History of 3D
Stereoscopic display devices have been used pretty much used since the Victorian
era when stereoscopes were very popular for viewing 3D photos. Many different 3D
silent film shorts were made including a train arriving at a station by the
Lumiere brothers in the 19th century. Then with the introduction of TV's in the
'50s, ticket sales were down. 3D movies were introduced to refocus the publics
attention on cinemas. The Anaglyph system used red (right eye) and blue (left
eye) glasses. The first ever 3D movie (with sound) was Bwana Devil (1952) but
House of Wax with Vincent Price was the first major 3D movie hit at the time
The Anaglyph system 3D then languished for 30 years till 1983. With the release
of Jaws 3D and Amityville 3D reaching its peak in the 1986, with the release of
Michael Jacksons - Captain Eo. At this time 3D was branded a gimmick that was
used to sell poor product.
Jumping forward to 2003 - Spy Kids 3D and IMAX launched the last batch of 3D
anaglyph films to be released. IMAX in particular has been very successful
because it uses 3D not as a gimmick but to immerse you in a different
Rolling forward to 2010. With Home Cinema
projectors and Blu-ray disc's offering a cost effective alternative with better
image quality than commercial Cinema. Cinema numbers were again down. To the
new improved whiter than white 3D
in all its glory. Savior of the cinemas? Again 3D refocused the publics
attention on the Big Screen, with Cinema's installing Real-D's technology ASAP.
Numbers were up nearly as high as the price of popcorn, which exceeded that of
gold, popcorn jewelry was all the rage. 3D had given Cinema a needed shot in the
arm, moving its technology ahead of other mediums. Avatar like IMAX before it,
used 3D to take the viewer to a different world and 3D was reborn. Unfortunately
not all 3D movies are Avatar quality, many rely on software to convert the 2D
movie to 3D. Time will tell if this is an acceptable path or if 3D will again be
dubbed a gimmick.
One great potential for 3D is the broadcasting of events. The first concert
recorded was of U2 in 2007, Gimmick free the feeling was as close to a live
event as you could get. The first 3D sporting broadcast, 1st February 2010, was
a football match between Manchester United and Arsenal. Football fans across the
UK and Ireland are said to have been "wowed" by the broadcast, with the greatest
impact when close-up and slow motion replays were shown.
"It was amazing," said one spectator,
"you really begin to feel like you're there!"
This use of 3D again compliments the content and takes you to the match.
Different 3D Display standards
So what's different this time? This time there are a number of systems available
each using a different technique. Wowing the audiences in cinemas is the Passive
technology you remember for its glasses with red and blue lenses.
Active shutter glasses:
Uses LCD switching to allow dedicated images for each eye. glasses may not be
interchangeable between brands. Technology has been around for many years. The
3D graphics cards for PC's available in the mid 90's would only work with
dedicated 3D content. This technology has been reinvigorated with software
capable of converting 2D content to 3D on the fly. Produces great 3D from
dedicated content not so good from converted 2D. Many glasses and bulky and not
as trendy as these shown here. Available in wireless and cabled options
Using a "lenticular" lens similar to the grooved plastic pictures that
move when flexed, Philips 3DTV sends different signals to each eye to
trick your brain into seeing images floating in front of the screen. No
glasses are needed but the viewing area is specific. This is primarily a
technology being pioneered by Phillips and is not yet commercially
available - due 2004/6.
Passive polarized glasses:
As seen in your local cinema - Real D. This system uses cheap polarizing glasses
and projects left and right eye images sequentially. Produces fantastic 3D as
seen in Avatar.