They may be all the rage right now, but 3D movies have actually been around for ages. Here, digitalproductionme.com takes a look at 10 big moments in the history of 3D technology.
William Friese Greene, a British inventor, files a patent for technology used to create 3D films. Two images of the same object are projected side by side on screen and the viewer uses a stereoscope to merge the two images into one 3D image. Sir Charles Wheatstone is credited with first describing the process of stereopsis in 1838.
The Power of Love, the world’s first 3D feature film, is screened in Los Angeles. No known copies survive and it will take another 30 years for 3D to take off in the cinema.
Creature from the Black Lagoon is released. This is the best known of several 3D films released in the early 50s; it is also famous for featuring a very young Clint Eastwood. Despite the success of Creature, the popularity of 3D films soon begins to wane as the novelty wears off, people complain of headaches and cinema operators decide it’s all just too much hassle.
Captain Eo, a 3D sci-fi short produced by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Michael Jackson, is introduced in Disney theme parks. The marketing people use the term ‘4-D’ to describe the film, a reference to the lasers, smoke clouds and vibrating seats that are used to enhance the viewer’s level of ‘immersion’. The budget is over US $30 million for just 17 minutes of action. The film runs for over a decade and is re-introduced at several Disney venues following the death of Michael Jackson.
The Polar Express, featuring Tom Hanks, is released. Both 2D and 3D versions of the animated film, famous for its use of motion capture technology, are distributed. Receipts for the 3D version surpass expectations. In the following years, more and more kids’ animations are released in both 2D and 3D versions.
Dreamworks Animation announces that all its productions will now be made in 3D using InTru3D, an animation technology developed in partnership with Intel. The first film made with InTru3D is Monsters vs. Aliens, released in March 2009. In early 2010, CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg berates Warner Bros over its decision to convert Clash of the Titans to 3D and release it close to How to Train Your Dragon. He fears that Dragon will be pushed off the limited number of 3D screens available. He needn’t worry as Dragon goes on to be a massive success.
Amidst massive expectation, James Cameron’s Avatar is released and even cynics are overwhelmed by how good it looks. 3D effects are hastily added to two major films in post production: Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans. The results disappoint and critics warn that ‘bad’ 3D could kill audience interest in the genre. Referring to Clash of the Titans’ tacked-on 3D effects, Jeffrey Katzenberg famously says: “You cannot do anything that is of a lower grade and a lower quality than what has just been done on Clash of the Titans.”
Samsung and others launch first stereoscopic 3D TVs for consumers. Samsung is first out of the blocks, quickly followed by Panasonic, in the first quarter. Critics point out that there is nothing to watch in 3D apart from a few children’s animations. Sony launches 3D Bravia models in June to coincide with the launch of 3D Playstation games.
Sony releases the first 3D games for Playstation 3. WipEout HD, Super Stardust HD, PAIN and a single-level 3D demo of MotorStorm: Pacific Rift are made available as downloads from the Playstation Network. Gamers require a stereoscopic 3D TV and accompanying silly glasses to enjoy the 3D effect.
Twenty-five football World Cup games are broadcast in 3D. As few people have 3D TVs, deals are signed with cinemas worldwide to show games in 3D.
As is now the norm, cinemagoers have to pay $5-10 more than they would for a normal ‘2D ticket’. Sony and other equipment manufacturers hope that impressed consumers will rush out and buy 3D TVs.