyes."
Sol Lesser attempted to follow up Stereo Techniques with a new
showcase, this time five shorts that he himself produced.[citation
needed] The project was to be called The 3-D Follies and was to be
distributed by RKO. Unfortunately, because of
financial difficulties and the general loss of interest in 3D, Lesser
canceled the project during the summer of 1953, making it the first 3D
film to be aborted in production. Two of the three
shorts were shot: Carmenesque, a burlesque number starring exotic
dancer Lili St. Cyr. and Fun in the Sun, a sports short directed by
famed set designer/director William Cameron Menzies, who also directed
the 3D feature The Maze for Allied Artists.
Although it was more expensive to install, the major competing realism
process was anamorphic, first utilized by Fox with
CinemaScope and its
September premiere in The Robe.
Anamorphic features needed only a
single print, so synchronization was not an issue.
Cinerama was also a
competitor from the start and had better quality control than 3D
because it was owned by one company that focused on quality control.
However, most of the 3D features past the summer of 1953 were released
in the flat widescreen formats ranging from 1.66:1 to 1.85:1. In early
studio advertisements and articles about widescreen and 3D formats,
widescreen systems were referred to as "3D", causing some confusion
There was no single instance of combining
CinemaScope with 3D until
1960, with a film called September Storm, and even then, that was a
blow-up from a non-anamorphic negative. September
Storm also went out with the last dual-strip short, Space Attack,
which was actually shot in 1954 under the title The Adventures of Sam
In December 1953, 3D made a comeback with the release of several
important 3D films, including MGM's musical Kiss Me, Kate. Kate was
the hill over which 3D had to pass to survive. MGM tested it in six
theaters: three in 3D and three flat. According to
trade ads of the time, the 3D version was so well-received that the
film quickly went into a wide stereoscopic release.
However, most publications, including Kenneth Macgowan's classic film
reference book Behind the Screen, state that the film did much better
as a "regular" release. The film, adapted from the popular Cole Porter
Broadway musical, starred the MGM songbird team of
Howard Keel and
Kathryn Grayson as the leads, supported by Ann Miller, Keenan Wynn,
Bobby Van, James Whitmore, Kurt Kasznar and Tommy Rall. The film also
prominently promoted its use of stereophonic sound.
Several other features that helped put 3D back on the map that month
were the John Wayne feature Hondo (distributed by Warner Bros.),
Columbia's Miss Sadie Thompson with Rita Hayworth, and Paramount's
Money From Home with
Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Paramount also
released the cartoon shorts
Boo Moon with Casper, the Friendly Ghost
and Popeye, Ace of Space with
Popeye the Sailor. Paramount Pictures
released a 3D
Korean War film Cease Fire filmed on actual Korean
locations in 1953.
Top Banana, based on the popular stage musical with Phil Silvers, was
brought to the screen with the original cast. Although it was merely a
filmed stage production, the idea was that every audience member would
feel they would have the best seat in the house through color
photography and 3D. Although the film was shot and
edited in 3D, United Artists, the distributor, felt the production was
uneconomical in stereoscopic form and released the film flat on
January 27, 1954. It remains one of two "Golden era"
3D features, along with another
United Artists feature, Southwest
Passage (with John Ireland and Joanne Dru), that are currently
considered lost (although flat versions survive).
A string of successful films filmed in 3D followed the second wave,
but many were widely or exclusively shown flat. Some highlights are:
The French Line, starring
Jane Russell and Gilbert Roland, a Howard
Hughes/RKO production. The film became notorious for being released
without an MPAA seal of approval, after several suggestive lyrics were
included, as well as one of Ms. Russell's particularly revealing
costumes. Playing up her sex appeal, one tagline for
the film was, "It'll knock both of your eyes out!" The film was later
cut and approved by the MPAA for a general flat release, despite
having a wide and profitable 3D release.
Taza, Son of Cochise, a sequel to 1950s Broken Arrow, which starred
Rock Hudson in the title role, Barbara Rush as the love interest, and
Rex Reason (billed as Bart Roberts) as his renegade brother.
Originally released flat through Universal-International. It was
directed by the great stylist Douglas Sirk, and his striking visual
sense made the film a huge success when it was "re-premiered" in 3D in
2006 at the Second 3D Expo in Hollywood.
Two ape films: Phantom of the Rue Morgue, featuring
Karl Malden and
Patricia Medina, produced by
Warner Bros. and based on Edgar Allan
Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", and Gorilla at Large, a
Panoramic Production starring Cameron Mitchell, distributed flat and
3D through Fox.
Creature from the Black Lagoon, starring Richard Carlson and Julie
Adams, directed by Jack Arnold. Although arguably the most famous 3D
film, it was typically seen in 3D only in large urban theaters and
shown flat in the many smaller neighborhood theaters. It was the
only 3D feature that spawned a 3D sequel, Revenge of the Creature,
which was in turn followed by The Creature Walks Among Us, shot flat.
Dial M for Murder, directed by
Alfred Hitchcock and starring Ray
Milland, Robert Cummings, and Grace Kelly, is considered by
aficionados of 3D to be one of the best examples of the process.
Although available in 3D in 1954, there are no known playdates in
3D, since
Warner Bros. had just instated a
simultaneous 3D/2D release policy. The film's screening in 3D in
February 1980 at the York Theater in San Francisco did so well that
Warner Bros. re-released the film in 3D in February 1982. The film is
now available on 3D Blu-ray, marking the first time it was released on
home video in its 3D presentation.
Gog, the last episode in Ivan Tors' Office of Scientific Investigation
(OSI) trilogy dealing with realistic science fiction (following The
Magnetic Monster and Riders to the Stars). Most theaters showed it
The Diamond (released in the United States as The Diamond Wizard), a
1954 British crime film starring Dennis O'Keefe. The only stereoscopic
feature shot in Britain, released flat in both the UK and US.
