three-dimensional motion pictures

In the 1950s, the increasing popularity of television caused movie producers to search for new technologies that might lure TV viewers back into theaters. Two of the efforts were three-dimensional motion pictures (3-D) and wide-screen motion pictures.

Three-dimensional effects could be achieved in a number of ways. One had been developed as early as 1915, in which twin images, one red and one green, were superimposed and viewed with special red and green eyeglasses. In 1937, after the development of polarized lenses by Edwin Land, the inventor of the Polaroid camera, the first feature film using polarized lenses to achieve three-dimensional effects was released in Germany. Produced by Arch Oboler, the 1952 film Bwana Devilwas the first of about 100 feature films using the polarized lens method to achieve the 3-D effect. Oboler made an improvement in 1966, using a special polarizator lens, which allowed for a single projector.

When viewed without the lenses, the double image on the screen simply looked blurred at the edges. With the glasses, each eye received a single image, each photographed from a separate lens. One twin camera, developed by Nigel and Raymond Spottiswoode, two English brothers, worked with two lenses polarized in different planes. Audiences found the effect an interesting novelty, but the inconvenience of wearing the eyeglasses, which were extremely uncomfortable for those wearing corrective eyeglasses, and the tendency of the films to be low-budget thrillers soon led to the fad wearing out.

Although Dennis Gabor achieved a more realistic effect in experiments with holography in 1947, holographic motion pictures were never developed in the 20th century for theater projection.


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