Stereo vs. 3D

I've been working for the past two months at a company called Illuminate in Hollywood. Don't look for them online yet, they haven't opened the website yet.

But I wanted to chat briefly about the confusion of the term "3D." 3D has been used to describe motion pictures that need two projectors to show their movie. Typically, because there is a left-eye movie and a right-eye movie projected on the same screen at the same time. Now-a-days, we don't use the red and blue eyeglasses to seperate the two projections anymore, we use circular-polarized lenses to view 3D movie, like avatar.

They're "circular-polarized" so that if you tilt your head left or right, your eyes can still see the 3D.

The word "stereo" in our culture is most-often associated with whatever it is that you use to listen to music. Taken from the Greek word "stereos" meaning 'solid', stereo in music comes from the fact that there is a mix of the sounds available, one of two channels available of music for each ear -- left and right.

Quadraphonic sound was a stereo-system in the 60s and 70s that featured recordings with four channel mixes, and your ears would have fun with pans and dissolves that would float around the room.

But stereo, even from the Greek, means three-dimensional, solid.

Since I work with computer graphics and the work is accomplished with both 3D and 2D tools, using computer graphics to create two images becomes a little confusing.

"So, you work in 3D?"


"Do you have to wear those glasses to do the work?"


"You know, 3D glasses."

"Uh, no... I work in a simulated 3-dimensional system, creating realistic models in a computer."

"Yeah, but do you have to wear the glasses?"

"Uhm.... Let's start this again."

So, as you can see, the conversation can get silly really fast. Computer graphics was often referred to for a number of years as being the XYZ (3 dimensional) world created inside computers and put in movies.

Digital compositing (as opposed to the old optical film/chemical compositing) was largely a 2D system of working for the first 20 years of its life, but over the last decade there has been a lot more crossover and Digital compositing (or just compositing now-a-days) has started having more 3D tools inside of the code and it's now one of the principal tools used to create 3D movies after they are shot.

So, that has to be confusing.

Frankly, I think we, as a culture, need to move away from called 3D movies "3D". We need to start referring to them for what they are. They have a left and right eye projected on a screen and they are "Stereo Films" not 3D.

Then again, we should also stop calling computer graphics 3D as well, since it does 3D, 2D and 4D (yeah, that's another post).

I like calling it CGI (Computer Generated Imagery), but then again, I'm fairly Old School.


  1. My cronies and I often correct people with the word 'stereoscopic' because of that very issue.

    Also, I met you at SDCC this year and bought 2 bunny buttons, I wanted to say again thanks for taking the time to talk to me and that the friend I purchased the 2nd button for loved it :D

  2. Cool! Thanks, Melinda. Always great to hear from the great people who read Wireheads.

    - Jimbo


Post a Comment