A 3-D film or S3D film[1] is a motion picture processed to include the illusion of depth perception. Derived from stereoscopic photography, a specifically designed motion picture camera is used to record the subject from two perspectives and hardware is setup to playback the video and its illusion of space using unique displays and/or eyewear. 3-D films are not limited to feature film theatrical releases; Television broadcasts and direct-to-video films have also used incorporated similar methods to draw attention to their content.

3-D films have existed in some form in since 1890 but largely relegated to a niche in the motion picture industry because of the costly hardware and processes required to produce and playback a 3-D film and the lack of a stereoscopic format for all levels the entertainment business. Nonetheless, 3-D films were prominently featured in the 1950s and 1980s in American cinema and currently experiencing a resurgence at the start of 21st century coinciding with the development of computer-generated imagery and introduction of high-definition video standards.


Stereoscopic motion pictures can be produced through a variety of different methods. Over the years the popularity of various systems being widely employed in movie theaters has waxed and waned. Though anaglyph was sometimes used prior to 1948, during the early "Golden Era" of 3-D cinematography of the 1950s the polarization system was used for every single feature length movie in the United states, and all but one short film[2]. In the 21st century, polarization 3-D systems have continued to dominate the scene though during the 60s and 70s some classic films which were converted to anaglyph for theaters not equipped for polarization and were even shown in 3D on TV[3]! In the years following the 90s some movies were made with short segments in anaglyph 3D. Following are some of the technical details and methodologies employed in some of the more notable 3-D movie systems that have been developed:


Anaglyph images were the earliest method of presenting theatrical 3-D and the one 3-D method most commonly associated with stereoscopy by the public at large, mostly because of non theatrical 3D media such as comic books and 3D TV where polarization doesn't work. They were made popular because of the ease of their production and exhibition. Though the earliest theatrical presentations were done with this system, most 3D movies from the 50s and 80s were originally shown polarized.[4]

In an anaglyph, the two images are either 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 either 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 less parallax.

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, to 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. Another alternative is TrioScopics 3-D, which uses the complementary colors of green and magenta.

The anaglyph 3-D system was the earliest system used in theatrical presentations and requires less specialized hardware, but the polarization 3-D system has been the standard for theatrical presentations since it was used for Bwana Devil in 1952[4], though early Imax presentations were done using the eclipse system and in the 60s and 70s classic 3D movies 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 movie is in 3D such as in the 3D segment of Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare and the 3D segments of Spy Kids 3D: Game Over.

Eclipse methodEdit

With the eclipse method, a mechanical shutter blocks light from each appropriate eye when the converse eye's image is projected on the screen. 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.[5]

A variation on the eclipse method is used in LCD shutter glasses. Glasses containing liquid crystal that will let light through in synchronization with the images on the computer display or TV, using the concept of alternate-frame sequencing. This is the method used by XpanD

Lenticular or barrier screensEdit

In this method, glasses are not necessary to see the stereoscopic image.

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[3] and in 1954 for the feature length films Crystal, Machine 22-12 and The Pencil on Ice.[6]

Though it's 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![7][8]

Interference Filter Technology Edit

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.

Pulfrich Edit

The Pulfrich effect is based on the phenomenon of the human eye processing images more slowly when there is less light, as when looking through a dark lens.

Imagine a camera which starts at position X and moves left to right to position Y as shown by the arrow. If a viewer watches this segment with a dark lens over the left eye, then when the right eye sees the image recorded when the camera is at Y, the left eye will be a few milliseconds behind and will still be seeing the image recorded at X, thus creating the necessary parallax to generate right and left eye views and 3D perception, much the same as when still pictures are generated by shifting a single camera. The intensity of this effect will depend on how fast the camera is moving relative to the distance to the objects, greater speed creates greater parallax. A similar effect can be achieved by using a stationary camera and continuously rotating an otherwise stationary object. If the movement stops, the eye looking through the dark lens (which could be either eye depending on the direction the camera is moving) will "catch up" and the effect will disappear.

