The term 3-D (or 3D) is used to describe any visual presentation system (including movies or video presentation) that attempts to maintain or recreate the illusion of depth as seen by the viewer.
The basic principle involves taking two pictures, either still or moving, with cameras positioned side by side, and with identical technical characteristics. When viewed in such a way that each eye sees only the image taken on the same side as itself, the viewer's visual cortex will interpret the pair of images as a single three-dimensional image. See stereoscopy for a more detailed description.
3-D motion pictures date back to 1915, when the short film Jim, the Penman was shown in New York. Experimental or novelty 3-D films continued to be produced sporadically through the early days of movies. The 3-D boom began in 1952 with the release of the exploitation film Bwana Devil followed the next year by the first full-color, stereophonic 3-D movie, House of Wax. The theatrical 3-D craze would continue throughout the 1950s. In later years sporadic attempts to revive the form were made with limited success.
Today many IMAX films are made in 3-D.
3-D does have serious uses. For instance, examining stereoscopic aerial images can provide insights into topography which can have scientific and military applications.
3-D is used in computer displays primarily for technical and scientific data.
There are several ways to create projected 3-D images.