June 16, 2015
Times Square location where the Astor Theatre once stood.
On June 10, 2015 the New York Stereoscopic Association (NYSA), itself celebrating an anniversary, commemorated the 100th anniversary of the first presentation of 3D films to an audience by hosting a marathon 4-hour special event.
Hosted by John J. Zelenka and emceed by Denny Daniel, of the Museum of Interesting Things, the evening was virtually a 3D exposition. The crowd was greeted with special 100th anniversary commemorative postcards, buttons and T-shirts as they entered the Astor Ballroom. On display was an amazing “Free-D” (glasses free) screen by Magnetic3D showing stereo slides submitted by NYSA members. Countless 3D artifacts from Daniel’s traveling history museum were available to handle and examine throughout the night.
The program began with an informal meet-and-greet session where audience members got to know each other. Filmmakers and musicians chatted with scientists and technicians, all with some fascination and love for 3D. Mr. Zelenka opened the presentation by reading a letter from 3D filmmaker and enthusiast Martin Scorsese that he wrote to commemorate the celebration.
“3D takes movies into the future by looking back to the origins of cinema and beyond, further back to sculpture and painting and the need to represent the world in motion and in depth,” Scorsese wrote.
Appropriate words for an event celebrating a century of cinema technology; 3D or not.
Pierre Lamourex of Cinemusica was on hand to show a clip from the mesmerizing 3D music film he made with his brother François called Orchestrion, featuring the music of Pat Metheny. “Orchestrion” is a generic term for a mechanical device that plays music. Taking over an abandoned Brooklyn church and constructing his massive orchestrion inside, Metheny was filmed playing numerous pieces that began simply and worked their way up to a brilliant crescendo. Orchestrion was originally released theatrically and is currently available on Blu-ray.
Next up was Ikuo Nakamura of Hololab with his award-winning short film Atmosphere, a brilliant time-lapse of sky and nature. The ethereal music score was by Nakamura’s usual collaborator, Hayes Greenfield.
Following Nakamura was Bob Furmanek, director of 3D Film Archive, presenting several clips from his Blu-ray, 3D Rarities. 3D Rarities is a meticulous collection of restored 3D films from the 1920s through 1960s. The films truly offered a rare stereo glance into these decades when 3D was infrequently produced.
During the intermission presenters mingled with the audience and answered many questions. Daniel continued to demonstrate his curious gadgets from the Museum of Interesting Things. Eventually he signaled the crowd back to their seats with a blast from his antique car horn.
The second half of the presentation began with an informative talk about laser 3D projection by the co-founder of the Laser Illuminated Projector Association Bill Beck from BARCO projectors, also known as “Mr. Laser”. Clearly explaining how the laser projectors will help improve often-dim stereo projection, Beck held a brief
Q & A session after his presentation.
Furmanek returned with two more clips, one of a famed Rocky Marciano boxing match and another of an early 3D effort by Francis Ford Coppola. Nakamura then presented another piece, his visually stunning Aurora Borealis 3D, fresh off its inclusion in the BAMcinématek series “3D in the 21st Century.” Lamourex stunned the crowd with an electrifying call-and-response performance by Joe Satriani from his acclaimed 3D concert film Joe Satriani: Saturated, a live concert film shot in Montreal.
The finale of the night was a very special video contribution from Brian May’s Unanico Group/London Stereoscopic Company called One Night in Hell, based on diableries. Diableries are a series of dioramas made in France in the 1860s depicting satirical scenes set in hell, which were widely distributed as stereo cards. Jason Jameson and James Hall animated a batch of these cards and May wrote the score that was performed by a Czech orchestra. It was a poignant conclusion to a special night and the overflowing crowd showed their appreciation with roaring applause.
Just before the festive night ended, Denny and John lead the entire group in singing “Happy Birthday” with a real cake and candles appearing in 3D on the screen. “Happy Birthday 3D Film,” the crowd sang, as the candles blew out and everyone cheered.
The New York Dramatic Mirror article from 1915 vividly describes the reaction of the first audience attending a 3D movie:
“Figures of the players and the furniture were seen in all three dimensions and the effect, to one accustomed to the ordinary pictures, can not be described.”
One hundred years later, this crowd clearly agreed. 3D film allows us to travel to the past, stirs emotions and transports us to exotic locations in ways that still, “can not be described.”∆