When you watch a film, can you notice how produced and funded a film can be? It can have an exquisite production design, high budget special effects, A grade actors, and real locations. But it wasn’t always like that. Believe it or not, the films you see nowadays, had a much more unsophisticated and humble development of what you see today.

Before films could even begin, photography had to be developed. But the “first viable system of photography was far from suitable for the cinema: the images were not reproducible and required very long exposure times. It would take most of the remainder of the century, and the work of many hands in Europe and the United States, before cameras could record reproducible images at exposures of less than a thirtieth of a second.” Then once that started to take shape, the movie shutter was invented. It contained a rotating disk of radial slots of images that a person could look through a mirror to see. The images appeared to be in motion, but the images were only drawn. Then finally, in 1889, a camera using celluloid could view in motion. Soon enough, it was improved again, “perfecting an easily portable machine that served as camera, projector, and contact printer.”

At this time, film had to compete with many popular entertainment at the time. “There were circuses, theater troupes, magicians, wonders-of-science exhibitions, and other attractions.” There were some permanent locations to see films, but most were traveling circuits that went town to town. At this time, “Each film, or “view,” lasted a little less than one minute, and showed one action or interesting environment: boats leaving a harbor, workers tearing down a wall, a busy city street, or the famous Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory (1895).” “However, for people at the start of the movie era, even these somewhat primitive films were exciting and highly realistic. For many Americans, the movies brought them their view view of a street car, or of the Pacific or Atlantic oceans. All of this seemed quite real to motion picture viewers. In one film, a train pulled into a station — coming directly at the viewers. Some theater viewers were scared, thinking the train would come right into the theater; some in front rows panicked and ran out.”

When the 20th century began, film companies began to arise. The most prominent was the Lumière company, but others like “Pathé Frères (1896) and the Gaumont company (1895). They became the first examples of the “studio system” that would dominate world film production until the middle of the twentieth century”. But Frenchman Georges Mélie was a fierce competitor. And Mélie was an innovator at the time. “His Trip to the Moon (1902) was probably the most widely seen work of the cinema’s first decade, and he all but single-handedly created the medium’s second major genre (after the “view”), the “trick film,” based on humorous, magical, and often grotesque transformations (of flowers into women, or moon people into puffs of smoke, and so on). At the same time in England, other producers began to elaborate these and other genres.” The art film would soon come after and have more production values than a normal film, such as paid/famous actors. It usually involved a direct adaptation of a play with longer running times and bigger budgets, and made more for the upper class.

By 1914, the movie theater finally started and became popular. It was mostly contained in countries like France, and other countries, like Russia, lacked the industry to distribute it. This effectively decimated other types of entertainment and made film into one of the most beloved art forms in the world. I could be here all day talking about the history of film, as it had many eras, but here is when it took shape.

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1 Comment
  1. Ravi 3 years ago


    This was very interesting to read. I didn’t know this much about the development of cameras and movies. Do you the history of how the camera technology got smaller and changed how people film? I’m curious to know I found this article on the history of the movie camera that I think you might find interesting. https://www.popularmechanics.com/culture/movies/g1046/a-brief-history-of-the-movie-camera/

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