If you are a movie goer, you’ve probably noticed that many major movies released are now available to watch in 3D. The technology isn’t new; in fact, filmmakers have been using and perfecting 3D viewing since the 1920s. If you love 3D movies then you don’t want to miss this episode of Brain Games, which explores the ways our brain helps us visualize our world in three dimensions. There is no doubt that people are fascinated by 3D.
The First 3D Movies
While the first 3D movies were rudimentary compared to the technology we have today, they definitely got audiences’ attention. The first commercially released 3D film was The Power of Love, a black and white silent film which was released in 1922. This was the first film that made use of the anaglyph glasses with one red and one green lens and two film reels. Viewers were able to experience 3D and they also had the option of viewing two different endings to the film. Audiences could watch through either the green or red lens to get a happy ending or a tragic one in 2D. Unfortunately, the movie was never widely released and has since been lost.
It wasn’t until the 50s that 3D really took off, however. The 1952 release of Bwana Devil based on the true story of the man-eating lions in Tsavo is considered to be the first feature-length 3-D film in color. It is also considered the movies that started the rage for 3D. While the movie panned by critics, audiences couldn’t get enough. Polaroid, which produced the anaglyph glasses, couldn’t keep up with the demand.
Today’s 3D Movies.
After having a “golden age” in the 1950s, the popularity of 3D movies died down for several decades. In the 1980s, 3D had a rebirth when IMAX and The Walt Disney Company began producing nonfiction films in the format, starting with We Are Born of Stars in 1985. This led to the introduction of more 3D releases of mainstream movies in the early 2000s in addition to the 2D versions. By 2009, when the movie Avatar was released, 3D had exploded back on the movie scene again. Internationally, Avatar opened with 3,671 theaters showing the film in 3D. While many debate whether or not 3D really enhances the viewing experience or detracts from it, there is no question that we are in the second golden age of 3D.
So how does the brain make 3D work in everyday life? While you may assume that you see the world around us in 3D we actually can only perceive two dimensions, height and width. It is the way the brain interprets what the eyes see that creates the illusion of 3 dimensions, utilizing cues such as size and shading, and then performs complicated calculations to figure out where objects are positioned in space.
Want to know more? This week, Brain Games explores how optical illusions are a great way to reveal the powerful mechanisms that allow your brain to perceive 3D. Don’t miss Brain Games: Illusion Confusion Monday at 9 PM et/pt and add some dimension to your viewing!