Indie inventor’s 3-D camera works with film, vid or TV

Chris Mayhew has a message for those who depend on moving pictures for a living: His images are better.

Mayhew, a D.C.-based animator-turned-inventor, has spent eight years and $ 1. 9 million developing a camera featuring something called autostereoscopic imaging technology. That’s wonk-speak for a 3-D camera, and in Mayhew’s mind, at least, it could be the next frontier in moviemaking.

Mayhew’s discovery doesn’t immediately bowl the viewer over, but it does provide an added dimension of depth and clarity that is undeniable.

The Leo Burnett advertising agency hired Mayhew and his company — Vision III Imaging of Herndon, Va. — to shoot a McDonald’s commercial last year, and the resulting blurb featured a burger scrumptious-looking enough to test the willpower of even diehard vegetarians.

The Vision III proprietary technology consists of a special 35mm camera that captures multiple views of a scene using Panavision lenses.

The effect tricks the eye into seeing an image that clearly has greater depth than normal photography.

It records images on standard film or videotape that can easily be transmitted in theaters, homevideo or on TV stations.

And of course, there’s no need for those wacky 1950s 3-D glasses to appreciate Vision III.

“To be successful commercially, we realized we had to be as standard as possible, viewed from anywhere in a room, and to not require camera operators to have to do anything unusual,” says Mayhew. “We wanted to be as mainstream as possible.”

The 34-year-old Mayhew graduated from college in New Mexico with a degree in photography.

After returning to D.C. as an animator, he became obsessed with developing new technology that would allow his two-dimensional cartoons to enter the world of 3-D.

Mayhew has lined up a group of private investors and a staff of five, and he now has patents pending or issued in 26 countries on his 3-D camera.

Now all that remains are for clients to come beating a path to his door. Mayhew thinks it’s only a matter of time.

“We’ve finally got all the bugs worked out,” he says confidently.

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