dates back to Waller's early days in his father's
commercial-photography shop in New York City.
"Even then," he says, "I had a hunch that
three-dimensional photography was possible
without stereoptic gadgets."
Later, as head of Paramount's trick-film
department, Waller began to use wide-angle lenses
for special effects. "I noticed that they produced a
faint three-dimensional effect," he says, "and
figured it was a clue." He began to study sight in
people to find out why they saw the things they
did. He hung flaps over the peak of a cap and
experimented to see how far he could see to each
side. It was quite a bit. He walked around with one
eye patched to see if he still had vision in depth. He
"I learned," he reveals, "that sight depends on
experience; the eye lens paints a crude picture on
the retina and the brain fills in details that it knows
from experience should be there."
Stereovision, Waller explains, is largely fiction. For
most persons it exists in an area of only 1 1/2 degrees
and for a distance of a mere 20 feet. One-eyed
people, of course, have none. And yet they get
what they think is three-dimensional sight. They
drive cars and gauge distances as well as anyone.
How? "By scores of visual clues that tell their
brains what to see," Waller says. "One object
overlays another and tells them it's nearer; moving
objects increase and decrease in size, angle, parallax
and a host of other things tip them off to what they
Waller figured that if he could devise cameras and
projectors to duplicate peripheral vision (the entire
field of a pair of human eyes), the human brain
would do the rest since most of the visual clues by
which people place themselves and the objects
around them in space would be there. Anyone
looking at such a picture would feel he was standing
in the middle of a real scene. He would be the
The inventor's first attempts to make such a camera
looked mighty odd. One had seven lenses. It took a
wide picture, all right, but the projected image was
distorted on a standard screen.
"Then," says the inventor, "a New York World's
Fair exhibitor asked me to make him a projectedpicture display inside a sphere, just to be different.
He barely mentioned it when I knew I had the
answer to my environmental movies. I'd been using
flat screens only because I was so accustomed to
them. Obviously, a person sees a curved view in
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