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Top ten
List of stuff chucked and poked at the audience in 3-D
throughout the history of stereoscopic film

3-D Out of screen eye poke effect
About as far out of the screen 3-D as anaglyph 3-D will allow

Eye-poking 3-D

There is a lot more possible in stereo 3-D than poking stuff in the eyes of the audience, but it's usually the one part that everybody remembers of a 3-D film. In fact, it is probably the very thing that made you interested in 3-D films and 3-D film production in the first place!

So out-of-screen (negative parallax) 3-D is a good place to start when thinking of producing a 3-D stereoscopic film or video. And the best way to learn about what works well and what caused nausea and headaches, is to look at how it's been done before. Because he who does not know the 3-D past is doomed to repeat its eyestrain mistakes.

Out of Screen 3-D: how and how much

First, a little bit more about out-of-screen 3-D effects. It doesn't hurt to understand what it really is you're trying to accomplish here! Creatively, the 3-D in your project needs to pay off to actually be worth all the trouble and still integrate with the story being told. Because, narratively speaking, there is no good reason to poke stuff in the eyes of the audience. Normally, that only takes the viewer out of the story and reminds him that he is watching a 3-D movie.  

Overall, the dimensionality easily distracts the viewer from the story and its characters.   This way, the viewer is removed from the experience of enjoying the story and has to switch brain sides to enjoy the technicality of the 3-dimensional spectacle. And herein lies the paradox of 3-D film: you need the of-screen effects, but they can take the viewer out of the movie.   Subtlety needs to be employed.

This is something special-effects-driven movies without a good plot have in common with stereoscopic cinema, and its audience may be wooed in the first few minutes, but will be unimpressed by the whole thing at the end of the movie. Also, when watching a 3-D movie that does not perform the usual bag of out-of-the-screen tricks, its audience will question the need to shoot the film in 3-D in the first place.  

Can 3-D out-of-screen shots be used without acknowledging the existence of the camera (camera access) and the existence of the audience? How can in-your-face 3-D be used without taking the viewer out of the story? The 3-D directors of today and tomorrow have to ask themselves these questions to take 3-D film to the next level of cinematic evolution. We certainly have! Because not employing intelligent 3-D is going to be seen as clumsy as the first attempts at cinematic storytelling of the 1900s.

Without further ado then, here's the of top ten items coming out of the screen in 3-D films and TV programs:
There are, of course, many more fantastic 3-D eye-poke shots in existence. Should you know of shots that would sit comfortably in this list any any future extended list, please don not hesite to contact 3-D Revolution Productions and we'll see if we can get our hands on that particular piece of 3-D movie magic.

The Top Ten List
Of items coming out of the screen in 3-D films
As composed by Alexander Lentjes of 3-D Revolution Productions


Captain EO - Fuzzball
He's so cute! Now imagine him up close... very close...


1. Fuzzball - Captain EO (1986)

You can't fault a 3-D film shot by Francis Coppola, produced by George Lucas and shot with a dual 65mm Hines rig. It's pretty much 3-D perfection. And the shot with Fuzzball coming closer to the audience than any furry alien sidekick creature ever did is one of the most memorable off-screen moments in 3-D film history.   A true shame this 70mm twin-strip film is locked up in a movie conservation vault, somewhere in Disneyland. With no way to even get a glimpse of the 3-D effects for research purposes...

So apologies for this image not being in 3-D; it is almost impossible to get 3-D plates of 4-D attractions. If you know of a 3-D version, do let us know!
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The adventures of Sharkboy & Lavagirl 3-D - brain shot
Your classic 3-D brain drain


2. Brains - The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (2005)

Featuring this high on the list because it's the most bizarre object in 3-D ever. The effect itself is not that memorable, but, uniquely, the brain does hit a virtual camera lens and slides down as if real brains and cameras are involved. A very rare use of the acknowledgement of the presence of a 3-D camera.


