Kristina Johnson’s Movie Magic

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OSU president Kristina Johnson wearing the 3D glasses she helped develop.

To Kristina Johnson, the movie “Avatar” isn’t merely a visually stunning sci-fi epic. It’s also a victory lap. 

Long before she was named Ohio State’s 16th president in June, Johnson was an engineer and inventor studying color polarization. Her innovations paved the way for a new era of 3D movies, a breakthrough pioneered by the 2009 James Cameron blockbuster. Today, RealD 3D, the system she helped build, is the world’s most popular 3D cinema platform. Johnson estimates about 300 movies have used the technology, which, according to RealD’s LinkedIn page, has been installed in movie theaters in 75 countries. In Central Ohio, RealD 3D is available in cinemas operated by the AMC, Marcus and Cinemark chains. 

During a Zoom interview last fall, Johnson talked with Columbus Monthly about her 3D inventions, which helped earn her and her collaborator, Gary Sharp, a place in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Alexandria, Virginia, alongside the likes of Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and George Eastman. “I’m going to get a prop, hold on,” she says, speaking from her Bricker Hall office. When she returns to the computer screen, she’s wearing black 3D glasses, as well as a giant grin. 

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