3D has been with us since the beginnings of photography and filmmaking. In fact, the first 3D movie was made in 1903 and the first publicly shown 3D movie was The Power of Love in 1922. However, the first true "Golden Age" of 3D began in 1952 with the film Bwana Devil. Although there were some classic film titles filmed and presented in 3D during this period, such as Hondo, Creature From The Black Lagoon, It Came From Outer Space, and House of Wax, the difficulty of presenting 3D with the technology available at the time made audiences disappointed in the result.
The First 3D Revival
However, that did not prevent the studios from deserting 3D altogether, and some technological progress was made in the 1970's and 80's, but suffered with, unfortunately, unmemorable film titles, such as Jaws 3D, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn.
Then in the mid-1980's things began to change in the world of 3D with incorporation of the 3D technology with the IMAX film format. Although too expensive to be widely adopted in mainstream movie theaters, 3D IMAX presentations made headway by becoming a "special event" experience, giving audiences an impressive large screen 3D effect, combined with material, such as nature, history, and travel that seemed to be more accepting by audiences than the abundance of B-class 3D movies of previous periods. Also, instead of those terrible cardboard red/blue or polarized glasses, IMAX 3D began the trend of using active LCD shutter glasses that more precisely directed 3D information into the viewer's eyes. However, they were big and bulky.
3D at the Beginning of the 21st Century
Enter the 21st century. With the introduction of new filming techniques, such as CGI, motion capture, high definition video, the use of digital projection in an increasing number of movie theaters, as well as new, more effective, and comfortable, 3D glasses technology, such as Dolby 3D, Real D, and XpanD, 3D became more accessible than ever.
This second "Golden Age of 3D" is alive and well. 3D films ranging from pure animation, such as Coraline and UP, to the new all-time biggest box office draw that combines sophisticated motion-capture, animation, and live-action, James Cameron's Avatar have drawn moviegoers into the movie theater in ever larger numbers. As a result, movie studios are not only filming more movies in 3D, but are actively pursuing the conversion of films originally shot in 2D into 3D in an effort to increase their box office appeal.
For additional references on the history of 3D, check out the History of 3D (Sensio), A Short History of 3D Movies (Widescreen Movies Magazine), Directory of 3D Movies, and Top 3-D Myths (3D Film Presevation Fund), and 3D Movie Timeline Chart: 1903 to 2011 (Sony Professional via Nerd Approved).
Moving 3D Into the Home
The current success of 3D at the local cinema has not gone unnoticed by the powerful consumer electronics industry, so now there is a big effort in place to get 3D into consumers' homes.
There have been some attempts at broadcasting TV programs in 3D (Chuck, Michael Jackson Grammy Tribute) and on Blu-ray so far (Coraline, Polar Express). However, the methods used produces poor results for the viewer, since it has to rely on current TV display and Blu-ray Disc player capabilities. The systems used up until 2010 are not the same as the 3D systems that are employed in movie theaters for such films as James Cameron's Avatar, or that are used with the new 3D TV and Blu-ray products coming out that are the subject of this article and the following FAQs.
Why has 3D continued to capture the imagination of both filmmakers and movie goers and now the forces with in the consumer electronics industry? Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't say that 3D is definitely a way for movie studios to make more money by getting consumers out their homes and into the movie theater more often or consumer electronics manufacturers to get consumers to buy more "stuff" in order to integrate 3D into the home entertainment experience.
However, that being said, just as we went from Black and White to Color, from stereo to surround sound, from 4x3 to 16x9, from analog to HDTV, 2D to 3D is a natural progression in the quest to converge the fantasy of film and TV with the real world. The question is, is it the right time for the movie studios and consumer electronics manufacturers to make their case, and is the right time to ask consumers to dig into their pocket books, especially so soon after many consumers have just purchased their first HDTV?
To find out if now is the time for you to consider 3D, I have provided some answers, based on what I know so far, to some of the questions that many are asking as to how 3D is integrated into the home theater environment. It is important to note that as new information becomes available, the answers to the following questions will be revised accordingly.
NOTE: This FAQ will be updated as more info becomes available or any changes are made in technical descriptions or standards.
For more comprehensive information on 3D, also check out my Complete Guide to Watching 3D at Home, which includes 3D TV Pros and Cons, what you need to know about 3D glasses, how to adjust a 3D TV a good viewing experience, lists of Best 3D Plasma and LCD TVs and 3D Blu-ray movies, as well as additional tips on how to best integrate 3D into your home theater experience.
In addition, also read some additional articles on 3D from other About.com Guides: How 3D Has Evolved to Fit Your Television (About.com 3D), as well as an article from About.com's Kids TV and Movies Guide, Carey Bryson: 3D Movies: Will Your Family Enjoy the Home 3D Movie Viewing Experience?