James Cameron gets a lot of credit for his work on Avatar and the revolution it has triggered in 3D filmmaking. The film format is quite old, but only in the past two years has it really transformed from an in-theater gimmick to a viable creative path to follow during the production process. While the medium was first popularized in the 1950s, it turns out that experimentation with 3D effects goes back to a much older, and much darker, place.
Berlin’s Federal Archives have discovered a pair of propaganda films from pre-war Nazi Germany, Variety reports. The 30-minute black and white creations were discovered by filmmaker Philippe Mora, who is currently working on a documentary looking at how the Nazis used imagery to manipulate reality.
“The films are shot on 35mm — apparently with a prism in front of two lenses,” Mora revealed. “They were made by an independent studio for [Third Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph] Goebbels’ propaganda ministry and referred to as ‘raum film’ — or space film — which may be why no one ever realized since that they were 3D.”
One of the films is a carnival-set musical called So Real You Can Touch It. The other, Six Girls Roll Into Weekend, features German starlets living the high life. “The quality of the films is fantastic,” Mora said. “The Nazis were obsessed with recording everything and every single image was controlled — it was all part of how they gained control of the country and its people.”
Mora plans to work some of the 3D content into his upcoming documentary, going by the working title How the Third Reich Was Recorded. Now that he’s got a tag to search for, these so-called “raum films,” Mora will continue to search for additional examples of early 3D filmmaking from the Federal Archives.