Whether you like it or not, the 3D movie craze is back. Sure, the silly blue and red glasses of the 60s have been replaced with Harry Potter spectacles and stylish 3D Ray Bans, but the core of the technology stays the same. Here is a simple look of how 3D got started, how it is has been improved and where it is going in the future.

The Beginnings 

3D, or in fancy terms, stereoscopy, was first described by Sir Charles Wheatstone back in the mid 1800s. He figured out that if you layer to images that are incredibly similar, yet slightly different, the eye will combine the pair of two dimensional images and create a third dimension.

The motion picture industry eventually turned Sir Wheatstone’s theory into a multimillion dollar enterprise. There were typically two ways to go about shooting a stereoscopy movie: anaglyph and polarized glasses.

Anaglyph refers to the old red and blue glasses concept. They would shoot one image with a red tint and the other with a blue tint so each eye would get an individual perspective. This did not produce very high quality results, though, as the colors often bled together.

Polarized glasses work by giving light different orientations. For example, the left lens can allow vertical light through while the right lens can let horizontal light through. Again, your eyes get to perceive two separate images that converge into one when your brain processes it. Polarized glasses have their downfalls, too. If you move your head too much or are not the right distance from the screen, it can create a very nauseating effect.

Present Day 3D 

The anaglyph approach to 3D has pretty much been abandoned, with the exception of a few hipster movie theaters showing old red and blue tinted classics. Instead, the polarized glasses concept has been adopted and updated.

Now, instead of just projecting horizontal and vertical images, opposite rotating images are projected. One eye sees a clockwise rotation, while the other sees a counterclockwise rotation. Your brain still processes the images the same way, but now you can tilt your head and still get the 3D effect.

The Future 

The greatest question that hovers around the future of 3D cinematography is, will there be a future?  Even the king of 3D himself, James Cameron, has questioned the longevity of the 3D phenomenon.


If 3D does continue to evolve, we are going to start seeing a lot more autostereoscopy. This is the version of 3D that does not require glasses. Nintendo recently released a 3D version of their popular DS game system that uses the autostereoscopy feature. It works extremely well in this application because the game system includes a camera that tracks the human eye. It then takes that information and adjusts the 3D images so the gamer can see it no matter how they hold the device. Chances are more small devices will experiment with autostereoscopy before the glasses-less technology hits the big screen.

What do you think? Will the 3D phenomenon last? Or are we about to witness its final days? Leave your comments below and let us know your opinion!

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