586SMPTE Journal, September 2001 • www.smpte.org
tereoscopic cinema has notbecome an accepted part of theneighborhood theatrical experiencebecause the technology hasn’t beenperfected to the point where it is satis-fying for either the exhibitor or theviewer. However, the medium hasbecome widely accepted in themeparks and location-based entertain-ment where some of the problemshave been overcome. For the mostpart, the projection technology used intheme park theaters is identical to thatfirst employed commercially in 1939:two projectors run in interlock withlenses projecting through sheet polar-izer filters. Audience members worepolarizer analyzer eyewear for imageselection (the means for getting theleft eye image to be seen only by theleft eye and vice versa).It is expected that digital projec-tion, which produces a clean ghost-free image and requires the use of only one projector, will undoubtedlyusher in a new and superior version of the medium. First, let us take a histor-ical detour in order to understand theproblems of the past to better appreci-ate the virtues of the improvementdescribed.
The first successful (and influential)commercial use of full-color stereo-scopic movie projection in the U.S.was in 1940 (a similar film was pro- jected in monochrome in 1939) at theWorld’s Fair in New York. John A.Norling produced and photographed afilm showing the assembly of aChrysler automobile. The film wasshot with a 35mm camera rig and pro- jected with a pair of projectors ininterlock. As mentioned, polarizationwas used for image selection.
The film debuted some fourdecades after the suggestion was firstmade for using polarization as amethod of image selection. This delayfrom idea to successful implementa-tion is typical of technology in gener-al, and the stereoscopic medium inparticular, in which innovation hassometimes depended upon the arrivalof new enabling technologies. In thiscase John Anderton
first suggestedpolarization for selection using thecumbersome piles-of-plates tech-nique, but a viable implementationawaited the invention of commercial-quality sheet polarizers by EdwinLand, who applied the material tostereoscopic eyewear.
The Norling approach became themodel for the theatrical motion pic-ture stereoscopic boom of the early1950s. In those days theaters had twoprojectors in the booth forchangeover from reel to reel, provid-ing an opportunity to modify thesetup to run interlocked left and rightprojectors (Fig. 1).It may well be that problems in theprojection booth bear the major shareof responsibility for this short-livedeffort. Polaroid researchers Jones andShurcliff
described the artifacts relat-ed to projector synchronization andshutter phase. The same kind of dual-projector scheme is used in today’stheme parks. The theme park theateris more manageable than a neighbor-hood theater, since more diligence canbe devoted to making a touchy systemwork.
Single Projector Methods
The history of the cinema teachesthat systems requiring multiplemachines, for color, sound, or wide-screen, will be displaced by singleprojector solutions. The same factorsapply to the stereo-cinema. For exam-ple, in the early 1980s, attempts weremade to commercialize single projec-tor methods that placed left and rightimages above and below each otherwith Techniscope-style (two perf high) subframes.
Special dual opticsthat incorporated polarizing filterswere required for projection.
The Stereoscopic Cinema:From Film to Digital Projection
By Lenny Lipton
A noteworthy improvement in the projection of stereoscopic movingimages is taking place; the image is clear and easy to view. Moreover, thesetup of projection is simplified, and requires no tweaking for continued performance at a high-quality level. The new system of projection relieson the Texas Instruments Digital Micromirror Device (DMD), and thebasis for this paper is the Christie Digital Mirage 5000 projector and StereoGraphics selection devices, CrystalEyes and the ZScreen.
A contribution received on April 26, 2001. LennyLipton is with StereoGraphics Corp., San Rafael, CA94901. Copyright ©2001 by SMPTE.