The first presentation of 3D films before a paying audience took place at the Astor Theater, New York, on June 10, 1915. The program consisted of three one-reelers, the first of rural scenes in the USA, the second a selection of scenes from Famous Players’ Jim, the Penman, and the third a travelogue of Niagara Falls. The anaglyphic process used, developed by Edwin S. Porter and W.E. Waddell, involved the use of red and green spectacles to create a single image from twin motion picture images photographed 2½ inches apart. The experiment was not a success.
The first 3D feature film was Nat Deverich’s 5-reel melodrama “Power of Love”, starring Terry O’Neil and Barbara Bedford. It premiered at the Ambassador Hotel Theater, Los Angeles, on September 27, 1922. Produced by Perfect Pictures in an anaglyphic process developed by Harry K. Fairall, it related the adventures of a young sea captain in California in the 1840s.
The first feature-length talkie in 3D was Sante Bonaldo’s “Nozze vagabonde”, starring Leda Gloria and Ermes Zacconi, which was produced by the Società Italiana Stereocinematografica at the Cinee-Caesar Studios. The 3D cameraman was Anchise Brizzi.
The first feature-length talkie in color and 3D was Alexander Andreyevsky’s Soyuzdetfilm production Robinson Crusoe (USSR ’47), starring Pavel Kadochnikov as Crusoe and Y. Lyubimov as Friday. The process used, Stereokino, was the first to successfully dispense with anaglyphic spectacles. Developed by S.P. Ivanov, it employed what were known as “radial raster stereoscreens”-a corrugated metal screen with “raster” grooves designed to reflect the twin images separately to the left and right eye. The most difficult technical problem encountered during the production of Robinson Crusoe was persuading a wild cat to walk along a thin branch towards the camera. After five nights occupied with this one scene, the cameraman succeeded in getting a satisfactory shot. The effect, according to accounts, was riveting, the animal seeming to walk over the heads of the audience and disappear at the far end of the cinema.
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The first 3D feature with stereophonic sound was Warner Brothers’ House of Wax (US ’53). When it was premiered at the Paramount Theater, New York, with 25 speakers, the Christian Science Monitor was moved to deplore the “cacophony of sound hurtling relentlessly at one from all directions”. André de Toth, director of the movie, may have been able to hear the cacophony, but was unable to see the 3D effect, as he only had one eye.
During the 3D boom that began with the low-budget Bwana Devil (US ’52), over 5,000 theaters in the US were equipped to show 3D movies, but the fad was shortlived. 3D production figures were: 1952-1; 1953-27; 1954-16; 1955-1. In addition there were 3D movies produced in Japan, Britain, Mexico, Germany and Hong Kong, but many of these (as well as some of the US productions) were released flat.
Sporadic production resumed in 1960 with the first Cinemascope 3D movie, September Storm (US ’60), since when there have been 54 further three-dimensional films
This quick overview of the “firsts” of 3D movie history was published in the 1993 edition of the Guiness Book of World Records. http://www.3dgear.com/scsc/movies/firsts.html
Limbacher, J. L. (1968) Four Aspects of the Film, New York:Viking
Norling, J. A. (1915) Basic Principles of 3-D Photography and Projection New Screen Techniques
Norling, J. A. (1939) Three-Dimensional Motion Pictures, Journal of Society of Motion Pictures and Entertainment Dec
Potter, W. J. (2008). Media literacy (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Walters, Ben. “The Great Leap Forward.” Sight & Sound, 19.3. (2009) pp. 38-41
Main Response Post (History of 3D)
Since its invention in 1838, stereoscopy has been used as a technique to create the illusion of a third dimension (Norling 1915). There is a lot of debate about the first 3D film but “L’arrivée du train” filmed in 1903 by the Lumière brothers, the inventors of cinema, is often referred to as the first stereoscopic movie ever made (Norling 1915). When it was released, audiences panicked because they thought the train was about to crash right into them! Although the technology for creating 3D films has been around for a long time, the technology for viewing these films, as essential as it may be, is a totally different story. This explains why 3D cinema has gone through a few significant changes.
1900 to 1939 was a period of experimentation for 3D. Producers, fans and inventors of various areas lay the groundwork for 3D cinema (Norling 1939). A few films are shot with small budgets in order to try to uncover the secrets of stereoscopic production.
1950 to 1960 is where 3D sees its first bit of popularity. With the commercial success of “Bwana Devil”, released by United Artists in 1952, 3D cinema captures the attention of the major studios (Limbacher, 1968). They turn out more than sixty films, including Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder” and “Hondo”, starring John Wayne. Although these films were shot with state-of-the art technology, 3D fell out of use because of the poor viewing conditions in most theatres and due to the complex equipment required to exhibit 3D movies (silver screens, polarized glasses, double synchronized projectors, special lensesâ€¦)(Limbacher, 1968).
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From 1973 to 1985 3D is all but forgotten by the general public, 3D cinema resurfaces and several studios, large and small, try to resurrect it (Walters, 2009). They succeed in creating interest thanks to such films as “Jaws 3D”, “Comin at Ya!” and “Friday the 13th – Part 3”. However, in spite of its new-found success, the little cardboard glasses still didn’t improve the viewing conditions, and 3D disappeared once again.
With the invention of the Imax 3D format, from 1986 to 2000, audiences discover for the first time while watching “Transitions” the emergence of new screening technology, 3D cinema finally comes into its own (Walters, 2009). Although 3D is used only in specialized productions due to the prohibitive shooting costs, it takes its rightful place, along side productions with incredible and expensive special effects.
The arrival of computer animation technology, digital cameras and 3D home theatre contribute to the development of stereoscopic production and screening starting 2000 thru to the present (Walters, 2009). The demand for 3D continues to grow and the technology is now entering its second phase of popularity. The popularity of the recent computer animated movie “Avatar” is evidence that this newer 3D IMAX experience is something the public is fascinated with.
3D movies can have various psychological effects. The basic effects that all movies we enjoy have in common are the emotional effects (Potter, 2008). Without the emotional effects the movies plot would not hold our attention and this happens by them evoking or emotions. 3D movies are particularly known for their play on physiological effects, the visual experience of seeing the movie in 3 dimensions makes a movie seem more real and there for our bodies react releasing adrenaline even thought we know that what we are seeing is not real (Potter, 2008). This leads to one more psychological effect of 3D movies, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. Because of the realistic nature of seeing action in 3 dimensions it can be hard to separate the line between what is real and what is the movie, at least while the movie is being viewed (Potter, 2008).
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