Of course, incidental movement of objects will create spurious artifacts, and these incidental effects will be seen as artificial depth not related to actual depth in the scene. Unfortunately, many of the applications of pulfrich involve deliberately causing just this sort of effect and this has given the technique a bad reputation. When the only movement is lateral movement of the camera then the effect is as real as any other form of stereoscopy, but this seldom happens except in highly contrived situations.

Though pulfrich as has been used often on TV and in computer games, it is rarely if ever used in theatrical presentations.

Pseudo-stereoscopic systems Edit

Alternative systems, such as Chromadepth exist, but fall under the realm of "pseudo-stereoscopic" in that two, separate records are not recorded or projected.

Systems without glasses Edit

Several other less popular 3-D systems exist which also do not require the use of special viewing glasses. These systems are referred to as Autostereoscopic displays.

Polarization systems Edit

In stereoscopy, two forms of polarization filters are used: linearly polarized glasses and circularly polarized glasses (see the relevant sections in 3D glasses for further reading.)

With linear polarization, in order to present a stereoscopic motion picture, two images are projected superimposed onto the same screen through orthogonal (at 90 degree angles of each other) polarizing filters. A specially constructed non-depolarizing silver screen surface is required to preserve the polarization and compensate for light loss since both the glasses and the polarizers cut down the light. The projectors can receive their outputs from a computer with a dual-head graphics card. The viewer wears low-cost eyeglasses which also contain a pair of orthogonal polarizing filters. As each filter only passes light which is similarly polarized and blocks the orthogonally polarized light, each eye only sees one of the images, and the effect is achieved. Linearly polarized glasses require the viewer to keep his or her head level, as tilting of the viewing filters will cause the images of the left and right channels to bleed over to the opposite channel. This is generally not a problem as viewers learn very quickly not to tilt their heads. In addition, since no head tracking is involved, several people can view the stereoscopic images at the same time.

In using circular polarization, two images are projected superimposed onto the same screen through circular polarizing filters of opposite handedness. The viewer wears low-cost eyeglasses which contain a pair of analyzing filters (circular polarizers mounted in reverse) of opposite handedness. Light that is left-circularly polarized is extinguished by the right-handed analyzer; while right-circularly polarized light is extinguished by the left-handed analyzer. The result is similar to that of stereoscopic viewing using linearly polarized glasses; except the viewer can tilt his or her head and still maintain left/right separation. This can lead to eye strain because tilting the head causes vertical misalignment. This system also has slightly more ghosting than linear polarization. In the case of RealD a circularly polarizing liquid crystal filter which can switch polarity many times per second is placed on front of the projector lens. Only one projector is needed, as the left and right eye images are displayed alternately.

Due to recent advances in polarization related technologies, polarization 3-D systems are likely to remain the most popular 3-D systems for movies in the 21st century.[9]


Early patents and testsEdit

The stereoscopic era of motion pictures began in the late 1890s when British film pioneer William Friese-Greene filed a patent for a 3-D movie 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.[10]

Frederick Eugene Ives patented his stereo camera rig in 1900. The camera had two lenses coupled together 1 3/4 inches apart.[11]

On June 10, 1915, 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 released by Famous Players-Lasky that year, but not in 3-D), Oriental dancers, and a reel of footage of Niagara Falls.[12] However, according to 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)Edit

The earliest confirmed 3-D film shown to a paying audience was The Power of Love, which premiered at the Ambassador Hotel Theater in Los Angeles on September 27, 1922.[13][14][15] The camera rig was a product of the film's producer, Harry K. Fairall, and cinematographer Robert F. Elder.[10] 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.[16] Whether Fairall used colored filters on the projection ports or whether he used tinted prints is unknown, but it is the first documented instance of dual-strip projection. 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 considered lost.