Dangerous Mission released by RKO in 1954 featuring
Allen's trademarks of an all-star cast facing a disaster (a forest
fire). Bosley Crowther's New York Times review mentions that it was
Son of Sinbad, another RKO/
Howard Hughes production, starring Dale
Robertson, Lili St. Cyr, and Vincent Price. The film was shelved after
Hughes ran into difficulty with The French Line, and wasn't released
until 1955, at which time it went out flat, converted to the
3D's final decline was in the late spring of 1954, for the same
reasons as the previous lull, as well as the further success of
widescreen formats with theater operators. Even though Polaroid had
created a well-designed "Tell-Tale Filter Kit" for the purpose of
recognizing and adjusting out of sync and phase 3D,
exhibitors still felt uncomfortable with the system and turned their
focus instead to processes such as CinemaScope. The last 3D feature to
be released in that format during the "Golden era" was Revenge of the
Creature, on February 23, 1955. Ironically, the film had a wide
release in 3D and was well received at the box office.
Revival (1960–1984) in single strip format
Stereoscopic films largely remained dormant for the first part of the
1960s, with those that were released usually being anaglyph
exploitation films. One film of notoriety was the
Warner Bros. production, The Mask (1961). The film was
shot in 2-D, but to enhance the bizarre qualities of the dream-world
that is induced when the main character puts on a cursed tribal mask,
these scenes went to anaglyph 3D. These scenes were printed by
Technicolor on their first run in red/green anaglyph.
Although 3D films appeared sparsely during the early 1960s, the true
second wave of 3D cinema was set into motion by Arch Oboler, the same
producer who started the craze of the 1950s. Using a new technology
called Space-Vision 3D. The origin of "Space-Vision 3D" goes back to
Colonel Robert Vincent Bernier, a forgotten innovator in the history
of stereoscopic motion pictures. His Trioptiscope Space-Vision lens
was the gold standard for the production and exhibition of 3-D films
for nearly 30 years."Space-Vision 3D" stereoscopic films were
printed with two images, one above the other, in a single academy
ratio frame, on a single strip, and needed only one projector fitted
with a special lens. This so-called "over and under" technique
eliminated the need for dual projector set-ups, and produced
widescreen, but darker, less vivid, polarized 3D images. Unlike
earlier dual system, it could stay in perfect synchronization, unless
improperly spliced in repair.
Arch Oboler once again had the vision for the system that no one else
would touch, and put it to use on his film entitled The Bubble, which
starred Michael Cole, Deborah Walley, and Johnny Desmond. As with
Bwana Devil, the critics panned The Bubble, but audiences flocked to
see it, and it became financially sound enough to promote the use of
the system to other studios, particularly independents, who did not
have the money for expensive dual-strip prints of their productions.
In 1970, Stereovision, a new entity founded by director/inventor Allan
Silliphant and optical designer Chris Condon, developed a different
35 mm single-strip format, which printed two images squeezed
side-by-side and used an anamorphic lens to widen the pictures through
Polaroid filters. Louis K. Sher (Sherpix) and
the softcore sex comedy
The Stewardesses (self-rated X, but later
re-rated R by the MPAA). The film cost $100,000 USD to produce, and
ran for months in several markets. eventually earning
$27 million in North America, alone ($140 million in
constant-2010 dollars) in fewer than 800 theaters, becoming the most
profitable 3-Dimensional film to date, and in purely relative terms,
one of the most profitable films ever. It was later released in
70 mm 3D. Some 36 films worldwide were made with Stereovision
over 25 years, using either a widescreen (above-below), anamorphic
(side by side) or 70 mm 3D formats. In 2009 The
Stewardesses was remastered by
Chris Condon and director Ed Meyer,
releasing it in XpanD 3D,
RealD Cinema and Dolby 3D.
The quality of the 1970s 3D films was not much more inventive, as many
were either softcore and even hardcore adult films, horror films, or a
combination of both. Paul Morrisey's Flesh For Frankenstein (aka Andy
Warhol's Frankenstein) was a superlative example of such a
Between 1981 and 1983 there was a new Hollywood 3D craze started by
the spaghetti western Comin' at Ya!. When Parasite was released it was
billed as the first horror film to come out in 3D in over 20 years.
Horror films and reissues of 1950s 3D classics (such as Hitchcock's
Dial M for Murder) dominated the 3D releases that followed. The second
sequel in the
Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th series,
Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th Part III, was
released very successfully. Apparently saying "part 3 in 3D" was
considered too cumbersome so it was shortened in the titles of Jaws
3-D and Amityville 3-D, which emphasized the screen effects to the
point of being annoying at times, especially when flashlights were
shone into the eyes of the audience.
The science fiction film Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone
was the most expensive
3D film made up to that point with production
costs about the same as
Star Wars but not nearly the same box office
success, causing the craze to fade quickly through spring 1983. Other
sci-fi/fantasy films were released as well including Metalstorm: The
Destruction of Jared-Syn and Treasure of the Four Crowns, which was
widely criticized for poor editing and plot holes, but did feature
some truly spectacular closeups.
3D releases after the second craze included The Man Who Wasn't There
(1983), Silent Madness and the 1985 animated film Starchaser: The
Legend of Orin, whose plot seemed to borrow heavily from Star Wars.
Only Comin' At Ya!, Parasite, and
Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th Part III have been
officially released on VHS and/or DVD in 3D in the United States
(although Amityville 3D has seen a 3D DVD release in the United
Kingdom). Most of the 1980s 3D films and some of the classic 1950s
films such as House of Wax were released on the now defunct Video Disc
(VHD) format in Japan as part of a system that used shutter glasses.
Most of these have been unofficially transferred to DVD and are
available on the grey market through sites such as eBay.
Stereoscopic movies were also popular in other parts of the world,
such as My Dear Kuttichathan, a
Malayalam film which was shot with
stereoscopic 3D and released in 1984.
