This December, the University of Kentucky Press will publish Stereoscopic Cinema and the Origins of 3-D Film, 1838-1952, a new book by Ray Zone. The 224 page clothbound book will retail for $42, and include 50 photographs.
As described on the publisher’s web page:
Though it may come as a surprise to both cinema lovers and industry professionals who believe that 3-D film was born in the early 1950s, stereoscopic cinema actually began in 1838, more than 100 years before the 3-D boom in Hollywood was created by the release of Arch Oboler’s African adventure film, Bwana Devil, filmed in “Natural Vision” 3-D.
Stereoscopic Cinema and the Origins of 3-D Film, 1838-1952, is a comprehensive prehistory of the stereoscopic motion picture. In the late nineteenth century, stereoview cards were popular worldwide, and soon filmmakers wanted to capture these “living pictures” with motion, sound, and color. Writing a new chapter in the history of early cinema, Ray Zone not only discusses technological innovation and its cultural context but also examines the aesthetic aspects of stereoscopic cinema in its first century of production.
The book will also include an introduction (which you can read here) by Lenny Lipton, who holds some 30 stereographic display patents, is currently CTO of RealD, and author of the excellent technical book, Foundations of the Stereoscopic Cinema: A Study in Depth (NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1982). (You can download a PDF version of Foundations of the Stereoscopic Cinema — with the addition of 5 pages of errata not otherwise available — via Stereoscopic.org.)
It would appear that Zone’s new book will leave off at the ’50s 3D film explosion, which is certainly a very rich vein of largely unwritten history that deserves its own full treatment — one that he will hopefully explore in a later volume. (R.M. Hayes’ 1989 book, 3-D Movies: A History and Filmography of Stereoscopic Cinema, deals with the period but is so cursory and, frankly, so riddled with errors as to be not much use…although the encyclopedic filmography has some value for the serious nerd.)
Stereoscopic Cinema and the Origins of 3-D Film will be a valuable addition to fascinating but neglected history. The only other book I’m aware of to deal at all with this period is actually a long-out-of-print Master’s thesis written in 1975 by H. Mark Gosser, Selected Attempts at Stereoscopic Moving Pictures and Their Relationship to the Development of Motion Picture Technology, 1852-1903 (NY: Arno Press, 1977). Perhaps there are others I don’t know of.
Ray Zone knows his 3D stuff. In addition to having written numerous articles about 3D film and comics appearing in pubs like the LA Times, American Cinematographer, and The Hollywood Reporter, he is also the author of 3-D Filmmakers: Conversations with Creators of Stereoscopic Motion Pictures (MD: Scarecrow Press, 2005), an excellent (if pricey) collection of interviews with producers, screenwriters, directors, and cinematographers working in 3D film mainly in the ’70s and ’80s, but also including pioneer Arch (Bwana Devil) Oboler.
Zone has also had a hand in some 130 3D comics, plus a huge array of other 3D/stereoscopic products — even including, according to his web site, 3D underwear.