Early in December 1922, William Van Doren Kelley, inventor of the Prizma color system, cashed in on the growing interest in 3-D 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 .[17]

Kelley, who was an early producer of color films, used Prizma to print his anaglyph films. In early 1923, he shopped around a second Plasticon entitled Through the Trees - Washington D.C., shot by William T. Crespinel, which consisted of stereoscopic views of Washington, D.C., but found no buyers.[17]

Also in December 1922, Laurens Hammond (later inventor of the Hammond organ) and William F. Cassidy unveiled their Teleview system. Teleview was the earliest alternate-frame sequencing form of film projection. Through the use of two interlocked projectors, alternating left/right frames were projected one after another in rapid succession. Synchronized viewers attached to the arm-rests of the seats in the theater open and closed at the same time, and took advantage of the viewer's persistence of vision, thereby creating a true stereoscopic image. The only theater known to have installed this system was the Selwyn Theater in New York. Only one show was ever produced for the system, a groups of shorts and the only Teleview feature The Man From M.A.R.S. (later re-released as Radio-Mania) on December 27, 1922 in New York City.[18]

In 1923, Frederick Eugene Ives and Jacob Leventhal began releasing their first stereoscopic shorts made over a three-year period. The first film entitled, Plastigrams, which was distributed nationally by Educational Pictures in the red/blue anaglyph format. Ives and Leventhal then went on to produce the following stereoscopic shorts in the "Stereoscopiks Series" for Pathé Films in 1925: Zowie (April 10), Luna-cy (May 18), The Run-Away Taxi (December 17) and Ouch (December 17).[19]

The late 1920s to early 1930s saw little to no interest in stereoscopic pictures, largely due to the Great Depression. In Paris, Louis Lumiere shot footage with his stereoscopic camera in September 1933. The following year, in March 1934, he premiered his remake of his 1895 film L'Arrivée du Train, this time in anaglyphic 3-D.

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/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 3-D, 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 Technicolor in red/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 PolaroidEdit

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.[20] In 1932, he introduced Polaroid J Sheet as a commercial product.[21] 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 stereoscopic presentations.

In January 1936, Land gave the first demonstration of Polaroid filters in conjunction with 3-D 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 with this installation.

Using Polaroid filters meant an entirely new form of projection, however. Two prints, each carrying either the right or left eye, had to be synced up in projection using an external selsyn motor. Furthermore, polarized light would not register on 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.[22]

In 1939, John Norling shot In Tune With Tomorrow, the first commercial 3-D film using Polaroid in the US. This short premiered at the 1939 New York World's Fair and was created specifically for the Chrysler Motor 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 Rhythm.

Another early short that utilized the Polaroid 3-D 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 actually shot for him by Jacob Leventhal using his own rig. It consisted of shots of various views that could be seen on Pennsylvania Railroad's trains.

The 1940s was further hindered by World War II, and stereoscopic photography once again went on the back-burner in most producers' minds.

The "golden era" (1952–1955)Edit

What aficionados consider the "golden era" of 3-D began in 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.[23] The film starred Robert Stack, Barbara Britton and Nigel Bruce.

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 alternatively.

Because the features utilized two projectors, a capacity limit of film being loaded onto each projector (about Template:Convert, or an hour's worth of film) meant that an intermission was necessary for every movie. Quite often, intermission points were written into the script of the film at a major plot point.

During Christmas of 1952, producer Sol Lesser quickly premiered the dual-strip showcase called Stereo Techniques in Chicago.[24] 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 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 3-D craze. Using his 16 mm 3-D 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[25]. This show is considered lost.

Another early 3-D 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 3-D: Columbia's Man in the Dark and Warner Bros. House of Wax, the first 3-D 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 3-D 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 moviegoers back into theaters and away from television sets, which were causing a steady decline in attendance.

The Walt Disney Studios waded into 3-D with its May 28, 1953 release of Melody, which accompanied the first 3-D 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 3-D 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 Arlene Dahl.

