3D: Your Eyes are Playing Tricks on You

Audience wearing special glasses watch a 3D "stereoscopic film" at the Telekinema on the South Bank in London during the Festival of Britain 1951.
Audience wearing special glasses watch a 3D “stereoscopic film” at the Telekinema on the South Bank in London during the Festival of Britain 1951. (Photo from UK National Archives via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1953, the first experimental 3D television program in the U.S. was broadcast.

Here are some things you may not have known about 3D.

The first television show broadcast in 3D in the U.S. was “Space Patrol” on KECA-TV in Los Angeles. The show was also the first West Coast show to be shown live on the East Coast through a network of cables and relay stations.

3D movies and television have their roots in the stereoscope invented by Charles Wheatstone in 1838. A stereoscope is a device that positions separate images in front of a viewer’s left and right eyes, causing the illusion of a single three-dimensional image. One example of a stereoscope is the View-Master with its trademark rotating disk of images.

The first 3D motion picture process was patented by William Friese-Greene in the United Kingdom in the late 1890s. By 1915, a process using the familiar red and blue colored glasses was being developed in the United States. This system is called anaglyph 3D. The first feature film in 3D was a 1922 silent film called “The Power of Love.” It was shown one time in 3D. All copies of the film have been lost. The first 3D film to be shown widely was “Bwana Devil” in 1952. “House of Wax” starring Vincent Price followed a year later.

3D movies became less common starting in the 1970s. 3D television was mostly used for ratings stunts until the introduction of high-definition broadcasting in the early 2000s.

In 2010, a match between Manchester United and Arsenal was the first live sporting event to be shown in 3D. The heyday of 3D television would be short-lived however, with broadcasters starting to give up on the format less than three years later. Among the video providers to shut down their 3D offerings in 2013 were BBC, ESPN and DirecTV.

A few issues that prevented the widespread acceptance of 3D television were the need to wear clunky glasses, vision-related pain and seizures,  and motion sickness. One study estimated that up to 30 percent of people don’t have strong enough stereoscopic vision to sense the illusion of depth perception on screen.

Around 2010, 3D movies experienced a renaissance, with most major blockbusters being available in the format.

Our question: What is the highest grossing film that was not shown in 3D?

Today is Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare and International Dance Day.

It’s Childcare Professionals Day, National Arbor Day, and National Hairball Awareness Day.

It’s the birthday of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who was born in 1863; bandleader Duke Ellington, born in 1899; and comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who is 62 today.

This week in 1971, the top song in the U.S. was “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night.

The No. 1 movie was “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song ,” while the novel “The Passions of the Mind” by Irving Stone topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Before the break we asked: What is the highest grossing film that was not shown in 3D?

The answer is “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”


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