The truth about old 3D

Anaglyph 3D has popped up several times since the 1950s craze died

I've read a lot of articles in the last year or so about the new 3D trend in theatrical movies and HDTV, and far too many of them have made the same mistake about the 3D movie craze of the 1950s.

The myth: 3D movie projection in the 1950s used anaglyph technology, requiring audiences to wear those inferior, red-and-blue (or red-and-green) glasses. Anaglyph 3D is inferior, making black and white images look horrible and color images look worse. But while there were anaglyph 3D comic books in the 1950s, and perhaps some shorts, no Hollywood feature film was commercially released that way.

The 3D movies that enjoyed brief popularity from 1952 through 1954 used polarized lenses, as do most of today's theatrical 3D presentations. The technology at the heart of theatrical 3D really hasn't changed.

Today's 3D projection systems have some advantages. In some, but not all, of them, you can tilt your head to the side or wear the glasses lopsided without ruining the 3D effect--a universal problem with older polarized 3D. And the old system was extremely complicated to project, increasing the chances of projectionist error marring the presentation.

Ironically, anaglyph 3D has popped up several times since the 1950s craze died. Universal re-released Creature from the Black Lagoon and It Came from Outer Space that way in the 1970s. Within the last decade, both Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl played that way. And several 3D movies are available on DVD or Blu-ray in anaglyph form. (The advantage of anaglyph is that you don't need special projection equipment. The disadvantage is that it looks terrible.)

I suspect that some people in the movie and home theater businesses want this 1950s anaglyph myth to continue. It fits the desired narrative: 3D failed then because it was primitive, but it's no longer primitive and therefore will prevail. But there's a big difference between desired narrative and truth.

Tags 3d TV

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Lincoln Spector

PC World (US online)

4 Comments

RJ

1

I'm sure that this article was put there to get us oldies to answer.
1 - I saw movies in the 50's with green and red lensed glasses with cardboard frames.
2 - Polarised glasses (If available then), would have been far too expensive.
So please don't state as fact, that which you, obviously don't know.

dead4sure

2

Don't forget that the technology we now have in the CG industry allows us to better utilise stereoscopic technology. We can now render out elements in better quality than anything 50-60 years ago could produce. You only have to watch a full 3d film such as Disneys UP to see the massive leap in quality. I think we are finally at a stage where stereoscopic has become less of a gimmick and more of a valued feature in modern cinema.

old anaglyph stereoscopic was bad the modern polarised setup works perfectly!

i was as sceptical as everyone else until i finally caved and tried it, it does exactly what it claims to do.

oh apart from when film elements where you get the crappy cardboard cut-out effect.

anyway rant over lol!

Ken

3

Do you actually research the articles you write, old 3D movies didnt use polarised glasses, they used anaglyph glasses, and all the ones I ever used where RED and BLUE, not green.

Town Crier

4

RJ & Ken - You are BOTH mis-remembering, not Lincoln! None of the first-run 3D features of the 50's used anaglyph glasses! Polarized glasses were not "too expensive" and in fact were used at the 3D shows at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Comic books from the 50s did use anaglyph glasses, and later 70s revivals of anaglyph seems to have placed this false memory of the past into people's minds.

http://www.3dfilmpf.org/info-top-10-3D-myths.html

Town Crier

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