From the invention of the first movie camera in 1880, movies have occupied an important social space in our American culture. Along with color and sound being added to films, one of the most important changes to movies was when 3D technology was used to provide viewers with a more interactive and real viewing process. Although 3D technology is complicated and appears to be a modern day luxury, 3D imaging has actually been around since 1838.



 Edward B Titchener.  Sanford’s model of Wheatstone’s stereoscope. 1895. Photographic Album on Psychological Instruments. <>, (accessed March 27, 2013).

Stereoscope-Sir Charles Wheatstone (1838)

All three-dimensional imaging originates from the stereoscope invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1838.

How it works: The stereoscope takes two identical images, that are slightly offset from one another and places them on mirrors specially angled to the users eyes. These specific angles permit each eye to only see the image intended for it. This techniques allows for the right and left eyes to perceive the image in different ways, making the brain do the same. Resulting in the two-dimensional images to be meshed together in the brain forming the perception of three-dimensional depth.[1]

Why was it not chosen: Wheatstone’s stereoscope was invented before a practical photographic process became available, so only stereoscopic drawings were viewed. It also was big and not easily portable



Author Unknown. The Brewster stereoscope, 1849. Popular Science Monthly Volume 21. <>, (accessed March 27, 2013).

Lenticular Stereoscope-Sir David Brewster (1849)

Using Sir Charles Wheatstone’s stereoscope as an inspiration, Sir David Brewster developed his own version called the lenticular stereoscope. Unlike Wheatstone, instead of using mirrors he used lenses, making it possible for the stereoscope to be portable. The lenticular stereoscope functioned almost identically to Wheatstone’s original stereoscope.[2]

How it works: “Two photos of an object were taken from points approximately 2 ½ inches apart, or about the distance between a human’s pupils; the two photos were then positioned side-by-side on a card and viewed with a stereoscope whose lenses directed each eye to its corresponding photo, which caused the brain to perceive the two photos as a single image with depth.”[3]

Impact: Brewster’s stereoscope quickly became popular after he demonstrated one for Queen Victoria at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London. [4]

Between 1834 and 1895 the moving motion picture was being developed and perfected. This took place through a series of inventors and different technologies that built off of one another.[5]


Author Unknown. Stereo-cine camera. National Media Museum. <>, (accessed March 27, 2013).

Stereo Cine Camera- William Friese-Greene & Frederick H. Varley (1890)

British inventor William Friese-Greene, who is credited with developing the moving motion picture, was working on a two-lens camera that could produce stereoscopic photographs in a sequential order[6]. In 1890 Friese-Greene’s acquaintance Frederick H. Varley, a London engineer,[7] patented the camera. Just three years later in 1893, Friese-Greene applied for a patent for the same camera but with “Improvements in Apparatus for Exhibiting Panoramic, Dissolving, or Changing Views, and in the Manufacture of Slides for Use therewith.” [8]

using now

 Example of an anaglyphic image, as used in the film “The Power of Love.”
Dave Pape. Stereograph as an educator.  October 10, 2006. Original from Library of Congress. <>, (accessed April 20, 2013).

“The Power of Love” (1922)

The Power of Love was the first confirmed 3D film shown to a paying audience using anaglyphic imaging. The film was shown at the Ambassador Hotel Theater in Los Angeles on September 27, 1922. Film producer Harry K. Fairall and cinematographer Robert F. Elder produced the camera rig and projected the dual-strip movie in the green and red anaglyphic format.[9] Anaglyphic format works very similarly to stereoscopic imaging. Two pictures of the same scene are tinted either red or green/blue, then morphed together onto one screen. This dual colored image is viewed through anaglyphic glasses which allow only one eye to view one color of the picture. This makes the viewers brain mesh the image together, producing a single three-dimensional picture. [10] This made it not only the first dual-strip projection but also the first film to use anaglyphic glasses.[11] 


[1] Sir David Brewster, The Stereoscope: Its History, Theory, and Construction: With Its Application to the Fine and Useful Arts and to Education (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1856), 38-5. (accessed March 27, 2013).

[2] Ibid.,

[3] Tim Crothers, “Daguerre in the Heart,” Sports Illustrated, no. 8 (February 25, 2000): 115. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost(accessed March 27, 2013).

[4] Ibid.,

[5] Vic Leeds, “Selected Dates in Cinema Art, Science, and Technology,” GLIMPSE journal: the art+ science of seeing, (2012).,47 (accessed March 27, 2013).

[6] Brian Coe, “William Friese Greene and the Origins of Cinematography,” Screen 10, no. 2 (1969), (accessed March 27, 2013)

[7] Ibid., 36.

[8]  Ibid., 39.

[9] Ray Zone, Stereoscopic Cinema and the Origins of 3-D Film, 1838-1952 (Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 2007), 113-112.

[10] Marshall Brain. How 3-D Glasses work.  2011. HowStuffWorks., (accessed March 23, 2013).

[11] Ray Zone, Stereoscopic Cinema and the Origins of 3-D Film, 1838-1952 (Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 2007), 113-112.


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