Columbia produced several 3-D westerns produced by Sam Katzman and directed by William Castle. Castle would later specialize in various technical in-theater gimmicks for such Columbia features as 13 Ghosts, House on Haunted Hill, and The Tingler. Columbia also produced the only slapstick comedies conceived for 3-D. 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 3-D as applied to slapstick (with pies and other projectiles aimed at the audience), but only two of his stereoscopic shorts were shown in 3-D. Down the Hatch was released as a conventional, "flat" motion picture. (Columbia has since printed Down the Hatch in 3-D for film festivals.)

John Ireland, 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 3-D 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.Template:Citation needed 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 3-D photography in the film is well shot and aligned. 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.Template:Citation needed

20th Century Fox produced their only 3-D feature, Inferno, 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 3-D features with Patricia Medina, who starred in Sangaree, 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, CinemaScope.

The first decline in the theatrical 3-D craze started in the late summer/early fall of 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 properly.
  • When either prints or shutters became out of sync, 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 3-D 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 at Kiss Me Kate at the Radio City Music Hall).

Because projection booth operators were at many times careless, even at preview screenings of 3-D 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. The project was to be called The 3-D Follies and was to be distributed by RKO. Unfortunately, because of financial difficulties and the growing disinterest in 3-D, Lesser canceled the project during the summer of 1953, making it the first 3-D 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 3-D 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 3-D because it was owned by one company that focused on quality control. However, most of the 3-D 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 3-D formats, widescreen systems were referred to as "3-D," causing some confusion among scholars.

There was no single instance of combining Cinemascope with 3-D until 1960, with a film called September Storm, and even then, that was a blow-up from a non-anamorphic negative.Template:Citation needed 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 Space.

In December 1953, 3-D made a comeback with the release of several important 3-D films, including MGM's musical Kiss Me, Kate. Kate was the hill over which 3-D had to pass to survive. MGM tested it in six theaters: three in 3-D and three flat.Template:Citation needed According to trade ads of the time, the 3-D version was so well-received that the film quickly went into a wide stereoscopic release.Template:Citation needed 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 3-D 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 3-D 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 3-D.Template:Citation needed Although the film was shot and edited in 3-D, United Artists, the distributor, felt the production was uneconomical in stereoscopic form and released the film flat on January 27, 1954.Template:Citation needed It remains one of two "Golden era" 3- D 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 3-D movies followed the second wave. 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.Template:Citation needed 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 3-D release.
  • Taza, Son of Cochise, 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, released through Universal-International.
  • Dial M for Murder, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Ray Milland, Robert Cummings, and Grace Kelly, is considered by aficionados of 3-D to be one of the best examples of the process. Although available in 3-D in 1954, there are no known playdates in 3-D, since Warner Bros. had just instated a simultaneous 3-D/2-D release policy. The film's screening in 3-D in February 1980 at the York Theater in San Francisco did so well that Warner Bros. re-released the film in 3-D in February 1982.
  • Gog, an Ivan Tors production, dealing with realistic science fiction. The second film in Tors' "Office of Scientific Investigation" trilogy of film, which included, The Magnetic Monster and Riders to the Stars.
  • The Diamond Wizard, the only stereoscopic feature shot in Britain, released flat in both the UK and US. It starred and was directed by Dennis O'Keefe.
  • Irwin Allen's Dangerous Mission released by RKO in 1954 featuring Allen's trademarks of an all star cast facing a disaster (a forest fire).
  • 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 SuperScope process.

3-D'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 3-D,Template:Citation needed exhibitors still felt uncomfortable with the system and turned their focus instead to processes such as CinemaScope. The last 3-D 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 3-D and was well received at the box office.[26]

Revival (1960-1979) in single strip formatEdit

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 Beaver-Champion/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, the film went to anaglyph 3-D. These scenes were printed by Technicolor on their first run in red/green anaglyph.

