3D: The Way of the Past and the Future

Photo Credit: Shahrokh Dabiri

Back in February, Samsung began selling its first 3D-ready TV, and 4 more developers plan to join them by year’s end.  Samsung wasn’t even the first to start selling 3D TVs, the Chinese developer TCL outdates them.  Meanwhile, 3D movies are at their highest level of popularity ever, thanks to films such as “Avatar”.  Never before has 3D been pushed to this extent.  The technology to thank for the emergence of the 3D format has existed for more than 150 years.  This blog will go back to the invention of this technology, tracing the 3D format from its humble beginnings to present day.

The roots of 3D technology lie in 1838, with Professor Charles Wheatstone.  He theorized that humans perceive two different images in their brain, due to the separation of their eyes.  He invented a device called a Stereoscope, which allowed viewers to view photographs in three dimensions.  Craig Goldwyn simply defines stereographic technology as “stereo for the eyes” on the website Stereographer.com.  Wheatstone’s invention became popular to say the least, hitting its peak in the 1890’s.  Interest in stereography waned soon after, but it didn’t disappear.  The first 3D film, “The Power of Love” was released in 1922 and the Viewmaster, a personal 3D photo viewer, was introduced in 1938.

The stereo camera (along with those 3D glasses) was introduced in 1946, and a string of 3D films followed, starting with the largely forgettable “Bwana Devil”.  More well known movies utilized 3D shortly after, such as “House of Wax” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder”.  The sudden push for 3D films in the 1950’s can be attributed to the rise of television, which was perceived as a threat to replace movie theaters altogether.  3D film had only a short period of popularity though, due in part to the clunky nature of the technology used to show them.

Photo Credit: rivalee

With the introduction of IMAX 3D in the 90’s, 3D film slowly made a comeback.  Movies like “Spy Kids 3D” and “The Polar Express” were some of the earliest 3D films to have success at the box office.  Though it’s James Cameron’s epic “Avatar” that generated the most public interest, the 3D format has become more common in animated films.  “Coraline”, “Meet the Robinsons”, “Up” and “Monsters vs. Aliens” are just a few of those.  3Dphotography has progressed as well, to the point that anyone with a digital camera can take 3D pictures.  As for  television, certain episodes of shows like “Third Rock from the Sun” utilized 3D.  These shows used the limited Pulfrich 3D method, though.

3D photography has come a long way.  In the old days of the Stereoscope and the Viewmaster, only specific photos could be viewed in 3D, and the average citizen had no way of taking them.  The 3D format is available to everyone now, and common digital cameras can take 3D photos.  3D film was largely viewed as a gimmick in its 1950’s incarnation.  Alfred Hitchcock didn’t think much of it, despite directing “Dial M for Murder”.

The technology that was used to show said films at the time was clunky and unpractical to boot.  While the reintroduction of 3D film in the 21st century started out as gimmicky as ever with “Spy Kids 3D”, the polarized projector made it much simpler to show 3D films in theaters.  This made the format as a whole more accessible, and 3D film become much more common as a result.  3D television can’t even be considered an old technology really: it didn’t really appear in the public eye until the 90’s.

More recently, there has been a push to standardize the 3D television platform.  Five major companies have plans to make TVs with 3D capabilities available to the public, and one type of 3D TV is already available in China, one that doesn’t require special glasses.  Japan, Britain and South Korea already have television channels devoted to 3D programming, and ESPN plans to launch a 3D network in June.  Some events on major U.S. stations, such as the 2010 Masters golf tournament, have been shown in 3D as well.

3D technology has made a complete 360 in terms of popularity. It started with the popularity of the 3D photo-viewing device Stereoscope in the 19th century, and was revived for a time via the Viewmaster.  3D film first became popular in the 1950’s, but died quickly, existing primarily as a gimmick.  Now more and more 3D films are being produced, and 3D TVs made be commonplace by year’s end.  If 3D technology keeps developing at this pace, the sky’s the limit for how far it can progress.

Photo Credit: Kenneth Yeung

Sources: http://blog.mission3-dgroup.com/2009/01/22/the-history-of-3d-photography/






~ by Bill Mahlock on April 27, 2010.

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