Extras | Film: CAN YOU WATCH A 3D MOVIE WITHOUT GLASSES?

by Dale Reynolds on June 1, 2023

in Extras,Film

With the release earlier this year of Avatar: The Way of Water, 3D movie viewing has become a major talking point again. While audiences tend to love 3D films, they’re generally not quite as enamored with the glasses that are required to get the effect.

This has led many people to question whether it’s possible to watch any kind of 3D movie without the need for glasses and whether no-glasses 3D is on the radar in the near future. We’ve got everything you need to know below – including some info on the very first 3D movie ever made – and the date will shock you!

How Do 3D Movies Work?

Humans naturally see the world in 3D, as each of our eyes transmits a slightly different image to the brain. With traditional movies, we view the screen in 2D, on a flat surface: both of our eyes see the same image. Clever film trickery can give some sense of depth and perspective, but what we’re viewing remains essentially 2D.

Then, along came 3D movies that required the audience to wear special glasses for a mind-blowing cinematic experience. This tech works by sending two very slightly different images to each of our eyes – the glasses mean that the viewer gets a different image in their left eye compared to the right, which creates the sense that what we’re watching is coming out of the screen and exists in the three-dimensional world. Full rim passive polarized or active shutter glasses are the specialized eyewear required to enjoy a movie in 3D.

If you take off your 3D glasses during the film, you’ll see a pair of slightly overlapping images that are a little out of focus.

Is it Possible to Watch a 3D Movie Without Glasses?

Not yet, but the technology to allow this is already in development and is thought will be available in the very near future. While audiences currently enjoy 3D movies, for this media to become the norm, it’s likely that viewers will demand a non-glasses experience, and tech companies and studios recognize this.

It is already possible, however, for users to enjoy a no-glasses 3D viewing experience on several tablets, smartphones, and portable gaming devices. Scaling this up to the big screen, though, is challenging. Prototypes from companies including Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, Vizio, and LG have all demonstrated no-glasses large 3D screens at trade shows over the last few years, although, in the main, these prototypes have been largely marketed at the institutional and business communities.

But with James Cameron himself on the case – largely responsible for bringing 3D movie viewing into the spotlight with his blockbuster 2009 movie, Avatar – working in partnership with tech firms to bring no-glasses 3D to commercial cinema, the latest development is sure to be just around the corner.

When Was the First 3D Film Made?

This may surprise you: the first ever 3D film was made all the way back in 1922! The Power of Love, created and directed by Nat G. Deverich and Harry K. Fairall, was made up of five reels and had its premiere at the Ambassador Hotel Theater in Los Angeles. The short movie was made using a two-lens camera and a red and green anaglyph system – the ancestor of the tech still used in 3D movies today – and viewers needed to wear spectacles with special lenses to enjoy the 3D effect. Although the film is now considered lost, intriguingly, it’s been reported that viewers could choose to watch either a happy or a sad ending of the story simply by looking through just one color lens.

What is the Highest Grossing 3D Movie of All Time?

Avatar held the record as the highest-grossing 3D movie of all time…until it was knocked off the top spot by its sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, earlier this year. As mentioned above, the original movie was responsible for bringing 3D movies back to the table and kicked off a surge of both original 3D movies and conversions of movies into the 3D format that were formally only available in 2D.

Avatar wasn’t just one of the highest-grossing 3D movies of all time; it remains one of the biggest movies of all time, period. The movie remains one of the highest-grossing movies ever, both in the USA and in countries around the world, including China, Hong Kong, the UK, South Korea, and Taiwan.

The Future of No-Glasses 3D Movies

While the tech that’ll deliver mainstream, no-glasses 3D films to commercial cinema hasn’t arrived yet, it’s very much in the pipeline, with key developments expected over the next few years. On top of that, 4D viewing experiences are also set to become more widely available, in which audiences will feel physical sensations at moments that correlate with the action on-screen. For example, seats vibrate and rumble during car chase scenes, and air spurts are deployed when a character is splashed with water to create a similar, realistic sensation.

Whatever the future of no-glasses 3D movies, the tech that underpins these experiences will continue to develop, adding ever more authenticity to our viewing pleasure.

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