Rebirth of 3D (1985–2003)
In the mid-1980s,
IMAX began producing non-fiction films for its
nascent 3D business, starting with We Are Born of Stars (Roman
Kroitor, 1985). A key point was that this production, as with all
IMAX productions, emphasized mathematical correctness of
the 3D rendition and thus largely eliminated the eye fatigue and pain
that resulted from the approximate geometries of previous 3D
incarnations. In addition, and in contrast to previous 35mm based 3D
presentations, the very large field of view provided by
IMAX allowed a
much broader 3D "stage", arguably as important in
3D film as it is
Disney Company also began more prominent use of 3D films in
special venues to impress audiences with
Magic Journeys (1982) and
Captain EO (Francis Ford Coppola, 1986, starring Michael Jackson)
being notable examples. In the same year, the National
Film Board of
Canada production Transitions (Colin Low), created for
Expo 86 in
Vancouver, was the first
IMAX presentation using polarized glasses.
Echoes of the Sun (Roman Kroitor, 1990) was the first
IMAX film to be
presented using alternate-eye shutterglass technology, a development
required because the dome screen precluded the use of polarized
From 1990 onward, numerous films were produced by all three parties to
satisfy the demands of their various high-profile special attractions
and IMAX's expanding 3D network. Films of special note during this
period include the extremely successful Into the Deep (Graeme
Ferguson, 1995) and the first
IMAX 3D fiction film Wings of Courage
(1996), by director Jean-Jacques Annaud, about the pilot Henri
Other stereoscopic films produced in this period include:
The Last Buffalo (Stephen Low, 1990)
Muppet*Vision 3D (Jim Henson, 1991)
Imagine (John Weiley, 1993)
Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (Daniel Rustuccio, 1994)
Into the Deep (Graeme Ferguson, 1995)
Across the Sea of Time (Stephen Low, 1995)
Wings of Courage
Wings of Courage (Jean-Jacques Annaud, 1996)
L5, First City in Space (Graeme Ferguson, 1996)
T2 3-D: Battle Across Time (James Cameron, 1996)
Paint Misbehavin (
Roman Kroitor and Peter Stephenson, 1997)
IMAX Nutcracker (1997)
The Hidden Dimension (1997)
T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous (Brett Leonard, 1998)
Mark Twain's America (Stephen Low, 1998)
Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Box (Brett Leonard, 1999)
Galapagos (Al Giddings and David Clark, 1999)
Encounter in the Third Dimension (Ben Stassen, 1999)
Alien Adventure (Ben Stassen, 1999)
Ultimate G's (2000)
Cyberworld (Hugh Murray, 2000)
Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man (Keith Melton, 2000)
Haunted Castle (Ben Stassen, 2001)
Panda Vision (Ben Stassen, 2001)
Space Station 3D
Space Station 3D (Toni Myers, 2002)
SOS Planet (Ben Stassen, 2002)
Ocean Wonderland (2003)
Falling in Love Again (Munro Ferguson, 2003)
Misadventures in 3D (Ben Stassen, 2003)
By 2004, 54% of
IMAX theaters (133 of 248) were capable of showing 3D
Shortly thereafter, higher quality computer animation, competition
from DVDs and other media, digital projection, digital video capture,
and the use of sophisticated
IMAX 70mm film projectors, created an
opportunity for another wave of 3D films.
Mainstream resurgence (2003–present)
Ghosts of the Abyss
Ghosts of the Abyss by
James Cameron was released as the
first full-length 3D
IMAX feature filmed with the Reality Camera
System. This camera system used the latest HD video cameras, not film,
and was built for Cameron by Vince Pace, to his specifications. The
same camera system was used to film Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003),
Aliens of the Deep
IMAX (2005), and The Adventures of Sharkboy and
Lavagirl in 3-D (2005).
In 2004, Las Vegas Hilton released Star Trek: The Experience which
included two films. One of the films,
Borg Invasion 4-D
Borg Invasion 4-D (Ty
Granoroli), was in 3D. In August of the same year, rap group Insane
Clown Posse released their ninth studio album Hell's Pit. One of two
versions of the album contained a DVD featuring a 3D short film for
the track "Bowling Balls", shot in high-definition video.
Shooting of the film
Hidden Universe 3D
Hidden Universe 3D with
In November 2004,
The Polar Express
The Polar Express was released as IMAX's first
full-length, animated 3D feature. It was released in 3,584 theaters in
2D, and only 66
IMAX locations. The return from those few 3D theaters
was about 25% of the total. The 3D version earned about 14 times as
much per screen as the 2D version. This pattern continued and prompted
a greatly intensified interest in 3D and 3D presentation of animated
In June 2005, the Mann's Chinese 6 theatre in Hollywood became the
first commercial film theatre to be equipped with the Digital 3D
Singin' in the Rain
Singin' in the Rain and
The Polar Express
The Polar Express were tested in
Digital 3D format over the course of several months. In November
Disney Studio Entertainment released Chicken Little in
digital 3D format.
The Butler's in Love, a short film directed by
David Arquette and
Elizabeth Berkley and Thomas Jane was released on June
23, 2008. The film was shot at the former Industrial Light & Magic
studios using KernerFX's prototype Kernercam stereoscopic camera rig.
Ben Walters suggests that both filmmakers and film exhibitors regain
interest in 3D film. There is now more 3D exhibition equipment, and
more dramatic films being shot in 3D format. One incentive is that the
technology is more mature. Shooting in 3D format is less limited, and
the result is more stable. Another incentive is the fact that while 2D
ticket sales are in an overall state of decline, revenues from 3D
tickets continue to grow.
Through the entire history of 3D presentations, techniques to convert
existing 2D images for 3D presentation have existed. Few have been
effective or survived. The combination of digital and digitized source
material with relatively cost-effective digital post-processing has
spawned a new wave of conversion products. In June 2006,
Warner Bros. released
Superman Returns including 20 minutes of 3D
images converted from the 2D original digital footage. George Lucas
announced that he would re-release his
Star Wars films in 3D based on
a conversion process from the company In-Three. Later on in 2011, it
was announced that Lucas was working with the company Prime Focus on
In late 2005,
Steven Spielberg told the press he was involved in
patenting a 3D cinema system that does not need glasses, and which is
based on plasma screens. A computer splits each film-frame, and then
projects the two split images onto the screen at differing angles, to
be picked up by tiny angled ridges on the screen.
