Whether you enjoy the grandiose of the silver screen, or it’s flashy newer counterpart – television, it is undeniable that the filmed artistic medium has become a prominently mammoth industrial and cultural powerhouse. From its inception, film has garnered creative attention for the wide variety of possibilities that its premise provides. Invented in 1894 through the combined effort of Thomas Edison and his employee William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, the film camera allowed for the possibility of bringing any story to life. Combined with the ability to easily capture and distribute the film, as a business it quickly took off, providing simple, cheap artistic entertainment for the masses. Before cinema, most people couldn’t afford to attend performance arts and paired with the extremely high illiteracy rates of the time, a lot of people were deprived from sorts of catharsis that comes from artistic storytelling but with film, things quickly changed. Due to the attention it was receiving, flocks of inventors and creatives began to experiment with the film camera and what it could shoot. Starting with old-fashioned black and white films, one of the first things to really be developed was the concept of adding colour to film. Truly beginning with the innovation of the vibrant technicolour (notably including films such as the Wizard of Oz), movies have now developed to the point where images are photorealistic to the point that one could argue that they enhance the image so vividly that some movies look better than real life. As years went on, film developed further. Sound was developed, allowing for audible dialogue intertwined with a motion picture shot in constructed scenes, in front of moving images on green screens allowing for any scene to be shot anywhere depending on the budget and creativity of a production team.
The growth of technology has always been prominent and revolutionary within the world of film. This is because of the growing number of inventions that were being used to improve the way we see motion pictures such as the Magic Lantern and the kinetograph. One example of this is through the invention of the Magic Lantern by Christiaan Huygens in the 1650s. This is because the magic lantern itself was the first of its kind when it came to projecting an illusion of movement and was the first projector to grace the world of film. It was made of a simple construction of a lamp, mirror and lens, with an image painted on a glass slide reflected by the mirror and through the lens where moving images could then be produced by using mechanical slides.
This was highly influential and revolutionary in the means of film history as it helped inspire other inventors to evolve this invention into their own means of film projection, one classic example of this is with Thomas Edison and the Kinetoscope.
The Kinetoscope, an early motion picture exhibition device was invented between the years of 1888-1891 and was made publicly accessible in the year of 1894. It was designed in such a way for a member of the public to view motion pictures through a peephole. This was accomplished through the design of a strip of 35mm film passing rapidly between a lens and an electric light bulb while the member of the public viewed whatever was being projected through the peephole. This invention was highly influential because it created an illusion of movement by conveying a strip of perforated 35mm film strip bearing images within a sequence over a light source ( lightbulb ) and with a high speed shutter ( camera lens ).
Although the kinetoscope was highly innovative in the world of film much like the Magic Lantern it did have its limitations. The main limitation being that the sharpness of the images captured suffered considerably due to the motion of the elementary images even during the shirt time that they were being illuminated thus meaning it could not pass enough sufficient light for projection. This limitation was highly inspirational to two budding inventors under the names of Auguste and Louis Lumiere as it encouraged them to capitalise on the mistake that Thomas Edison’s kinetoscope with their own invention, the cinematographe.
The cinematographe was proposed and invented by the Lumiere Brothers, Auguste and Louis in order to exploit the projection mistake the kinetoscope possessed and decided to make a similar instrument capable of projecting moving pictures but for viewing by a larger audience. The cinematographe was patented on the 13th February 1895 it was a combined camera, printer and projector in which used a pin movement to transport the film. Each film was limited to about 57 seconds due to the limited space within the cinematographe itself.
The cinematographe became revolutionary and the more dominant within the world of film. This was because the cinematographe was very diverse when it came to its overall design and who applicable it could be to both filmmakers, producers and exhibitionists alike due to it being both a camera and projector.
The cInematographe’s dominance over its competitors in the world of film was further highlighted by the following quote by Roberta Pearson’s Early Cinema:
“The cinematographe technical specifications helped in both regards, initially giving it several advantages over its competitors in terms of production and exhibition. It’s relative lightness, it’s ability to function as a camera, a projector, a film developer and it’s lack of dependence upon electric current (it was hand cranked and illuminated by limelight) made it extremely portable and adaptable.”
This clearly highlights the dominance of the cinematographe over its competitors due to it being multi purposeful within the world of film. It also highlights the fact that it capitalised on Edison’s mistake on designing technology that was dependant on an electrical current when producing an image for the audience to view by designing to hand cranked and illuminated by a limelight rather than through a lightbulb like the kinetoscope. This meant that the Lumiere brothers had invented a revolutionary piece of filming and exhibition technology that created joy amongst the millions of people that viewed the short films projected through the means of the cinematographe.
One of those famous films being the 50 second short film “Arrival of a Train at the station of La Ciotat” that was presented in a public screening at the Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris on January 25th 1896. This further highlighted how revolutionary the cinematographe was within the world due to the reaction in which the screening received. This was because the screening caused widespread panic within the café due to the people being overwhelmed by the moving image of a moving train hurtling towards them. This prompted people to panic and scream and run to the back of the room in fear thus highlighting how revolutionary the cinematographe was within the world of film technology as they fully believed the illusion of movement depicted from the projection of a moving train through naturalistic filming techniques by the cinematographe itself.
