Film has become a major part of Western culture. The process in which it has evolved is just as important. Film is one of the widest used forms of communication of the twentieth century.
Its origins actually began in the early nineteenth century in 1824 with the invention of the ‘thaumatrope’. The thaumatrope was a toy that used the idea of ‘persistence of vision’.’Persistence of vision’ can be best described as an optical illusion. The concept dictates that if one sees a series of pictures of an object in the stages of its movement, by viewing those pictures consecutively at a speed of 16fps (frames per second) the object will appear to move. The ‘thaumatrope’ was a two-sided disk with a picture on each side. There are strings on either side of the disk and one would essentially spin the display a new image. For instance, a picture of a bird would be on one side and a birdcage on the other.
One would hold taught the strings and spin the disk and one would see a bird in a cage.Then, in 1831, electromagnetic induction, which is used for powering various mechanisms such as film-projector motors, was discovered. The following year, the fantascope was created. It is a shallow, hollowed object with a series of sketches of a horse galloping, a juggler, dancer, etc. There are evenly spaced slots in the side of the cylinder for viewing. One would take this and spin in it while viewing through the slots to provide the sense of motion. Much the same invention was created and patented in 1834 called the Zoetrope which also involved multiple pictures, however were placed in a box on a crank.
One would turn the crank to view the moving picture.With the invention of photography, and later, celluloid (as the actual film base) film was created. Then, in 1879, Thomas Edison brought to the public the incandescent light bulb that would later be used in film projectors. Many inventions came on the scene from all over the world. But one of the most significant of these is the discovery of chronophotography by French innovator, Etienne-Jules Marey. He was able to get his camera up to 30 frames per second. All the while, George Eastman was bringing his small, still Kodak cameras to the scene.
All of these led to the soon-to-come invention of cinema.All though Thomas Edison is credited with having invented the means of motion picture technology, it was actually his young assistant William Dickson. Dickson created the kinetograph, which used a synchronized shutter, spring, and sprocket system to move a filmstrip through the camera to take multiple pictures consecutively. The projector utilizes a metal plate with two holes in it that rotates in front of the filmstrip being projected. The image is projected long enough that we see each frame pass through the hole twice. Essentially, the image pauses for a split second but due to the high rate of speed (24 fps), we only see the moving image.
This led the way to Dickson’s next invention, the kinetoscope, which held a continuous film loop that ran behind a shutter and in front of lamplight. It was this technology that Dickson would base his work on in his Black Maria.The Black Maria was a house constructed with a retractable roof. Its sole purpose was for the filming of short movies. Dickson’s films were anything from vaudeville acts to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show to cockfights and everything in-between. These films were thirty to sixty seconds in length. Dickson’s work inspired innovators such as the French, Lumiere Brothers, the “Fathers of Modern Film”.
They created a combination film camera and projector called a Cinematographe from which we derive cinematography.The Lumiere Brothers did a series of real-life films depicting things such as factory workers, carriages, and the first fictional movie short entitled “The Sprinkler Sprinkled”. American, Major Woodville Latham, later refined their camera. Latham created what is known as the Latham Loop that creates a slight slack to prevent filmstrip tearing and allow films over three-minutes.
Thomas Talley turned his store into the first permanent cinematic theater in the United States. He charged ten cents per viewer. By this point, the Lumiere Brothers had a catalog of over one thousand short movies. A viewer of which, Frenchman, George Melies, who is noted for his invention of his own movie camera, projector, and Europe’s first film studio, which Melies also showed his films in. The most well known of his films is ‘Le Voyage Dans la Lune’ or ‘The Trip to the Moon’ was made in 1902.
‘The Trip to the Moon’ was the first movie made with multiple shots, special effects, extended plot line, character development, and scene change effects.Then, in the United States, in 1903, Edwin S. Porter released his ‘Great Train Robbery’.
This was to be the first narrative film with a story line; the first movie shot out of chronological order to be edited together; the first film to show different events happening simultaneously; the first use of multiple camera angles; the first use of panning; use of mounting a camera on a moving object (train); and the use of actors moving toward and away from the camera.D.W. Griffith, considered the greatest American film pioneer, was the director of over three hundred fifteen to thirty minute long movies. He brought about the systematic use of close-ups, varied shot depth, backlighting, cross-cutting, camera movement, split-screen, flashbacks, and lens filtering.Fifteen film studio companies were created by 1913 (including: IMF, Paramount, Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros.
) and the two largest budgeted films for their time were created: ‘Traffic in Souls’ and ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’. During this time, Serials were created.
They were short movies released in episodes which included: ‘What Happened to Mary?’, ‘The Adventures of Kathlyn’, ‘The Perils of Pauline’, ‘The Exploits of Elaine’, etc. Also, ‘slapstick’ comedy was put on film, the best-known actor of which was Charlie Chaplin. Comedy was the primary form of silent film for the first 20 years of the twentieth century.The silent film world ruled for the first part of the twentieth century until ‘The Jazz Singer’ was introduced in 1927 as the first ‘talkie’, which included six songs and spontaneously spoken words.
After this, facing much debate, talkies took over the film industry and film became what we have today.