House of Wax 3-D
Duck! Or cover your eyes


3. Paddleball ball - House of Wax (1953)

The classic of classics. Serves no function other than to come out of the screen and hit you in the eye. Especially because the actor is talking straight to you, the viewer. It was a bit of a tradition in ‘53/’54 and before to have producers talk to the audience about the 3-D process involved and about how to put on the 3-D glasses just before the start of the movie. But having the paddleball scene happen mid-movie in a special interlude, that is something very unique indeed. It is actually quite clever to use an ‘Interlude’ to do some extreme off-screen 3-D, because that kind extreme effect will definitely remind you that you are watching a 3-D film and will take you out of the story. This way, the story and its characters remain intact and the storytelling spell is not broken.


The adventures of Sharkboy & Lavagirl 3-D - piranhas shot
Don't forget to feed the 3 dimensional fish


4. Piranhas - The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (2005)

The predominant use of 3-D for horror movies ties in with the primal reaction that volumetric images still have on us. It is still a unique, very real experience, and a medium that really benefits from this emotion is horror. 3-D is also still a medium in its infancy, and is thus being used for very basic, primal stories.

Without a doubt, using dangerous animals like piranhas does exactly that: tie in with our primal reaction to both volumetric imagery and predators. Using piranhas at their actual size is a clever way to work with the size limitation of out-of-screen objects. This size limitation is dictated by the fact that 3-D images mustn’t be cut off by the screen edge and the available space in which objects can come out of the screen is thus a narrow, cone-shaped area.

So all round, using piranhas is a logical, well thought out 3-D solution.


Shrek 4-D - 3-D
A big, fat, hairy spider - right in your face!


5. Tarantula - Shrek 4-D (2003)

Staying with the small animals, this 4-D special animation is so well balanced, it should be used to research good 3-D. A big, fat, hairy spider is always nice to see dangled in 3-D before your very eyes – very real and very scary! And its presence ties in perfectly with the story at that point. It’s a shame this shot is followed by a whole bunch of tarantulas coming down at once, because it’s simply too many out-of-screen object to focus on. 3-D one-upmanship is a dangerous practise.


Motor Rhythm 3-D
An animated Chrysler engine - they don't make 'em like that any more


6. Pistons - Motor Rhythm (1936)

You may wonder how pistons manage to make their way into a 3-D movie and even floating out of the screen. Motor Rhythm is a promotional film for Chrysler, so it all makes sense. And it’s eye-poking in stop motion, as early as 1936. Of course objects were sticking out of the screen in 3-D as early as 1923, but never in animation, let alone in stop-motion! Amazing quality of this short overall, but the objects that come out of the screen do get way too close to the camera, resulting in unfusable imagery. A bit clumsy and strange for such an otherwise perfect 3-D presentation.


Medium - Still Life 3-D episode
Painting in 3-D was driving Van Gogh crazy


7. Van Gogh’s paint - Medium – Still Life (2005)

Very creative use of 3-D. Here we have Vincent van Gogh pouring paint onto a sheet of glass just over an upward-looking camera and then start brushing it to start his painting. Well though out, very well executed, but why is this section in 3-D again? This episode of Medium struggles to come up with a good reason to do 3-D and although the use of the 3-D is very well done, there is no real story-driven reason to suddenly have 3 dimensional scenes in an otherwise flat episode...


Flesh for Frankenstein 3-D
Quite a dramatic de-livery


8. Lance with liver - Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)

Pure gruesomeness and extreme fleshploitation - Andy Warhol at his film making best. This 3-D shot is a classic pole-poke as employed in many, many 3-D films, but with the added bloody liver at the end of it. Maximum gore, if pretty much fantasy, in your face!


The Three Stooges 3-D
The Three Stooges doing what they do best: good ol' pie throwing


9. Birthday Cake - The Three Stooges – Pardon my Backfire (1953)

Suspended on wires to approach the camera at a slow speed, in a straight line. Perfect for 3-D. It also fits in perfectly with the whole setup of this Three Stooges short: every shot is thought out to be able to chuck things at the camera in a complete clowning around vaudeville slapstick act. Nothing wrong with a little bit of pie throwing, but if you’re going to do it, do it right, just like this!


Jaws 3-D fish head
Fish head!


