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Short-lived 3-D

Photo caption: The Mitchell BNC 35mm camera was used with great success by IA members for many decades; it provides a sound-insulated casing, one-lens mounting, automatic parallax correction of the viewfinder, automatic dissolve control, and several focusing controls.

3-D, a three-dimensional, stereoscopic novelty was produced by shooting the same scene through two separate lenses set apart but contained in a single camera.  In the theatre, two interlocked projectors put the two images on the screen simultaneously, but the audience could only see the scene in three-dimensions by wearing awkward cardboard or plastic Polaroid glasses.

IA cameramen and projectionists tried to make the new process successful.  Hollywood called it “Natural Vision.”  According to Local 659 member, Joseph Biroc, who used the 3-D equipment, the “operating crew working the Natural Vision cameras must be exacting in their work -- much more precise than 2-dimension cinematography.”

The studios moved slowly but with determination in developing 3-D movies.  Nevertheless, following the success of the first 3-D film, Bwana Devil, others were released in quick succession: House of Wax, It Came From Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Kiss Me Kate, I, The Jury and Revenge of the Creature.  Most were thrillers, since action got the most excitement from 3-D.

There are many arguments about what caused the death of 3-D.  Some say that the required glasses caused headaches.  Others say that the novelty wore off and, after a while, the effects were no longer interesting or exciting enough.  It took only a few years for 3-D to be abandoned entirely.  Revenge of the Creature was released in 1955, but the popularity of 3-D had already declined so much that in 1954 Alfred Hitchcock released his new feature, Dial M for Murder, in two-dimensional format even through it had been shot in 3-D.