Animated films Open Season, and The Ant Bully, were released in analog
3D in 2006. Monster House and
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas were
released on XpanD 3D,
Dolby 3D systems in 2006.
On May 19, 2007 Scar3D opened at the Cannes
Film Market. It was the
first US-produced 3D full-length feature film to be completed in Real
D 3D. It has been the #1 film at the box office in several countries
around the world, including Russia where it opened in 3D on 295
On January 19, 2008,
U2 3D was released; it was the first live-action
digital 3D film. In the same year others 3D films included Hannah
Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, Journey to the
Center of the Earth, and Bolt.
On January 16, 2009,
Lionsgate released My Bloody Valentine 3D, the
first horror film and first R-rated film to be projected in Real D
3D. It was released to 1,033 3D screens, the most ever for this
format, and 1,501 regular screens. Another R-rated film, The Final
Destination, was released later that year in August on even more
screens. It was the first of its series to be released in HD 3D.
Major 3D films in 2009 included Coraline, Monsters vs. Aliens, Up, X
Games 3D: The Movie, The Final Destination, Disney's A Christmas
Carol, and Avatar. Avatar has gone on to be one of the most
expensive films of all time, with a budget at $237 million; it is also
the highest-grossing film of all time. The main technologies used to
exhibit these films, and many others released around the time and up
to the present, are Real D 3D, Dolby 3D, XpanD 3D, MasterImage 3D, and
March and April 2010 saw three major 3D releases clustered together,
with Alice in Wonderland hitting US theaters on March 5, 2010, How to
Train Your Dragon on March 26, 2010, and Clash of the Titans on April
2, 2010. On May 13 of the same year, China's first
IMAX 3D film
started shooting. The pre-production of the first
3D film shot in
France, Derrière les murs, began in May 2010 and was released in
On October 1, 2010 Scar3D was the first-ever stereoscopic 3D
Video-on-demand film released through major cable broadcasters for 3D
televisions in the United States. Released in the United States on May
Shrek Forever After
Shrek Forever After by
DreamWorks Animation (Paramount
Pictures) used the Real D 3D system, also released in
World 3-D Expositions
In September 2003, Sabucat Productions organized the first World 3-D
Exposition, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the original craze.
The Expo was held at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre. During the two-week
festival, over 30 of the 50 "golden era" stereoscopic features (as
well as shorts) were screened, many coming from the collection of film
historian and archivist Robert Furmanek, who had spent the previous 15
years painstakingly tracking down and preserving each film to its
original glory. In attendance were many stars from each film,
respectively, and some were moved to tears by the sold-out seating
with audiences of film buffs from all over the world who came to
remember their previous glories.
In May 2006, the second World 3-D Exposition was announced for
September of that year, presented by the 3-D
Film Preservation Fund.
Along with the favorites of the previous exposition were newly
discovered features and shorts, and like the previous Expo, guests
from each film. Expo II was announced as being the locale for the
world premiere of several films never before seen in 3D, including The
Diamond Wizard and the Universal short, Hawaiian Nights with Mamie Van
Doren and Pinky Lee. Other "re-premieres" of films not seen since
their original release in stereoscopic form included Cease Fire!,
Taza, Son of Cochise, Wings of the Hawk, and Those Redheads From
Seattle. Also shown were the long-lost shorts Carmenesque and A Day in
the Country (both 1953) and William Van Doren Kelley's two Plasticon
shorts (1922 and 1923).
Reported audience decline
In the wake of its initial popularity and corresponding increase in
the number of screens, more films are being released in the 3D format.
For instance, only 45% of the premiere weekend box office earnings of
Kung Fu Panda 2
Kung Fu Panda 2 came from 3D screenings as opposed to 60% for Shrek
Forever After in 2010. In addition, the premiere of
Cars 2 opening
weekend gross consisted of only 37% from 3D theatres. Harry Potter
and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 and Captain America: The First
Avenger were major releases that achieved similar percentages: 43% and
40% respectively. In view of this trend, there has been box office
analysis concluding the implementation of 3D presentation is
apparently backfiring by discouraging people from going to film
theatres at all. As Brandon Gray of
Box Office Mojo
Box Office Mojo notes, "In each
case, 3D's more-money-from-fewer-people approach has simply led to
less money from even fewer people."
According to the Motion Picture Association of America, despite a
record total of 47 3D films being released in 2011, the overall
domestic box office receipts were down 18% to $1.8 billion from $2.2
billion in 2010. Although revenues as a whole increased during
2012, the bulk has so far come from 2D presentations as exemplified by
little over 50% of filmgoers opting to see the likes of The Avengers
and 32% choosing Brave in their 3D versions. Conflicting reasons are
respectively offered by studios and exhibitors: whereas the former
blame more expensive 3D ticket prices, the latter argue that the
quality of films in general is at fault. However, despite the
perceived decline of 3D in the U.S. market, studio chiefs are
optimistic of better receipts internationally, where there still
appears to be a strong appetite for the format.
Studios are also using 3D to generate additional income from films
that are already commercially successful. Such re-releases usually
involve a conversion from 2D. For example,
Disney has reissued both
The Lion King
The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, with plans to add some of its
other well-known titles. Titanic has also been modified for
3D, and there are also plans to similarly present all six Star
Jeffrey Katzenberg, a producer of 3D films and one of the leading
proponents of the format, blames oversaturation of the market with
inferior films, especially ones photographed conventionally and then
digitally processed in post-production. He claims that such films have
led audiences to conclude that the format is not worth the often much
higher ticket price. Daniel Engber, a columnist for Slate, comes
to a similar conclusion: "What happened to 3-D? It may have died from
a case of acute septicemia—too much crap in the system."
