#45 Norman McLaren – “Absolutely new and revolutionary”

Stirling-born film maker, Norman McLaren, was best known at the National Film Board of Canada, where he worked with John Grierson, for his innovative approach to sight and sound.

In the summer of 1944 he set himself the task of inventing a way to synthetically give depth to two dimensional drawn and painted images. The flatness of these drawn images had previously prohibited stereoscopic cameras from creating a convincing sense of reality, or, a 3D aspect.

“I began inventing [the technique] this summer, about June, and have been working and perfecting it, in my spare time ever since… Is it called ‘Stereoscopic’ drawing and painting. For every scene or picture, I have to draw actually two drawings – one for each eye. The drawings are of the same scene, but seen from a slightly different point of view.

When you look at the two drawings together, the eye fuses the two images into one scene, which has an amazing sense of reality about it.”

Norman McLaren to his parents, December 1944



Stereoscopic drawings – ‘Honeycomb’ for the left and right eyes


For some years McLaren worked perfecting his technique, a period which culminated in the release of two films – Around is Around and Now Is The Time – at the opening of the Festival of Britain in London on May 4th 1951. Critics hailed McLaren and his new method as deserving no small honour for adding depth to animation – the depth that McLaren had been striving for but which he admitted to his parents later on in 1951 that he had little ability to perceive himself.

This pioneering technique, which McLaren had confidently told his parents in the winter of 1944 they would probably hear a lot about in the future, saw McLaren presenting at the 1951 conference of the American Film Society of Motion Picture Engineers in Hollywood and speaking so often about the method of drawing stereoscopically that he proclaimed his desire to never again make a film which needed explanation.



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