10. Fish Head - Jaws 3-D (1983)

You’ve got 90 minutes of film, a big production budget and an amazing franchise as a subject to do some interesting things in 3-D with. So what do you decide to have come out of the screen? A fish head!

That’ll please them for sure. A fine example of why 3-D didn’t stick around longer in the 1983-84 fad, being outdone in amount of releases and quality by the 1953-54 wave of 3-D films. Here’s hoping and preying the current 2008-09 period of 3-D popularity manages to find better objects to poke at the audience.

Wanting more

OK, there are quite a few more great objects that have come at ya in 3-D film history, so here’s number 11-20 of the list.  Or you could call it a second top 10 list, whatever sounds better.

The Top Twenty List - numbers 11-20
Of items coming out of the screen in 3-D films
As composed by Alexander Lentjes of 3-D Revolution Productions


Pirates by Iwerks 3-D
Dancin' like a butterfly, stingin' like a wasp


11. Wasps - Pirates (1999)

Pirates Is a 4-D show, so the chair buzzes as the wasps come close to the face. that kind of a connection makes story sense. The telescope of the opening sequence is a better 3-D effect, but the bees are very original indeed. It is difficult to find objects small enough to come out of the screen and still integrate with the story, at that small a size.

Apologies for this image not being in 3-D; it is almost impossible to get 3-D plates of 4-D attractions. If you know of a 3-D version, do let us know!
contact us


Star Trek: the Experience - Borg Invasion 4-D
Resistance to the 3-D effects is futile


12. Borg medical probe - Star Trek: The Experience – Borg Invasion 4-D (2004)

On this list because the 4-D use of the chair is one of the most original employed, other than the bird poo simulation by water sprinklers in Pirates, that is. As the Borg implant approaches the viewer in 3-D, something in the 4-D chair pokes one in the back. This is a true surprise and pretty darn freaky. It magnifies the primal reaction to volumetric imagery, which has the viewer on his toes already. Extending it to real-world touch, in a way that perfectly integrates with the story.

Apologies for this image not being in 3-D; it is almost impossible to get 3-D plates of 4-D attractions. If you know of a 3-D version, do let us know!
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The Incredible Invasion of the 20,000 Giant Robots from Outer Space
I come in pieces


13. Rebecca Morbidus - The Incredible Invasion of the 20,000 Giant Robots from Outer Space (2000)

Yes, we made this short and we’re voting on our own work here, but it’s one of the three stop-motion releases in 3-D in film history and the first one to include CGI as well. That deserves a good mention, doesn’t it? The girl coming out of the UFO and out of the screen is Rebecca Morbidus, and this is the first time we see her. So it's the most dramatic entrace possible for a protagonist of the story.

Because she is a stop-motion model - and the audience knows this - it is possible to have her come out of the screen and be as small as she is. It's an acknowledgement of the format and the medium, even referencing Ray Harryhausen style stop-motion. It’s very meta-cinematographic 3-D that way.


Terminator 2: 3-D
The future is not a happy, fluffy place


14. Metal T-1000 claws - Terminator 2: 3D (1996)

James Cameron’s early practise with 3-D and still shot with a proper 65mm twin-camera rig. As the T-1000 reaches for the viewer with his metal (CGI) claws, a basic concept of 3-D storytelling is employed: first-person camera work. You become the person being reached for by the T-1000, so basically with this shot you are John Connor and are watching through his eyes.

Apologies for this image not being in 3-D; it is almost impossible to get 3-D plates of 4-D attractions. If you know of a 3-D version, do let us know!
contact us


Jaws 3-D - floating arm
3 Dimensional fish bait


15. Severed arm - Jaws 3-D (1983)

The storyboard department was clearly struggling with ideas for stuff to come out of the screen in 3-D for this movie. In fact, the severed arm is only one of three proper in-your-face objects employed in the 90-minute film. It certainly beats the climatic 3-D shot of the shark itself swimming towards the camera (Jaws doesn’t actually come out of the screen in that shot). And it’s always nice to see prosthetics rather than CGI come close to the face – it’s got that realness to it that is difficult to approach with computer effects.