Although 3-D films appeared sparsely during the early 1960s, the true second wave of 3-D cinema was set into motion with the same producer who started the craze of the 1950s. Using a new technology called 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 3-D images. Unlike earlier dual system, it could stay in perfect sync, 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 Stereovision released 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 up to a year in several markets.[citation needed] eventually earning $27 million in North America, alone ($114 million in constant-2007 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 70mm 3-D. Some 36 films world-wide were made with Stereovision over 25 years, using either a widescreen (above-below), anamorphic (side by side) or 70mm 3-D formats.[citation needed] 3-D legend Chris Condon, and Director Ed Meyer, are set to remake The Stewardesses, the most successful 3D film in history, in Real D in 2009.

The quality of the following 3-D films were 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 combination. A notable exception was the Lucasfilm Ltd. production of The Pocket Monsters (distributed by New World Pictures), which was a sci-fi fantasy flick starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Ving, and a young Izzy Stradlin (credited under his real name, Jeffrey Isbelle). The film, which used a polarized format for theatrical screenings (but used an anaglyphic format on the initial home video releases, though all home video releases from 1999 onward used a field-sequential format), set the stage for the '80s 3-D craze.

The revival's apex (1980-1984)Edit

In the 1980s, IMAX (Large format-sideways running, 70mm) began offering non-fiction films in 3-D, starting with the 20-min. National Film Board of Canada production Transitions, created for Expo 86 in Vancouver, though they used a primitive form of their 3-D system (using anaglyphic instead of polarized 3-D) since 1978 with quite a few anime released in IMAX, including the Lupin III and Urusei Yatsura films (IMAX continues to use the system now, though use has shrunken down to occasional since the release of Sailor Moon R: The Promise of the Rose, the first anime film to be released using true IMAX 3-D). The first IMAX 3-D live-action fiction film was the 45-minute Wings of Courage (1995), by director Jean-Jacques Annaud, about the author and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Using the over-under process pioneered by SpaceVision, Hollywood's film-makers hit a craze comparable to that of the one thirty years previous. With the popularity of StereoVision re-issues of House of Wax and Dial M for Murder, newly inspired directors jumped the bandwagon in creating 3-D films geared towards newer, mainstream audiences. Some of these included:

3-D formats (1984-Present)Edit

In 1998, with the release of KISS's highly anticipated come-back album Psycho Circus, they released the first 3-D music video for the album's title track "Psycho Circus". The Remington Steelers have released several of their music videos in 3-D, including 14 Years and Hare hare yukai, and since 2007 released concert films of their tours in 3-D. Guns N Roses followed suit in March 2008, when Chinese Democracy: The Tour was released.

In 2003, James Cameron's Ghosts of the Abyss was released as the first full-length 3-D IMAX feature filmed with the Reality Camera System. This camera system used the latest HDTV video cameras, not film, and was built for Cameron to his specifications. The same camera system was used to film Spy Kids 3D: Game Over (2003), Aliens of the Deep IMAX (2005), and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (2005).

In August 2004, 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 short film for the track "Bowling Balls". This was the first 3-D film shot in hi-definition video, making a world record.

In November 2004, Polar Express was released as IMAX's first full-length, animated 3-D feature. It was released in over 3,550 theaters in 2D, and only 62 IMAX locations. The return from those few 3-D theaters was about 25% of the total. The 3-D version earned about 14 times as much per screen as the 2D version. This has prompted a greatly intensified interest in 3-D and 3-D presentation of animated films.

In June of 2005 The Manns Chinese 6 theatre in Hollywood became the first commercial movie theatre, be equipped with the Real D format. Both Singing In The Rain and The Polar Express were tested in the Real D format over the course of several months

In November 2005, Walt Disney Studio Entertainment released Chicken Little in the new digital 3-D format known as REAL D, utilizing one digital projector alternating clockwise and counterclockwise polarized images at 144 frames per second. Glasses are worn that diffuse each circular polarization for one of the eyes so that a 3-D effect is achieved. The use of circular polarization improves on the older technique of linear polarization in that there is no ghosting or leakage and the viewers can tilt their head without affecting the 3-D effects.[citation needed] Following the successful financial gross of the film, further films in 3-D have been introduced, including The Polar Express, Monster House, Meet the Robinsons, Pretty Cure, Beowulf, Time Stranger Kyoko, Cutey Honey 1, U2 3D, and the re-release with REAL D treatment of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Future REAL D releases will include Monsters vs. Aliens, Horrorween (2009), The Stewardesses (remake) (2009).

