Movies that Leap From the Screen! (Jan, 1929)

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Movies that Leap From the Screen!


A POOR boy from Budapest, who in his early childhood learned about the functions of the human eye in his struggle against defective vision, has invented a system whereby stereoscopic movies may be projected upon the screen and viewed by the audience without the use of the usual visors and colored screens!

The man’s name is Dimitre Daponte. In his early years he was troubled with faulty eyesight, and in studying the mechanics of the eye was intrigued with the phenomenon of sight known as “persistence of vision.” This is the term physicists use in describing the ability of the eye to retain an impression after the scene has changed or after the eye has been closed to the view.

You can bring the truth of this to mind in recalling that after looking at the sun there will be a vivid impression of a ball of fire left on the retina of the eye by the light.

In real life the eye sees around a thing, so to speak. One eye, being set a short distance from the other sees just enough different a view to let a sort of mental triangulation take place which enables the mind to estimate distance and depth. The reason that the third dimension or dimension of depth is left out when a picture is presented on the screen is that both eyes see exactly the same view.

M. Daponte reasoned that if a camera could be made which would take two views from two points no farther apart than the distance between one’s eyes, and then re-project them so that each eye would recognize its own view, then blend them so that continuous motion could be imparted to the film, that a sterescopic motion picture would result. He was right, and recent demonstrations in London have proved his claims to the letter.

The machine devised was a combination team of a camera and projector which would follow out M. Daponte’s theory. He built a camera with two lenses spaced about two inches center to center and arranged the shutters so that first one lens and then the other took pictures of the action. Only he speeded the film up to 32 feet a second so that ordinary 16 foot per second speed would result to the eye, since it was his plan to make each eye view only its own side of the picture.

The film resulting from such a camera you can visualize as you read this page by winking first one eye and then another in rapid succession at, say, a chair, noting the difference in view.

With the resulting two strips of film there remained the problem of putting them into one reel, so that the film could be run by the average operator in various theaters. Daponte devised a projection system which is fool proof, since the dissimilar views are finally printed on a master positive. Instead of being printed side by side and projected in superposed positions on the screen, which would result only in a blur, Daponte made use of the previously explained phenomenon of the persistence of vision. He ran this master film at double speed, threw one view after the other alternately on the screen so that the eye was actually fooled into thinking it was looking at the stirring events pictured before it as though they were real life.

The diagram at the bottom of the page shows how this was accomplished with two very clever lenses which shaded the light to achieve the desired stereoscopic results in the following manner: Since the right eye focus is naturally on things with a left hand objective the left objective is quickly thrown on the screen. Then, since it is the tendency for the right eye to recognize the view quicker than the left, the left eye is greeted with a view from the right objective, cleverly and speedily blended by the pulsating lenses which fade one view into the other without any change whatever in the intensity of the light. Thus the right eye sees what it is trained to see, the left eye sees what it is trained to see, and from any portion of a motion picture house objects are made to plunge directly at the viewer, who, though he instinctively retreats, is only being fooled by a strip of film running in jerks through a projector possessing lenses which pulsate the light so as to blend one view into the other too quickly for clumsy, fallible human eyes to detect!

  1. Eamonn says: November 23, 20092:57 pm

    I wonder why this never caught on. I’ve seen it in really short internet videos, and it definitely works. Was it too complicated or cause headaches or something?

  2. Firebrand38 says: November 23, 20094:55 pm

    Eamonn: It became associated as a gimmick that didn’t advance the plot. Cinematography, story and character development were sacrificed in hopes that things being thrown at the viewer would keep them from watching television.


    I also like this explanation:
    But even though the studios had thrown their support behind 3D movies, some flies began to land in the ointment. The first one (in the USA) was the rental deal that was forced onto the exhibitors by the distributors. Dual strip projection meant that, effectively, two prints of a 3D movie were supplied to the theatres – a left eye print and a right eye one. The distributors figured: two prints, twice the rental. The exhibitors soon discovered, though, that customers wouldn’t pay twice as much to see a 3D movie, especially because sometimes – and this led directly to the second big problem – you sometimes got sore eyes after half an hour watching a 3D picture! This was because some projectionists were more than a little casual when it came to 3D presentation. If one projector is slightly out of focus, or out of rack, the result is eye strain for the audience [see the accompanying article by Gary de Wan] as their eyes try in vain to correct the discrepancy. Occasionally, damaged frames would be removed and the ends of the film simply spliced together, instead of being replaced with the appropriate length of blank film, thus rendering the remainder of the film from that splice onwards, out of sync with the other. More eye strain! And while the exhibitors’ financial grievance was eventually resolved, some patrons eventually began to avoid a 3D presentation of a movie if they could see it flat somewhere else because they didn’t like having to wear the cardboard glasses. In fact, many theatres were booking single prints of 3D movies anyway (which were still marked ‘left’ or ‘right’) because they didn’t think 3D was worth all the effort and installation expense.