Jane Russell in 3-D - The French Line
After building that Chrysler engine in 3-D, J.R needed to scrub herself clean


16. Bath bubbles - The French Line (1954)

J.R. in 3-D – need we say more? Well yes, actually, because Jane Russell was yesterday’s pin-up, and probably not well known any more with today’s movie going audience. She was a kind of a 1954 Jessica Alba. So besides knocking BOTH our eyes out, why is this 3-D shot in the nr. 11-20 3-D shot list?

Because it’s so incredibly rare to see a quality lead in 3-D, let alone a singing and dancing one with endless legs! The French Line and it’s focus on a 3-Dimensional J.R. is a great stereoscopic musical treat. This particular shot with the bubbles is an imaginative one, which ties in with the story and doesn’t overdo it. A very nice balance is struck, and that, too, is rare in 3-D.


Therminator 2: 3-D - Battle Across Time
Hunter Killer robots: it's the future


7. Floating hunter robots - Terminator 2: 3D (1996)

Before Avatar and even before Aliens of the Deep, James Cameron did Terminator 2: 3-D. The floating robots come out of the screen as they are searching for the Terminator and John Connor. These floating robots are in CGI, while the action behind it is all pure live-action film. They do make sense in the story and the 3-D is not out of place in this movie because it is preluded and followed by real actors on stage. I needn’t mention that the terminator also sticks his shotgun out of the screen multiple times throughout this Universal Studios 3-D theme park movie.

Apologies for this image not being in 3-D; it is almost impossible to get 3-D plates of 4-D attractions. If you know of a 3-D version, do let us know!
contact us


Jared-Syn of Metalstorm 3-D
Reach out and touch someone


18. Jared-Syn’s arm - Metalstorm (1983)

In this hallucinogenic sequence Jared-Syn, the bad guy of the story, comes walking out of some background smoke and approaches the camera in slow-motion. He then reaches out to the camera and is thus reaching out for you, the viewer. Because being touched by him means dying (as is often the case with out-of-screen objects), it can be a scary effect. The fact that it is in slow-motion makes this shot very effective – it is truly hallucinogenic to see an actor move in 3-D in slow-motion.

The biggest beauty of this shot, though, is Jared-Syn’s costume, which is very round and volumetric. Probably the best costume design for 3-D film ever employed. This film was made for 3-D release and almost all shots are set up for impressive 3-D. Too bad the story is rubbish and the acting forgettable...


Barbie Pegasus 3-D - Giant's head
Lunchtime - and one dream of Bratz is very close to getting fulfilled


19. Hungry Giant’s head - Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus (2005)

I could be called a rubbish movie with sections in 3-D purely for extra sales of the DVD (it’s a straight-to-video release), but this one shot employs a clever trick that is really only possible in 3D CGI. The head of the giant grows physically smaller as it approaches the (virtual) 3-D camera, so that it can stick further out of the screen. The thought of Barbie being cooked up and eaten by this giant is also a most pleasurable one. Sorry, girls.


Jaws 3-D fish head
Fish head!


20. Spraying canister - Medium – Still Life (2005)

Small particles like water splashes, dirt, sparks, etc. normally don’t work well in 3-D because they move too fast and are too many to focus on. Objects coming out of the screen, so those with negative parallax, require individual attention. On top of this, objects can only come so close to the camera before they become unfusable to the eyes. This then destroys the 3-D results. The spray canister, though, still works because it’s a cloud rather than independent particles and a glass plate was used to stop the spray before the camera and before the closeness to the camera that is unfusable.

3-D shots for you

There you go: 20 eye-popping 3-D shots stad stand above the rest for a multitude of reasons.
If you yourself are looking for educated, well thought out 3-D production and are looking for a straight-forward, clear and easy solution, contact 3-D Revolution Productions.

For 3-D without the headaches!


Contact 3-D Revolution Productions

Contact 3-D Revolution Productions
Tel +44 1179 441 449

3-D Revolution Productions | 51 Sefton Park Road | Bristol BS7 9AN | United Kingdom

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