However, at the global box office there are six films whose combined
2D and 3D versions achieved grosses of over $1 billion each: three in
2011, two in 2010 and one in 2009.
Film critic Mark Kermode, a noted detractor of 3D, has surmised that
there is an emerging policy of distributors to limit the availability
of 2D versions, thus "railroading" the 3D format into cinemas whether
the paying filmgoer likes it or not. This was especially prevalent
during the release of Prometheus in 2012, where only 30% of prints for
theatrical exhibition (at least in the UK) were in 2D. His
suspicions were later reinforced by a substantial number of complaints
Dredd from those who wished to see it in 2D but were denied the
opportunity. In July 2017,
IMAX announced that they will begin to
focus on screening more Hollywood tentpole movies in 2D (even if
there's a 3D version) and have fewer 3D screenings of movies in North
America, citing that moviegoers in North America prefer 2D films over
See also: Stereoscopy
Stereoscopic motion pictures can be produced through a variety of
different methods. Over the years the popularity of systems being
widely employed in film theaters has waxed and waned. Though anaglyph
was sometimes used prior to 1948, during the early "Golden Era" of 3D
cinematography of the 1950s the polarization system was used for every
single feature-length film in the United States, and all but one short
film. In the 21st century, polarization 3D systems have continued
to dominate the scene, though during the 1960s and 1970s some classic
films which were converted to anaglyph for theaters not equipped for
polarization, and were even shown in 3D on television. In the
years following the mid-1980s, some films were made with short
segments in anaglyph 3D. The following are some of the technical
details and methodologies employed in some of the more notable 3D film
systems that have been developed.
Producing 3D films
Main article: Stereo photography techniques
The standard for shooting live-action films in 3D involves using two
cameras mounted so that their lenses are about as far apart from each
other as the average pair of human eyes, recording two separate images
for both the left eye and the right eye. In principle, two normal 2D
cameras could be put side-to-side but this is problematic in many
ways. The only real option is to invest in new stereoscopic cameras.
Moreover, some cinematographic tricks that are simple with a 2D camera
become impossible when filming in 3D. This means those otherwise cheap
tricks need to be replaced by expensive CGI.
In 2008, Journey to the Center of the Earth became the first
live-action feature film to be shot with the earliest Fusion Camera
System released in
Digital 3D and was later followed by several
others. Avatar (2009) was shot in a 3D process that is based on how
the human eye looks at an image. It was an improvement to the existing
3D camera system. Many 3D camera rigs still in use simply pair two
cameras side by side, while newer rigs are paired with a beam splitter
or both camera lenses built into one unit. While Digital Cinema
cameras are not a requirement for 3D they are the predominant medium
for most of what is photographed.
Film options include
IMAX 3D and
In the 1930s and 1940s Fleischer Studio made several cartoons with
extensive stereoscopic 3D backgrounds, including several Popeye, Betty
Boop, and Superman cartoons.
In the early to mid-1950s, only half of the major
studios operation experimented with creating traditional 3D animated
short subjects. Walt
Disney Studio produced two traditional animation
short for stereoscopic 3D, for cinemas. Adventures in Music: Melody
(1952), and the
Donald Duck cartoon
Working for Peanuts
Working for Peanuts (1953). Warner
Brothers only produced a single cartoon in 3D: Lumber Jack-Rabbit
(1953) starring Bugs Bunny.
Famous Studio produced two cartoons in 3D,
Popeye, the Ace of Space
Popeye, the Ace of Space (1953), and the Casper the
Friendly Ghost cartoon
Boo Moon (1954).
Walter Lantz Studio
Walter Lantz Studio produced
Woody Woodpecker cartoon
Hypnotic Hick (1953), which was
distributed by Universal.
From the late 1950s until the mid-2000s almost no animation was
3D display in theaters. Although several films used 3D
backgrounds. One exception is Starchaser: The Legend of Orin.
CGI animated films can be rendered as stereoscopic 3D version by using
two virtual cameras. Stop-motion animated 3D films are photographed
with two cameras similar to live action 3D films.
The Polar Express
The Polar Express was the first stereoscopic 3D
computer-animated feature film. The 3D version was solely release in
Imax theaters. In November 2005, Walt
Disney Studio Entertainment
released Chicken Little in digital 3D format, being Disney's first
CGI-animated film in 3D. The film was converted from 2D into 3D in
post production. nWave Pictures' Fly Me To The Moon 3D (2008) was
actually the first animated film created for 3D and released
exclusively in 3D in digital theaters around the world. No other
animation films have released solely in 3D since. The first 3D feature
by DreamWorks Animation, Monsters vs Aliens, followed in 2009 and used
a new digital rendering process called InTru3D, which was developed by
Intel to create more realistic animated 3D images.
InTru3D is not used
to exhibit 3D films in theaters; they are shown in either
RealD 3D or
2D to 3D conversion
Main article: 2D to 3D conversion
In the case of 2D CGI animated films that were generated from 3D
models, it is possible to return to the models to generate a 3D
For all other 2D films, different techniques must be employed. For
example, for the 3D re-release of the 1993 film The Nightmare Before
Disney Pictures scanned each original frame and
manipulated them to produce left-eye and right-eye versions. Dozens of
films have now been converted from 2D to 3D. There are several
approaches used for 2D to 3D conversion, most notably depth-based
However, conversion to 3D has problems. Information is unavailable as
2D doesn't have information for a perspective view. Some TVs have a 3D
engine to convert 2D content to 3D. Usually, on high frame rate
content (and on some slower processors even normal frame rate) the
processor isn't fast enough and lag is possible. This can lead to
strange visual effects.
Displaying 3D films
3D television and 3D Display
Main article: Anaglyph 3D
The archetypal 3D glasses, with modern red and cyan color filters,
similar to the red/green and red/blue lenses used to view early
Anaglyph images were the earliest method of presenting theatrical 3D,
and the one most commonly associated with stereoscopy by the public at
large, mostly because of non-theatrical 3D media such as comic books
3D television broadcasts, where polarization is not practical.