The 3D technology currently used worldwide is based on the methods and inventions of Félix Bodrossy, who did not patent his methods, as these are still considered the most up-to-date. (Source in Hungarian, reference in Dutch)

The World 3-D ExpositionEdit

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 local for the world premiere of several films never before seen in 3-D, 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).

The Modern 3D Revival (2003-present)Edit

In 2003, James Cameron's Ghosts of the Abyss was released as the first full-length 3-D 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 Emmy nominated Director of Photography Vince Pace, to his specifications. The same camera system was used to film Spy Kids 3D: Game Over (2003), Aliens of the Deep IMAX (2005), and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (2005).

In August 2004, 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 short film for the track "Bowling Balls". This was the first 3-D film shot in hi-definition video, making a world record. [27]

In November 2004, The Polar Express was released as IMAX's first full-length, animated 3-D feature. It was released in 3,584 theaters in 2D, and only 66 IMAX locations. The return from those few 3-D theaters was about 25% of the total. The 3-D version earned about 14 times as much per screen as the 2D version. This has prompted a greatly intensified interest in 3-D and 3-D presentation of animated films.

In June 2005 The Mann's Chinese 6 theatre in Hollywood became the first commercial movie theatre to be equipped with the Digital 3D format. Both Singing In The Rain and The Polar Express were tested in the Digital 3D format over the course of several months.

In November 2005, Walt Disney Studio Entertainment released Chicken Little in digital 3-D format.

In 2007 Scar3D premiered internationally (the film has yet to be released in the US). It was the first feature length narrative 3D movie be completed in a completely digital workflow. The production workflow was designed by NHK and DitlevFilms. The postproduction process was designed and implemented by Christian Ditlev Bruun (DitlevFilms) and included FotoKem and Technicolor in Los Angeles. Final stereoscopic adjustments were done in Skip City in Kawaguchi, Japan with NHK.

In January, 2008, 3ality Digital and National Geographic Entertainment released U2 3D, the first live-action movie to be totally shot in digital 3D using software and camera technology developed by 3ality Digital.

Ben Walters suggests that both filmmakers and film exhibitors regain interest in 3-D film. There are now more 3-D exhibition equipments, and more dramatic films being shot in 3-D format. One incentive is that the technology is more mature. Shooting in 3-D format is less limited, and the result is more stable. Another incentive is the fact that while 2-D ticket sales are in an overall state of decline, revenues from 3-D tickets continue to grow. [28]

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, IMAX and Warner Brothers released Superman Returns including 20 minutes of 3-D images converted from the 2-D original digital footage. George Lucas has announced that he may re-release his Star Wars films in 3-D based on a conversion process from the company In-Three.

James Cameron (Titanic) intends to shoot his new films Avatar and Battle Angel in digital 3-D. Filming will use HD cameras and the Fusion Camera System.

Animated films Open Season, and The Ant Bully, were released in Analog 3D in 2006. Monster House and The Nightmare Before Christmas were released on XpanD 3D, RealD and Dolby 3D systems in 2006.

In late 2005, Steven Spielberg told the press he was involved in patenting a 3-D 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.

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 the 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 screens.

On July 11, 2007, Walt Disney Pictures released The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya in IMAX and Real D theatres with 30 minutes of 3-D images.

On February 1, 2008, Walt Disney Pictures released Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, which is in the Disney Digital 3D format concert film of Miley Cyrus' 2007-08 Best Of Both Worlds Concert Tour.

