On June 11, Walt Disney is revolutionizing television entertainment with the latest rendition of its popular ESPN brand: ESPN 3D, a channel totally dedicated to broadcasting 3D programs. To kick off its launch, ESPN 3D will broadcast 25 games of the World Cup, the world’s most popular sporting event.¹ In addition to soccer, sports fans will also be able to marvel at screen-popping slam dunks or bat-crunching homeruns that appear to be taking place right in their living rooms.
Carried by DirecTV, ESPN 3D is one of the world’s first channels wholly dedicated to 3D programming and is a sure sign that 3D technology is here to stay. Once thought of as a fad, 3D entertainment has been evolving for nearly 200 years.²
It’s been around longer than you think
The original concept behind the creation of three-dimensional images, stereoscopy, was invented in 1838. The technique was sporadically implemented in low-budget films as cinemas gained popularity in the early 20th century. However, the 1950s ushered in the movie industry’s first 3D era, with House of Wax and It Came from Outer Space showing off stereoscopy’s groundbreaking potential. Even some popular films, including Hondo and Dial M for Murder, were released in the new, exciting format. However, 3D sales constantly lagged behind 2D and still left a lot to be desired in the eyes of studio execs.
It wasn’t until the late 1970s that the film industry got another healthy dose of 3D. Movies, mostly sequels such as Jaws 3D and Friday the 13th Part III, used state-of-the-art technology to make moviegoers feel as though the action was popping off the screen. The invention of IMAX increased the popularity of 3D movies, especially in the late 90s. However, shooting costs limited the number of 3D productions being released to normal cinemas, that is, until recently.
The turn of the millennium gave way to a new golden age of 3D technology. Advancements in computer imaging slashed 3D production costs and allowed movie makers to create the most realistic 3D experience to date. In 2010, some movies that didn’t plan on having a 3D release, such as Clash of the Titans, were given “3D makeovers” in an attempt to catch onto the success of other recent 3D releases.³