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The Evolution of 3D Television


2 Many people might be surprised to find out that the history of 3D television goes back nearly as far as the television itself. Long before flat screen televisions and dedicated 3D channels (you’ll need to subscribe to Sky’s satellite tv if you want to access Britain’s sole 3D channel), 3D was wowing audiences around the world.

Incredibly, the story starts as far back as the 1890s when a British movie pioneer filed the first patent for a 3D method of watching film. The method functioned by making two recordings, side by side, of an image that when viewed back created the illusion of 3D depth in a viewer’s mind – the technique is still, largely, used today in the form of stereoscopic 3D.

In 1915 a pair of American film-makers ran test screenings of 3D films at the Astor Theatre in New York. These images relied more heavily on the method of pulling out the reds and greens in the film to create the image overlap that produced the 3D illusion. Although the screenings attracted significant interest at the time, nothing then came of them in a commercial sense.

In the late 20’s John Logie Baird demonstrated a fully stereoscopic 3D television, and he also pioneered a number of different 3D televisions using cathode-ray tubes. In 1935 the first colour 3D film was produced, and it’s said that hand held still stereoscopic 3D cameras were available up until the Second World War.

The 1950s was the real era of 3D, with the famous House of Wax being perhaps the most famous example of early 3D film. Hitchcock also allegedly produced his film ‘Dial M for Murder’ in 3D, but, in a curious twist from modern practices, decided to release it in 2D to maximise profits (not all cinemas could show films in 3D).

The rebirth of 3D film and television arrived in the last three or four years. Sparked by a resurgence in 3D films, manufacturers and broadcasters started producing films and programmes in 3D. Though much more advanced, these systems remain broadly based on the stereoscopic methods of the late 19th century. Lately, manufacturers have tried to produce autostereoscopic televisions, which create the 3D illusion without glasses – though so far no one has quite perfected a model.

3D television is going to be around for a long time, and with the cumulative might of television manufacturers across the world working on the technology, it won’t be long before 3D screens work perfectly without glasses. Many people think that 3D is an example of cutting edge modern technology, and whilst latest developments are, 3D has been around as long as televisions have.


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