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The History of 3D TV

written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 8/26/2010

What’s the first 3D movie shot in color? When did 3D television serials make their appearance? Why did the 3D craze in the 1950s fizzle out? Get the answers in this coverage of 3D TV history.

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    Early History

    Although 3D television is making its presence felt in 2010, the technology itself has been around for quite a while. You would be surprised to learn that 3D moving images or motion pictures have been available as early as the 19th century.

    It could be traced back to 1838 when the stereoscope was invented. It was the first camera that could capture photos in 3D. Then a camera meant for motion capture in 3D – kinematoscope – was invented in 1855.

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    The 3D Craze

    You would be equally surprised to learn that the first 3D movie –The Power of Love – saw the light of the day in 1922. The first color version of a 3D film saw production in 1935. The Soviet Union made Robinson Crusoe in 1947 and films like Bwana Devil – “The First Feature Length Motion Picture in 3-Dimension Natural Vision" - (1952) and House of Wax (1953) were among the forty-six 3-D films made between 1952 and 1955. Exited though audiences were by this new viewing experience, they were put off by the poor quality of the movies and the 3D craze soon waned.

    These films were to become the catalyst for the production of television serials in 3D in the 1950s and the experience proved more tedious than entertaining for the viewer.

    3D movies were soon to resurface in the 70s and 80s with the production of such films as Friday the 13th Part 3 and Jaws 3D. Although they were generally well-received by the viewing public the 3D fever did not really catch on.

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    Modern 3D TV Broadcast

    The first modern 3D TV broadcast was in December 1980 where Miss Sadie Thompson, a 1953 3D feature film was televised alongside a comedy short of Three Stooges by SelecTV a Los Angeles pay TV Channel.

    In 1997 ABC produced nine of its popular shows in 3D, among them, America’s Funniest Home Videos, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Drew Carey Show and Spin City. These programs could not be considered 3D in the truest sense of the word. Only the segments in the beginning or end were in 3D.

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    Future 3D Television

    The new millennium was to revive moviegoers’ interest in 3D cinema, especially after the release of Avatar, the highest grossing movie in the history of cinema.

    It would not be long before television stations jumped on the 3D bandwagon to cash in on Avatar’s success. Sky, a renowned television channel in the UK, will start broadcasting in 3D come October 2010. Trials have, however, been run since April in pubs. Sky+HD subscribers who own 3D-enabled television sets could avail themselves of the new service. 3D glasses would be required though to view programs. According to Gerry O’ Sullivan, Sky’s director of strategic product development, the demand for 3D television program would be encouraging as the public has already embraced 3D cinema.

    On the US front, ESPN is planning to broadcast at least 85 major sports event via its ESPN 3D channel, launched in June 2010 to broadcast 25 World Cup soccer matches. The Discovery Channel has also announced that it would be teaming up with Sony and IMAX to deliver 3D content.

    Industry insiders agree that the prospect for 3D Television could be nothing but bright.