Regardless of where you stand on 3D technology being used in film and television, it is now undeniably part of the medium. This hasn’t been a sudden thing; 3D has actually been around for some time. In this time the technology has seen periods of success, as well as huge decline.
First introduced into film during the 1950′s, 3D technology slipped away, to only be (temporarily) revived in the 1980′s, and later the 2000′s. In television 3D had previously only been played with, and never truly implemented (just the occasional special program here and there). But this has changed as of late, as technology has improved vastly and we’re now seeing waves of 3D televisions. But how did it end up this way?
Early uses of 3D technology
3D technology can be traced back to 19th Century stereoscopy, a process which involves placing two image side by side, which was then viewed as a single image via a stereoscope viewer (kind of like a pair of binoculars). This method would have been wildly inappropriate for cinema and theater use, and so experiments soon led to anaglyph 3D.
Superimposing red and green film strips, with the use of filtered glasses was where it all started, yet it was still viewed as a primitive novelty. Later film techniques in the 1930′s such as light polarisation would pave the way for the technology, and the way it was used during the 1950′s.
The 1950′s was really the original golden era for 3D film and television. The original desire for 3D cinema was a direct response to the availability of home television, and the industry feeling like it now needed to distinguish itself from what viewers could see at home.
A polarized anaglyph 3D technique was used, with what was dubbed a “Natural Vision” process (dual strip projection and high quality glasses). The technique was adopted for such films as Bwana Devil (considered the first true 3D film, 1952) and the Vincent Price classic House of Wax (1953). These two films (as well as many more) created a boom in 3D technology that would widely be regarded as the golden era of 3D.
Yet, 3D still couldn’t shake off its novelty status – a problem it would struggle with for many years – and with 3D post production cost on films being very high, they were eventually abandoned. Some studios still toyed with the idea well into the 1960′s and 70′s, yet the only films that really used the technology were horror movies. The 1980′s saw somewhat of a revival, especially on TV, as many of the old 1950′s movies were now being broadcast. It would never really make a comeback though.
The most recent revival should really start with IMAX in the late 1990′s. Similar to many theme park rides during the 1980′s, IMAX was an experience all about the 3D. IMAX was developing their own technology, especially digital production and projection techniques that were capable of creating better 3D.
Movie makers toyed and experimented with IMAX elements into the 2000′s, with notable films such as Disney’s Fantasia 2000, and The Matrix sequels really embracing the IMAX format.
It was in 2009 that 3D really made its mark, when James Cameron released his 3D epic Avatar. The technology used to film Avatar was specially created by Cameron and his team to provide a much better 3D experiment, and the results have since set the standard for 3D in cinema. The success of Avatar has led studios to release a 3D version of almost every blockbuster released since. Some of the films have proved dodgy, but the 3D seems more popular than ever, which has led to 3D Television.
The idea for 3D television has been around for some time. I mentioned earlier that during the 1980′s that many 3D movies were broadcast on television, but this isn’t really what 3D television needed to work. In the past one of the problems with 3D broadcasts was that after a while it hurt the viewer’s eyes. This has always been the main problem in adapting 3D for television. A couple of hours for a movie is fine, but all day is just too much.
What recently happened was the introduction of High Definition television, which has opened up the possibilities of 3D television. New television sets with high definition resolutions have made 3D a key part of their appeal, and have used active shutter and polarized glasses to primarily promote live sports events and special programming.
3D television is still very expensive, but the promise and the opportunity for develop is definitely there. Future developments in3D post production (which will greatly improve 3D film and television) will be determined by the development of auto stereoscopic technologies; a lenticular lens used in such a way that a viewer does not need glasses to view the image. Once this has become a possibility, I don’t think there will be any stopping 3D.PS: Digging this story, news or review? Let us know! Comments open.
About Jakk: Jakk Ogden is a professional self-employed blogger and the founder / owner of Technology Blogged. 22, with a love for good writing, you'll find me playing 'Drag Racing' on my HTC One X and rocking a pair of Grado headphones. If you love technology, be sure to subscribe to my feed for unique editorials. Find me on Google+. View author profile.