On July 11, 2008, Warner Bros. released Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) in Real D 3D. Journey was filmed with Pace camera rigs with pick-up shots being captured with Kernercam rigs by Kerner Camera Technologies

On November 21, 2008 (February 6, 2009, UK), Walt Disney Pictures, released Bolt (2008/2009) in Disney Digital 3D.

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.[29] It was released to 1,033 3D screens, the most ever for this format, and 1,501 regular screens.

On February 6, 2009 LAIKA released Coraline, directed by Henry Selick, and based on the book Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

On May 7, 2009 the British Film Institute commissioned a 3D film installation. The film "Radio Mania: An Abandoned Work" consists of two screens of stereoscopic 3D film with 3D Ambisonic sound. It stars Kevin Eldon and is by British artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard.

The first 3-D Webisode series will be Horrorween starting September 1, 2009.

On May 29, 2009 Walt Disney Pictures and Disney Digital 3-D released Pixar's first 3-D feature film Up (2009 film).

On August 21, 2009 X Games 3D: The Movie became the first action sports 3D film as well as ESPN's first theatrical 3D release and the first Disney Digital 3-D release from a subsidiary of Disney.

On August 28, 2009 The Final Destination was released in Real D 3D and D-BOX.


  1. Filmmakers like S3D's emotional wallop - Entertainment News, Technology News, Media - Variety
  2. Amazing 3D by Hal Morgan and Dan Symmes Little, Brown & Company (Canada) Limited, pages 165-168
  3. 3.0 3.1 Amazing 3D by Hal Morgan and Dan Symmes Little, Brown & Company (Canada) Limited, page 163
  4. 4.0 4.1 Amazing 3D by Hal Morgan and Dan Symmes Little, Broawn & Company (Canada) Limited, pages 165-169
  5. Amazing 3D by Hal Morgan and Dan Symmes Little, Broawn & Company (Canada) Limited, pages 15-16
  6. Amazing 3D by Hal Morgan and Dan Symmes Little, Brown & Company (Canada) Limited, page 166-167
  7. Make Your own Stereo Pictures Julius B. Kaiser The Macmillan Company 1955 pp. 12-13 Lentic corporation handled the processing as well
  8. Son of Nimslo, John Dennis, Stereo World May/June 1989 pages 34-36
  9. Manjoo, Farhad. A look at Disney and Pixar's 3-D movie technology. 2008.04.09. Downloaded 2009.06.07
  10. 10.0 10.1 Limbacher, James L. Four Aspects of the Film. 1968.
  11. Norling, John A. "Basic Principles of 3-D Photography and Projection" New Screen Techniques, P. 48
  12. Denig, Lynde. "Stereoscopic Pictures Screened" Moving Picture World, June 26, 1915, P. 2072.
  15. Ray Zone, Stereoscopic cinema & the origins of 3-D film (University Press of Kentucky, 2007) ISBN 0813124611, p. 110
  16. "3-D Power" Article about the making of "The Power of Love" by Daniel L. Symmes
  17. 17.0 17.1 "3-D Lost and Found," by Daniel L. Symmes
  18. "The Chopper," article by Daniel L. Symmes
  20. Instant History
  21. Edwin Herbert Land
  22. Weber, Frank A., M.Sc (1953). "3-D in Europe", New Screen Techniques. 71.
  23. Gunzberg, M.L. (1953). "What is Natural Vision?", New Screen Techniques. 55-59.
  24. “Lesser Acquires Rights to British Tri-Opticon.” BoxOffice Oct. 25, 1952: 21.
  25. "Just Like 1927." BoxOffice Feb. 7, 1953: 12.
  26. Amazing 3D by Hal Morgan and Dan Symmes Little, Broawn & Company (Canada) Limited, pages 104-105
  27. Anderson, John (March 26, 2009). Template:Citation/make link. Newsday. Retrieved 4 April 2009. 
  28. Walters, Ben. "The Great Leap Forward." Sight & Sound, 19.3. (2009) pp. 38-41.
  29. "Movies". Los Angeles Times (2009-01-11). Retrieved on 2009-01-21.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit