Having scoured all the radio listings for the week ahead in the Saturday and Sunday papers, it seems clear that on Tuesday, a number of other programmes are being highlighted and chosen as picks of the day. But I would like to mention this one: 3D In Perspective, a half-hour documentary that’s on Radio 4 on Tuesday at 11.30am and thereafter, more conveniently, on the iPlayer.
I don’t get to make that make radio documentaries, but when I do, it always makes me wish I did more. In fact, a nice man at the FX Quiz on Wednesday approached me afterward to praise The G Word, the documentary I fronted for Radio 2, two years ago, about Goth. It was lovely to meet someone who’d heard it. I am careful not to absorb too much of the credit for these things: I may be the narrator, effectively, but all the work is going on beneath the surface. In the case of The G Word, it was a BBC producer called Helen.
In the case of 3D In Perspective, it was an independent producer called Tamsin. Sometimes, as with a documentary I presented for Radio 2 about Jaws, and one I presented for Radio 2 about tribute bands, you tweak and edit the script to suit your own style and sit in a booth and read it out. But I was a lot more heavily involved with the creation and making of this one, and this makes it all the more gratifying that I think it’s come out so well. Tamsin had the impossible task of honing hours of material down to 30 minutes, and having heard the result, I think she’s done an amazing job. All I can say is: I was fascinated by the subject, and by the insight of our many learned contributors
This is the official blurb for the programme:
Bringing together the science of 3D television with a wide-ranging history of art and entertainment, Andrew Collins examines our centuries-old fascination with representing the world that exists in three visual dimensions. In modern 3D entertainment, today’s technologists are fighting the same battles with geometry, depth of field, light and texture as 15th Century painters. Award-winning visual effects supervisor, Paddy Eason discusses the debt that 3D imaging owes to its painterly predecessors.
At The National Gallery, art historian Professor David Ekserdjian explains how, from the changing shape of a canvas to the arrival of oil paint, the architects and artists of the Renaissance, challenged our notions of reality. Andrew enters a world of optical illusion, trawling piles of perspective pictures and stereo photographs at The Bill Douglas Centre for The History of Cinema and Popular Culture. Lecturer in Victorian Studies, John Plunkett explains, the appeal of 18th and 19th century optical or ‘philosophical’ toys, made possible by good lenses and mirrors. Often dismissed as novelty, they emerged from groundbreaking research on the physiology of vision.
The history of 3D is littered with failed technologies, including 3D films that predate cinema sound. Professor Neil Dodgson from The Computer Laboratory in Cambridge is a 3D expert. He outlines the obstacles, in particular the poorly paid projectionist and ultimately the limitations of human vision. Neuroscientist Dr Sue Barry, understands the visceral appeal of 3D. Aged fifty, she experienced her first thrilling sense of 3D immersion after years of being ‘stereoblind’ and suggests why we are so preoccupied with experiencing virtual 3D space.
It is, as they’ll say at the end, a Testbed production for BBC Radio 4. If you seek it out, I hope you like it.