First sound movie First stereo sound movie First colour sound movie First colour stereo sound movie
First 3D sound movie First 3D stereo sound movie First 3D colour sound movie First 3D colour stereo sound movie

First 3D colour sound movie

1. The technology

2. The human subject


First 3D 2-colour sound movie

Untitled, 1936

Made in the 2-colour Ufacolor process, an untitled documentary, with sound, showing scenes of the 1936 Dresden Reichsgartenschau was shown to the German Stereoscopic Society and the German Society of Cinematographic Technicians on 27 May 1937 by Professor Dr Ferdinand Bauer, as part of a presentation on '3-D Projection with Polarizers in Teaching'. This film seems later to have become confused with the 1937 Zum Greifen nah, which was  not made in colour, as sometimes stated. [Sammons, Hayes, p371, Widescreen Movies, 3-D Revolution; private communication from Ray Zone, 2009; in February 2011 it was reported that the rediscovered So Real You Can Touch It (a rough translation of "Zum Greifen nah") is indeed in black and white—Holdsworth]

The earliest 360° cylindrical panoramic movie filmed in sound and colour was the 1955 version of America the Beautiful, shown at what was then the Circarama theater at Disneyland. Its Circle-Vision 360° technique is directly comparable to the much earlier Cinéorama.

 


 

First 3D 3-colour sound movie

Kontsert, 1941

Kontsert, or Land of Youth, was released in the Soviet Union on 4 February 1941. Described as a parallax stereogram motion picture, it was directed by Aleksandr Andreyevsky; the stereofilm supervisor was Semyon Pavlovich Ivanov. A 30-minute short, it is a documentary celebration of Russian culture, including its wildlife, architecture and landscapes. A five-minute clip from Kontsert (side-by side stereographic) is available on YouTube; in the clip the sound is of music accompanying recordings of birds singing. [Zone, Hayes, 3-D Revolution]

 


 

First 3D colour sound feature film

The first 3D colour sound feature film was Robinson Kruzo, for which filming began in 1941, but which was released on 20 February 1947, in the Soviet Union. It was photographed on 70mm film with side-by-side stereo images having an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The director was Aleksandr Andreyevsky, and the stereofilm supervisor Semyon Ivanov. It is said to contain an extraordinarily effective scene in which a cat walks out into the audience. [Zone, Hayes, Sammons, 3-D Revolution]

 


First 3D colour stereo sound movie

Distant Thames, 1951

For London's Festival of Britain, in 1951, a futuristic cinema was constructed—the Telecinema—at which four stereoscopic films were presented in stereophonic sound. Two of these were animations, so not considered here. Of the others, one was in colour. This was the 9½ minute International Realist documentary Distant Thames, released by the British Film Institute on 30 April 1951. It was later retitled Royal River, and included in the 1953 compilation 3-Dimension.

Director: Brian Smith; cameraman: Stanley W. Sayer; Stereo Techniques technology: Raymond and Nigel L. Spottiswood; stereo sound: Ken Cameron. [Zone; Hayes; 3-D Revolution]

 

Orlac Reloaded, 2010

On 19 February 2010 the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute launched the HHI TiME Lab—Tomorrow’s Immersive Media Experience Lab—in Berlin, with the premiere of this short film—an adaptation of the 1925 The Hands of Orlac.

The Lab uses seven HD projectors with a resolution of 7000 x 2000 pixels projecting onto a 180° panoramic curved screen. The panoramic images are shot with a special camera purpose-built by the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute. Additionally, sound is generated by wave-field synthesis, using 128 loudspeakers arranged in a ring, with patented IOSONO technology by Fraunhofer IDMT.

Orlac Reloaded was produced by the Film and Television Academy (HFF) as the first attempt to adapt a film’s storyline, visual language, direction and soundtrack to the possibilities presented by this cutting-edge technology. [HHI; Film Journal]

 


 

First 3D colour stereo sound feature film

House of Wax, 1953

The American horror film House of Wax was released on 25 April 1953. It was directed by André de Toth (1912–2002), and starred Vincent Price.

House of Wax, originally titled Waxworks, was Warner Bros. answer to the 3D hit Bwana Devil, which had been released the previous November. Seeing something big in 3D's future, WB contracted the same company, Natural Vision, run by the Gunzberg Brothers, Julian and Milton, to shoot the new feature. The film is ultimately a remake of the studio's 1933 film, The Mystery of the Wax Museum, which in itself was written and based on Charles Belden's three-act play, The Wax Works.

"The film's most terrifying moment occurred when smoke from a fire seemed to pour from the screen out into the audience and the most sensuous was a barker batting a paddle ball out into the audience until it seemed to touch the end of the nose." [Limbacher: 161]

Filmed in (polarised) Natural Vision 3-Dimension (dual 35mm), it was presented in Widescreen (cropped 1.50:1). Hayes, pp214-8, says:

 

There have always been two thoughts on House of Wax: one, it is a classic film of the horror genre, and two, it is claptrap exploitation of the worst kind. There seems to be no middle ground. Everyone either loves or hates this film. Even if one followed the middle ground, House of Wax has to be considered better than just good. It was expertly mounted, staged and photographed. The 3-D was wonderful, the surround sound engrossing, the story thrilling. It was old but but it wore extremely well, and today it is still an exciting film. Stepping beyond the middle ground, it certainly is a classic not only in the horror vein but also of stereoscopic cinematography. It is a must-see in 3-D.

It is now available in 3D Blu-Ray.

 

Full references for printed works

R.M. Hayes (1989) 3-D Movies. A History and Filmography of Stereoscopic Cinema

James M. Limbacher (1968) Four Aspects of the Film

Eddie Sammons (1992) The World of 3-D Movies, downloadable from the virtual library of the Stereoscopic Displays and Applications conference

Ray Zone (2007) Stereoscopic Cinema & the Origins of 3-D Film, 1838–1952. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky

 

© 2009–2016 Benjamin S. Beck

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This page was last revised on 2016-01-30.