They were made popular because of the ease of their production and
exhibition. The first anaglyph film was invented in 1915 by Edwin S
Porter. Though the earliest theatrical presentations were done with
this system, most 3D films from the 1950s and 1980s were originally
In an anaglyph, the two images are superimposed in an additive light
setting through two filters, one red and one cyan. In a subtractive
light setting, the two images are printed in the same complementary
colors on white paper. Glasses with colored filters in each eye
separate the appropriate images by canceling the filter color out and
rendering the complementary color black.
Anaglyph images are much easier to view than either parallel sighting
or crossed eye stereograms, although the latter types offer bright and
accurate color rendering, particularly in the red component, which is
muted, or desaturated with even the best color anaglyphs. A
compensating technique, commonly known as Anachrome, uses a slightly
more transparent cyan filter in the patented glasses associated with
the technique. Process reconfigures the typical anaglyph image to have
An alternative to the usual red and cyan filter system of anaglyph is
ColorCode 3-D, a patented anaglyph system which was invented in order
to present an anaglyph image in conjunction with the NTSC television
standard, in which the red channel is often compromised. ColorCode
uses the complementary colors of yellow and dark blue on-screen, and
the colors of the glasses' lenses are amber and dark blue.
The polarization 3D system has been the standard for theatrical
presentations since it was used for
Bwana Devil in 1952, though
early Imax presentations were done using the eclipse system and in the
1960s and 1970s classic 3D films were sometimes converted to anaglyph
for special presentations. The polarization system has better color
fidelity and less ghosting than the anaglyph system. In the post-'50s
era, anaglyph has been used instead of polarization in feature
presentations where only part of the film is in 3D such as in the 3D
segment of Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare and the 3D segments of
Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.
Anaglyph is also used in printed materials and in 3D television
broadcasts where polarization is not practical. 3D polarized
televisions and other displays only became available from several
manufacturers in 2008; these generate polarization on the receiving
cardboard 3D linear polarized glasses from the 1980s similar to those
used in the 1950s. Though some were plain white, they often had the
name of the theatre and/or graphics from the film
Main article: Polarized 3D system
To present a stereoscopic motion picture, two images are projected
superimposed onto the same screen through different polarizing
filters. The viewer wears low-cost eyeglasses which also contain a
pair of polarizing filters oriented differently
(clockwise/counterclockwise with circular polarization or at 90 degree
angles, usually 45 and 135 degrees, with linear polarization). As
each filter passes only that light which is similarly polarized and
blocks the light polarized differently, each eye sees a different
image. This is used to produce a three-dimensional effect by
projecting the same scene into both eyes, but depicted from slightly
different perspectives. Since no head tracking is involved, the entire
audience can view the stereoscopic images at the same time.
Additionally, since both lenses have the same color, people with one
dominant eye (amblyopia), where one eye is used more, are able to see
the 3D effect, previously negated by the separation of the two colors.
RealD circular polarized glasses are now the
standard for theatrical releases and theme park attractions.
Circular polarization has an advantage over linear polarization, in
that the viewer does not need to have their head upright and aligned
with the screen for the polarization to work properly. With linear
polarization, turning the glasses sideways causes the filters to go
out of alignment with the screen filters causing the image to fade and
for each eye to see the opposite frame more easily. For circular
polarization, the polarizing effect works regardless of how the
viewer's head is aligned with the screen such as tilted sideways, or
even upside down. The left eye will still only see the image intended
for it, and vice versa, without fading or crosstalk. Nonetheless, 3D
cinema films are made to be viewed without head tilt, and any
significant head tilt will result in incorrect parallax and prevent
In the case of
RealD a circularly polarizing liquid crystal filter
which can switch polarity 144 times per second is placed in front of
the projector lens. Only one projector is needed, as the left and
right eye images are displayed alternately.
Sony features a new system
RealD XLS, which shows both circular polarized images
simultaneously: A single 4K projector (4096×2160 resolution) displays
both 2K images (2048×1080 resolution) on top of each other at the
same time, a special lens attachment polarizes and projects the
Optical attachments can be added to traditional 35mm projectors to
adapt them for projecting film in the "over-and-under" format, in
which each pair of images is stacked within one frame of film. The two
images are projected through different polarizers and superimposed on
the screen. This is a very cost-effective way to convert a theater for
3-D as all that is needed are the attachments and a non-depolarizing
screen surface, rather than a conversion to digital 3-D projection.
Technicolor currently produces an adapter of this type. A
metallic screen is necessary for these systems as reflection from
non-metallic surfaces destroys the polarization of the light.
Polarized stereoscopic pictures have been around since 1936, when
Edwin H. Land first applied it to motion pictures. The so-called "3-D
movie craze" in the years 1952 through 1955 was almost entirely
offered in theaters using linear polarizing projection and glasses.
Only a minute amount of the total 3D films shown in the period used
the anaglyph color filter method. Linear polarization was likewise
used with consumer level stereo projectors. Polarization was also used
during the 3D revival of the 1980s.
In the 2000s, computer animation, competition from DVDs and other
media, digital projection, and the use of sophisticated
IMAX 70mm film
projectors, have created an opportunity for a new wave of polarized 3D
All types of polarization will result in a darkening of the displayed
image and poorer contrast compared to non-3D images. Light from lamps
is normally emitted as a random collection of polarizations, while a
polarization filter only passes a fraction of the light. As a result,
the screen image is darker. This darkening can be compensated by
increasing the brightness of the projector light source. If the
initial polarization filter is inserted between the lamp and the image
generation element, the light intensity striking the image element is
not any higher than normal without the polarizing filter, and overall
image contrast transmitted to the screen is not affected.
A pair of
LCD shutter glasses
LCD shutter glasses used to view
XpanD 3D films. The thick
frames conceal the electronics and batteries.