    Don’t neglect to read the whole entry at http://widescreenmovies…

  3. Toronto says: November 23, 20095:08 pm

    And yet I’ve seen 5x 3d movies in the last year or so. Coraline, Up!, Toy Story, Toy Story 2 (a double bill) and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

  4. Firebrand38 says: November 23, 20095:16 pm

    Toronto: Yeah, if you take the time to read all of the posts at the links I provided, you’ll see that technology finally caught up with the concept.

  5. Toronto says: November 23, 20096:37 pm

    Thanks, Firebrand – I’ll try later.

    BTW, Charlie, if you’re listening: MM here has been crashing IE for me all day. Firefox has no problems, however. I’ll try again later when I’m not behind the corporate fire curtain to see if it makes a difference. (It only happens when I click on an article or comment.)

  6. Daniel Rutter says: November 24, 20093:22 am

    The system described in this article doesn’t seem to actually have any way to make sure that each eye sees only the view it’s meant to. There’s just that gobbledegook about “pulsating lenses”, which suggests that this system was actually a sort of motion-picture wiggle stereoscopy:…

    I think they actually could have made a polariser-glasses system work with 1920s technology; shutter-glasses would probably have been out of the question, or some huge and hideous mechanical contraption.

    It also wouldn’t have been very hard to make a system that projected two images on the screen and required the audience to all go cross-eyed to lay the images on top of each other. That could have been done with a single projector, too, at the price of lower resolution. Such a solution would, of course, probably not be tolerable for the duration of a feature presentation.

  7. carlm says: November 24, 20094:09 am

    If you look just below the screen, you will notice an orchestra playing. I think the “talkie” was more of a draw than the 3D movie in 1929. The article indicated that the viewer didn’t need glasses to view the film. I don’t understand how one eye understands what image it should be viewing.

  8. Eamonn says: November 24, 20096:42 am

    Carlm, from what I understand it would work a lot like a wiggle stereogram. Two different cameras eye distance apart take alternating frames. Then they play them back left frame, right frame, left, right, and so on. Your eyes see two different perspectives, only slightly off. Your mind sorts that out and sees only the one, 3d image. The effect is similar to blinking one eye then the other in rapid succession.

    There was a cute animated clip about a girl and a cat done in this manner a while ago but for the life of me I can’t find it.

  9. Charlie says: November 24, 20091:44 pm

    Toronto: Thanks, it should be fixed now. I am seriously amazed that I can crash browsers on command!

  10. John Savard says: November 24, 20096:02 pm

    I do remember that recently, during the 1980s, someone else proposed a 3-D system that was based on how the eyes perceived motion. This could be slightly related to what is proposed here.

    But while 3-D itself never caught on, because of not advancing the plot, theatres in North America stuck to using anaglyphic or polarized glasses. In Russia, one other system, with a striped screen in front of the silver screen, was also used. This, however, required that the position of every seat in the theatre be calculated with respect to that grid, so the theatre had to be built especially for showing 3-D movies.

  11. Firebrand38 says: November 24, 20096:09 pm

    John Savard: I think that you’re referring to the Pulfrich effect which can be dramatically seen here

    Thanks for the info on the Russian system, I never heard of that before.

    Do you remember what it was called?

  12. jayessell says: November 25, 20094:26 pm

    I too am interested in the Russian system as applied towards 3DHDTV.
    I think LG demoed a prototype at a CES two years ago.
    Vertical lenecular lenses on the screen send the even numbered pixels to the left eye and
    odd numbered pixels to the right.
    No goggles required but precision seating is.

    Is there a 3D production company I can invest in?
    Soon the demand for 3D content will explode!

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