3D: Beginnings, developments, achievements
Since its invention in 1838, stereoscopy has been used as a technique to create the illusion of a third dimension. 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. When it was released, audiences panicked because they thought the train was about to crash right into them!
Since then, about 250 films and TV programs have been produced in 3D. 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 five significant eras and why its story is still being written.
1900 to 1946: Experimentation
Producers, fans and inventors of all stripes lay the groundwork for 3D cinema. A few films are shot with small budgets in order to try to uncover the secrets of stereoscopic production.
1950 to 1960: The first golden age
During this decade, 3D sees its first boom. With the commercial success of “Bwana Devil”, released by United Artists in 1952, 3D cinema captures the attention of the major studios. 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 lenses…).
1973 to 1985: The Renaissance
All but forgotten by the general public, 3D cinema resurfaces and several studios, large and small, try to resurrect it. 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 cut it, and 3D disappeared once again.
1986 to 2000: The revolution
With the invention of the Imax 3D format, which audiences discover for the first time while watching “Transitions” at Expo ‘86 in Vancouver, and the emergence of new screening technology, 3D cinema finally comes into its own. Although 3D is used only in specialized productions due to the prohibitive shooting costs, it takes its rightful place, never to relinquish it again.
2001 to today: The second golden age
The advent of computer animation technology, digital cameras and 3D home theatre contribute to the democratization of stereoscopic production and screening. The demand for 3D continues to grow and the technology is now entering its second golden age.