A Look At The History Of 3D TV

History of 3D TV can be said to have begun around 300 BC, when Euklides, a Greek scientist discovered human binocular vision. Later, Leonardo da Vinci developed theories on creation of images in 3 dimensions. Numerous scientists over the years have tried to develop methods by which 3D effects could be reproduced in images and movies. Interest in 3D image technology grew along with movie and photography technology, and this continued till the beginning of World War II. During the World War, 3D image technology experienced a decline of interest, which lasted for several years to come.

By late 1800s, several engineers and inventors were involved in the invention of television. But only many years later, scientists started to incorporate 3D image technology with that of latest televisions, leading to the development of 3D TV. Here is a chronological account of the development of 3D image technology from mid 19th century up to the 21st century.

1844 To 1900

In the history of 3D TV, one of the first recorded instruments with an ability to photograph objects in 3D was the stereoscope, invented in 1844 by David Brewster. Another similar invention was the stereoscopic camera – by Louis Jules Dubosq – which was capable of taking exposures of an electric arc’s sparks.

With this camera, the inventor optician later took a photograph of Queen Victoria and showcased it in 1851 at Exposition Universelle. This photograph became popular and the stereoscopic-still-camera with its 3D illusions ability was employed for several other personal photographs till the beginning of World War II.

Another invention in the field of 3D technology happened in 1855. Known as the Kinematascope, this camera was capable of stereo animation and could generate 3D images in motion.

During the late 1890s, William Friese-Greene, a renowned British film maker filed an official request for the patent of 3D movie production process. His patent consisted of a stereoscopic instrument using which a viewer could see two films positioned perpendicularly to each other such that the resultant image seen by the viewer appeared to be in three dimensions.

1913 To 1935

The next phase of development in the history of 3D TV technology was from 1913 to 1935.

In 1913, William van Doren Kelley invented the Prizma colour system. His first film using this system was ‘Our Navy’ in 1917. He used this colour system in the printing of his later anaglyph movies too; however, his works did not find patronage. Kelly’s works were followed by Laurens Hammond’s invention – the Teleview system.

With this system, stereoscopic images could be recorded using alternate frame sequencing technique in which films are alternately placed on one strip.

In 1915, film makers created the world’s first movie using anaglyph technology, employing 3D TV glasses with 2 dissimilar coloured lenses. In the following years, William E Waddell and Edwin S Porter showed that it was possible to accomplish 3D film recording with two films.

Two big milestones in 3D technology were: first, the creation of the 3D mainstream film ‘The Power of Love’ in 1922 and second, the screening of it with viewers wearing anaglyph eyewear. This movie made by Robert F Elder and Harry K Fairall was recorded using two dissimilar colours (red and green) and when it was projected, its images would appear in 3D.

The third big milestone was the demonstration of the first 3D TV by John Logie Baird on August 10, 1958, on his company grounds. Baird went on to develop a number of 3D television systems that employed cathode ray tube and electromechanical techniques. The first colour movie using 3D technology was made in 1935, after which this technology remained unused for the next ten years.

The 1950's

3D technology gained increasing attention during the 1950s when televisions started gaining popularity. During this period, more and more households added televisions to their homes.

The defining moment in the history of 3D TV came when several 3D movies started getting produced. Among them, the most memorable 3D releases in the United States were: United Artists’ Bwana Devil produced in1952, House of Wax in 1953 (also with stereophonic sound) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder in 1954. This Hitchcock movie was also released in 2D, as Alfred wanted to maximize his profits and many theatres at that time did not have the technology to display 3D movies.

Bwana Devil was produced using Natural Vision process, but the Hollywood studios declined to adopt the technology. While movie studios in the United States were producing 3D cinema movies, the Soviet Union was doing the same too. By 1947, a studio in Soviet Union had produced and released Robinson Crusoe, their first commercial 3D movie.

The 1960's

By 1960s, a new 3D technology called Space Vision – which takes two images and prints them one on top of the other on a strip – was developed.

This technology was unique in the way that it required the involvement of one projector equipped with special lens, as opposed to two cameras that were being used for 3D movie projection till then. This single projector eliminated the inconvenience of using two cameras that had to be perfectly synced at all times.

‘The Bubble’ was the first movie to be displayed using Space Vision, and though the movie was not received well by critics, audiences appreciated the new 3D technology used to screen it. Profits brought in by the movie ensured that this new technology got readily adopted by other Hollywood studios.

1970 To 1980

Chris Condon along with Allan Silliphant developed Stereovision in 1970 – a 3D technology using a 35mm film strip on which two images are pressed together alongside the other. This new 3D technology employed a unique anamorphic lens and a number of Polaroid filters to enlarge the image along its width.

The beginning of 1980s witnessed the release of several 3D movies using technology similar to that of Space Vision. Two such movies were: Jaws (3D) and Friday the 13th (part III).

IMAX, a projection standard and film format (motion pictures), created 3D technology that was mathematically accurate, such that it had the ability to eliminate fatigue of the eye; an aspect that was experienced by audiences when viewing movies using other 3D technologies. Using this technology, IMAX produced several documentary films in 3D by mid 1980s.

1990's To 2010

A number of 3D movies were released in the IMAX format during the 1990s and two of the popular ones were ‘Into the Deep’ and ‘Wings of Courage’. Several big Hollywood movie studios continued to release such movies through 2000s. Some of the well known movies were: Ghosts of the Abyss, Spy Kids 3D: Game Over and The Polar Express.

Towards 2009 and 2010, several channel broadcasters announced that they would be showing programs and shows in 3D, and this got 3D technology inside our homes.

Availability of 3D content for TV is certainly one of the biggest landmarks in the history of 3D TV. This created a huge market for 3D television, using which viewers could watch these programs with 3D TV glasses. Another push in the favour of 3D television came from video games, which offered a unique experience when played on 3D TVs. Today, the 3D TV is slowly becoming a household essential and soon we would not be able to imagine our lives without it anymore.

Back to Top