Main article: Active shutter 3D system
In this technology, a mechanism is used to block light from each
appropriate eye when the converse eye's image is projected on the
The technology originated with the Eclipse Method, in which the
projector alternates between left and right images, and opens and
closes the shutters in the glasses or viewer in synchronization with
the images on the screen. This was the basis of the
Teleview system which was used briefly in 1922.
A newer implementation of the Eclipse Method came with LCD shutter
glasses. Glasses containing liquid crystal that will let light through
in synchronization with the images on the cinema, television or
computer screen, using the concept of alternate-frame sequencing. This
is the method used by nVidia, XpanD 3D, and earlier
IMAX systems. A
drawback of this method is the need for each person viewing to wear
expensive, electronic glasses that must be synchronized with the
display system using a wireless signal or attached wire. The
shutter-glasses are heavier than most polarized glasses, though
lighter models are no heavier than some sunglasses or deluxe polarized
glasses. However these systems do not require a silver screen for
Liquid crystal light valves work by rotating light between two
polarizing filters. Due to these internal polarizers, LCD
shutter-glasses darken the display image of any LCD, plasma, or
projector image source, which has the result that images appear dimmer
and contrast is lower than for normal non-3D viewing. This is not
necessarily a usage problem; for some types of displays which are
already very bright with poor grayish black levels, LCD shutter
glasses may actually improve the image quality.
Interference filter technology
Anaglyph 3D § Interference filter systems
Dolby 3D uses specific wavelengths of red, green, and blue for the
right eye, and different wavelengths of red, green, and blue for the
left eye. Eyeglasses which filter out the very specific wavelengths
allow the wearer to see a 3D image. This technology eliminates the
expensive silver screens required for polarized systems such as RealD,
which is the most common
3D display system in theaters. It does,
however, require much more expensive glasses than the polarized
systems. It is also known as spectral comb filtering or wavelength
The recently introduced Omega 3D/
Panavision 3D system also uses this
technology, though with a wider spectrum and more "teeth" to the
"comb" (5 for each eye in the Omega/Panavision system). The use of
more spectral bands per eye eliminates the need to color process the
image, required by the Dolby system. Evenly dividing the visible
spectrum between the eyes gives the viewer a more relaxed "feel" as
the light energy and color balance is nearly 50-50. Like the Dolby
system, the Omega system can be used with white or silver screens. But
it can be used with either film or digital projectors, unlike the
Dolby filters that are only used on a digital system with a color
correcting processor provided by Dolby. The Omega/Panavision system
also claims that their glasses are cheaper to manufacture than those
used by Dolby. In June 2012 the Omega 3D/
Panavision 3D system was
discontinued by DPVO Theatrical, who marketed it on behalf of
Panavision, citing "challenging global economic and 3D market
conditions". Although DPVO dissolved its business operations,
Omega Optical continues promoting and selling 3D systems to
non-theatrical markets. Omega Optical's 3D system contains projection
filters and 3D glasses. In addition to the passive stereoscopic 3D
system, Omega Optical has produced enhanced anaglyph 3D glasses. The
Omega's red/cyan anaglyph glasses use complex metal oxide thin film
coatings and high quality annealed glass optics.
Main article: Autostereoscopy
In this method, glasses are not necessary to see the stereoscopic
Lenticular lens and parallax barrier technologies involve
imposing two (or more) images on the same sheet, in narrow,
alternating strips, and using a screen that either blocks one of the
two images' strips (in the case of parallax barriers) or uses equally
narrow lenses to bend the strips of image and make it appear to fill
the entire image (in the case of lenticular prints). To produce the
stereoscopic effect, the person must be positioned so that one eye
sees one of the two images and the other sees the other.
Both images are projected onto a high-gain, corrugated screen which
reflects light at acute angles. In order to see the stereoscopic
image, the viewer must sit within a very narrow angle that is nearly
perpendicular to the screen, limiting the size of the audience.
Lenticular was used for theatrical presentation of numerous shorts in
Russia from 1940–1948 and in 1946 for the feature-length film
Though its use in theatrical presentations has been rather limited,
lenticular has been widely used for a variety of novelty items and has
even been used in amateur 3D photography. Recent use includes
Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D
Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D with an autostereoscopic display that was
released in 2009. Other examples for this technology include
autostereoscopic LCD displays on monitors, notebooks, TVs, mobile
phones and gaming devices, such as the Nintendo 3DS.
Some viewers have complained of headaches and eyestrain after watching
3D films. Motion sickness, in addition to other health
concerns, are more easily induced by 3D presentations. One
published study shows that of those who watch 3D films, nearly 55%
experience varying levels of headaches, nausea and disorientation.
There are two primary effects of
3D film that are unnatural for human
vision: crosstalk between the eyes, caused by imperfect image
separation, and the mismatch between convergence and accommodation,
caused by the difference between an object's perceived position in
front of or behind the screen and the real origin of that light on the
It is believed that approximately 12% of people are unable to properly
see 3D images, due to a variety of medical conditions.
According to another experiment up to 30% of people have very weak
stereoscopic vision preventing them from depth perception based on
stereo disparity. This nullifies or greatly decreases immersion
effects of digital stereo to them.
It has recently been discovered that each of the rods and cones in
animal eyes can measure the distance to the point on the object that
is in focus at the particular rod or cone. Each rod or cone can act as
a passive LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging). The lens selects the
point on the object for each pixel to which the distance is measured;
that is, humans can see in 3D separately with each eye. If the
brain uses this ability in addition to the stereoscopic effect and
other cues no stereoscopic system can present a true 3D picture to the
The French National Research Agency (ANR) has sponsored
multidisciplinary research in order to understand the effects of 3D
film viewing, its grammar, and its acceptance.
After Toy Story, there were 10 really bad CG movies because everybody
thought the success of that film was CG and not great characters that
were beautifully designed and heartwarming. Now, you've got people
quickly converting movies from 2D to 3D, which is not what we did.