One of the most important technological advancement in the film industry is Technicolor. Technicolor allowed filmmakers to be able to film the movies in colour instead of just black and white. It is a film-dyeing technique used by many Hollywood films from 1916 and had a massive influence in the film industry, thanks to the innovation of Burton Wescott and Daniel Comstock. Technicolor was based on the Kinemacolor system; it records images in two colours, which are in red and green, by using only one lens. The technology was ahead of its time, however, because of the complex way it was filmed, there are some difficulties when playing back Technicolor films in the theatres. For example, when The Gulf Between first shown in 1917, the technician was having difficulties when adjusting the machine due to the complexity of the process, the colours of the film were not be able to be registered correctly on the screen. It was later replaced by newer, three-colour cameras because filming with those cameras will result in lower production costs and less skill will be required to film. As a result, three-colour cameras became more and more popular, and Technicolor cameras soon became obsolete. Although there were some concerns about coloured films will be affecting the storytelling, like Albert Parker when he was talking about the process of colourizing films, coloured films had received tremendous success in the film industries, creating a different visual experience for the audience and helped with the future development of the film industry.
Another important technological revolution in the film industry is sound film, or usually known us “talkies”. Sound films had drastically changed the trend of the film industry from silent films to sound films, almost all the films produced nowadays are sound films. However, Dibbets stated that we should remember that silent film is not actually silent at all. Silent films have all sorts of ways to express sounds to the audience. Furthermore, most of the silent films played in the cinema would be supplemented with live music performed by the musicians, and often they will add some sound effects according to the action during the film. There is a good blog post which further illustrate sound in early cinema (http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/doingfilmhistory/2017/10/10/group-b-working-with-early-cinema-final-version/). The technology that made sound films possible was Vitaphone. Vitaphone was sponsored by Warner Bros and First National studios, which can allow soundtracks and dialogues to be able to record at the same time, and then be able to playback at the same time with the film. The first film with fully synchronized sound is The Jazz Singer in 1927. Despite its instability, the technology had completely changed the industry, and later replaced by the more advanced Movietone. Movietone was invented by Lee de Forest in 1927, This system was able to record audio directly into the film, this technological advancement had proved to be a success. According to Clair, sound films are no longer a photographed theatre, it is in its own genre. “Indeed, by its variety of sounds, its orchestra of human voices, it does give an impression of greater richness than silent cinema. But are such riches ruinous to it?” This is a debate in the film industry for quite a long time. However, looking at today’s trend, people seem to think the answer is no, as the experience brought by silent films and sound films are somehow different, it is difficult to compare one another.
Computer-generated imagery, also known as CGI, had been a trend in the film industry for quite a long time, and it is also, quite controversially, one of the most important revolutions brought to the film industry. Computer animation was first implemented in films in the 1970s using as a type of visual effects; some short animations were created by using a series of layering of 2D images. In 1972, Ed Catmull and Fred Park, which are two of the Pixar co-founders, had created the first prototype of a computer-generated 3D model, and being the foundation for future animations and films that followed. Nowadays we have many types of CGI that we could experience, for example, CGI that we could feel, such as Jurassic Park in 1993 as the first physically-textured CGI film; CGI that created an entire film, such as Toy Story in 1995 from Pixar, which later brought us a series of CG animation that generate a huge amount of fame, such as Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo. There are also CGI films that recreated scenes from a history incident, such as Pearl Harbour in 2001, which created a scene where the Japanese army attack on a US naval base. Finally, there were CGI films that captured people. Avatar in 2009 had combined facial capture and motion capture, thus creating a stunning new visual experience to the audiences and brought innovation in the film industry. However, there are some concerns with the CGI, especially the relationship between realism and CGI, and will CGI ruin the cinematic experience to the audience.
Furthermore, CGI might as well bring some negative effect to the film industry. Albee states that CGI Is like a double-edged sword. The good side is the workload needed for CGI can be drastically reduced because of the simplicity of the computer system. A person with a computer can easily do the work that normally requires hundreds of highly skilled people working with practical production. But on the other hand, if you can do the job that normally requires hundreds of people, that might be an issue with the job opportunities in the film industry.
To conclude, from the beginning film technology seems to have been on a constant trajectory of innovation and improvement. When compared to other forms of the artistic medium, film had in some ways, catching up to do. Comparatively, forms such as theatre and literature have had centuries, if not millenniums to mature. Yet, with its reliance on technology correlating with a period of rapid scientific progression the medium has blossomed into one which can be argued to incorporate and expand on a multitude of factors from other forms of the medium combining them to create an experience which in this point of time, arguably can’t be matched in sheer density of complexion and artistic depth when compared to its counterparts.
“A Technological History of Motion Pictures and Television; an Anthology from the Pages of the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.” A Technological History of Motion Pictures and Television; an Anthology from the Pages of the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, by Raymond Fielding, University of California Press, 1967, pp. 48–53.
Albee, Timothy. CGI Filmmaking: The Creation of Ghost Warrior. Wordware Pub., 2004.
Connole, Adam. “Working with Early Cinema.” Doing Film History, 10AD, blogs.exeter.ac.uk/doingfilmhistory/2017/10/10/group-b-working-with-early-cinema-final-version/.
“Director Tells of Making Fairbanks’s New Prismatic Pirate Production.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 Mar. 1926, www.nytimes.com/1926/03/07/archives/director-tells-of-making-fairbankss-new-prismatic-pirate-production.html?url=http%3A%2F%2Ftimesmachine.nytimes.com%2Ftimesmachine%2F1926%2F03%2F07%2F100055704.html.
“The Introduction of Sound.” The Introduction of Sound, by Karel Dibbets, Oxford UP, pp. 211–219.
Weis, Elisabeth. Film Sound: Theory and Practice. Columbia Univ. Pr., 1985.
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