They're expecting the same result, when in fact they will probably
work against the adoption of 3D because they'll be putting out an
— Avatar director James Cameron
Most of the cues required to provide humans with relative depth
information are already present in traditional 2D films. For example,
closer objects occlude further ones, distant objects are desaturated
and hazy relative to near ones, and the brain subconsciously "knows"
the distance of many objects when the height is known (e.g. a human
figure subtending only a small amount of the screen is more likely to
be 2 m tall and far away than 10 cm tall and close). In
fact, only two of these depth cues are not already present in 2D
films: stereopsis (or parallax) and the focus of the eyeball
3D film-making addresses accurate presentation of stereopsis but not
of accommodation, and therefore is insufficient in providing a
complete 3D illusion. However, promising results from research aimed
at overcoming this shortcoming were presented at the 2010 Stereoscopic
Displays and Applications conference in San Jose, U.S.
Film critic Mark Kermode argued that 3D adds "not that much" value
to a film, and said that, while he liked Avatar, the many impressive
things he saw in the film had nothing to do with 3D. Kermode has been
an outspoken critic of
3D film describing the effect as a "nonsense"
and recommends using two right or left lenses from the 3D glasses to
cut out the "pointy, pointy 3D stereoscopic vision", although this
technique still does not improve the huge brightness loss from a 3D
film. Versions of these "2-D glasses" are being marketed.
As pointed out in the article "Virtual Space – the movies of the
future"[not in citation given] in real life the 3D effect, or
stereoscopic vision, depends on the distance between the eyes, which
is only about 2 1/2 inches. The depth perception this affords is only
noticeable near to the head – at about arms length. It is only
useful for such tasks as threading a needle. It follows that in films
portraying real life, where nothing is ever shown so close to the
camera, the 3D effect is not noticeable and is soon forgotten as the
Christopher Nolan has criticised the notion that traditional
film does not allow depth perception, saying "I think it's a misnomer
to call it 3D versus 2D. The whole point of cinematic imagery is it's
three dimensional... You know 95% of our depth cues come from
occlusion, resolution, color and so forth, so the idea of calling a 2D
movie a '2D movie' is a little misleading." Nolan also criticised
that shooting on the required digital video does not offer a high
enough quality image and that 3D cameras cannot be equipped with
prime (non-zoom) lenses.
Late film critic
Roger Ebert repeatedly criticized
3D film as being
"too dim", sometimes distracting or even nausea-inducing, and argued
that it is an expensive technology that adds nothing of value to the
film-going experience (since 2-D films already provide a sufficient
illusion of 3D). While Ebert was "not opposed to 3-D as an
option", he opposed it as a replacement for traditional film, and
preferred 2-D technologies such as
MaxiVision48 that improve image
area/resolution and frames per second.
Most 3D systems will cut down the brightness of the picture
considerably – the light loss can be as high as 88%. Some of this
loss may be compensated by running the projector's bulb at higher
power or using more powerful bulbs.
The 2D brightness cinema standard is 14 foot-lamberts (48 candela per
square metre), as set by the SMPTE standard 196M. As of 2012[update],
there is no official standard for 3D brightness. According to the
industry de facto standard, however, the "acceptable brightness range"
goes as low as 3.5 fL (12 cd/m2) – just 25% of the
standard 2D brightness.
Christopher Nolan has criticized the huge brightness
loss: "You're not that aware of it because once you're 'in that
world,' your eye compensates, but having struggled for years to get
theaters up to the proper brightness, we're not sticking polarized
filters in everything."
In September 2012, the DCI standards body issued a "recommended
practice" calling for a 3D projection brightness of 7 fL
(24 cd/m2), with an acceptable range of 5–9 fL
(17–31 cd/m2). It is not known how many theaters actually
achieve such light levels with current technology. Prototype laser
projection systems have reached 14 fL (48 cd/m2) for 3D on a
Main article: 2D to 3D conversion
Another major criticism is that many of the films in the 21st century
to date were not filmed in 3D, but converted into 3-D after filming.
Filmmakers who have criticized the quality of this process include
James Cameron (whose film Avatar was created mostly in 3D from the
ground up, with some portions of the film created in 2D, and is
largely credited with the revival of 3D) and Michael Bay. However,
Cameron has said that quality 2D to 3D conversions can be done if they
take the time they need and the director is involved.
In contrast, computer-animated films for which the original computer
models are still available can be rendered in 3D easily, as the depth
information is still available and does not need to be inferred or
approximated. This has been done with Toy Story, among others.
List of 3D films
Blu-ray 3D releases
2D to 3D conversion
Film Preservation Fund
Stereoscopic video game
Disney Digital 3-D
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Kinetic depth effect
Active shutter 3D system
Polarized 3D system
Virtual retinal display
2D to 3D conversion
2D plus Delta
Computer stereo vision
Multiview Video Coding
Stereo photography techniques
Stereoscopic depth rendition
Stereoscopic Video Coding
3D-enabled mobile phones
Stereoscopic video game
Virtual reality headset
Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D
Nvidia 3D Vision
Sharp Actius RD3D
International Stereoscopic Union
Stereoscopic Displays and Applications
Hong Kong action
Commedia sexy all'italiana
Mo lei tau
Commedia sexy all'italiana
Exploitation film template
New French Extremity
New French Extremity
Cinema of Transgression
New French Extremity
Food and drink
Girls with guns
Mouth of Garbage
Rape and revenge
Commedia sexy all'italiana
Mexican sex comedy
Slice of life
Sword and sorcery
Australian New Wave
British New Wave
Kitchen sink realism
Cinéma du look
Cinema of Transgression
European art cinema
French New Wave
German underground horror
Nigerian Golden Age
Grupo Cine Liberación
Hollywood on the Tiber
Hong Kong New Wave
Iranian New Wave
Japanese New Wave
New French Extremity
Nuevo Cine Mexicano
Praška filmska škola
Romanian New Wave
Kitchen sink realism
Yugoslav Black Wave
Classical Hollywood cinema
Film à clef