THE HISTORY OF FILM – How it all started
Have you ever wondered while sitting in the middle of a theatre watching an amazing 3D movie, how it all began? How the idea of capturing moving pictures and presenting them to the public like magic ever entered the brains of humans? No? Lol, maybe just me!
The earliest form of theatre or performing arts can be dated back to Greek plays performed in the ancient amphitheaters. And then sometime later, came the five-cent machines at carnivals which flashed images that created the illusion of a dancing nude. And now, we have reached our modern digital technology and special effects. But it all sums up to a chapter in history that is long and successful, one that tells the story of a man who made dreams into reality, impossible to possible.
Entertainment arts like theatre and dance have been around for thousands of years, and many of their elements are the basis of the modern movie-making industry. The Greek invented the perfect amphitheater in order to accommodate its huge amount of audiences to be able to hear the play.
It was in the Victorian era that film-making sprang up rapidly, creating a monumental era in the history of film. Have you ever heard of something called the thaumatrope? Well, it may sound highly technical, but it was more like a toy. It was a disk or card with images on both sides and strings attached to the side. To work it, one simply had to twist the strings and the two images would blend together to create one. And, it was one of the very first inventions involving still pictures, which when operated gave the illusion of moving pictures. Sweet, right?
And then, after a few years, Joseph Plateau invented the fantascope. Now, what’s that? It was allotted disk with pictures situated around the perimeter of the disk. The pictures appeared to be moving when the disk was spun. And then, shortly after that, the zoetrope was invented. It was very much similar to fantascope, but the former consisted of a hollow drum with a crank.
And then came the daguerreotype, it is pronounced as….well never mind! It was invented in 1839 by the French painter Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre, and it turned out to be the first commercially successful photographic process. How did it work? It worked by capturing still images on silver copper plates.
In 1878, an experiment was conducted by Edward Muybridge to determine if a running horse ever had all four legs lifted off the ground (of course, they did, duh!!). So, the cameras were arranged alongside the horses’ track, taking pictures at one-thousandth of a second, being tripped by a wire when the horse’s hooves came in contact with it. It was a huge development for film development, and yup, he was able to prove that the horse’s legs did lift off the ground all at once. XD!!
But all these inventions just tricked the eye into believing that stills were moving. A true motion picture needed to have split-second pictures on transparent film. So, in 1882, Etienne-Jules Marey invented the chronophotographic gun, which took 12 frames per second on the same picture. It was a landmark in the history of film.
Charles Francis Jenkins invented the first patented film projector, called the phantascope, in the early 1890s. It was around the same time that the Lumiere brothers in France invented the cinematography, which was a portable, hand-held projector. The word ‘cinema’ was derived from this invention and the Lumiere brothers showed ten short films on their projector in the world’s first movie theatre, the Salon Indien.
The silent era reigned for thirty years, until 1923. In 1903, “The Great Train Robbery”, a ten-minute long movie, was shown, and it was the first Western narrative with a plot.
Nickelodeons were a great escape for the middle classes during the early 1900s, which stayed open from morning to midnight. But they were often notorious for their shows, which involved crimes, violence, and sexual conduct. And so, they were transformed into nicer, lavish movie houses. They also charged higher admission.
It was in the 1920s that the film’s stars were being made, their faces recognized and praised. During the 1940s, a rise of propaganda and patriotic films appeared, and ‘women’s pictures’ also reached their peak during this time.
Many film theatres had to close down during the 1950s, due to the arrival of television.
The 1970s saw a revival of traits of the Golden Age films. Known as the ‘post-classical’ era, films from this decade were characterized by shady protagonists, endings with twists and flashbacks. Adult cinemas also begin to take root. They died out in the 1980s when the VCR allowed home viewing.
And then, the 1990s saw the success of independent films such as ‘Pulp Fiction’. Special effects charmed the viewers, and slowly, the VCRs were replaced by DVDs for home viewing media.
And in the early 21st century, documentary films and 3D films became widely popular. IMAX technology also has been increasingly used.
Now, we just have so many different choices. And of course, there’s Netflix too. Everything is available at our fingertips and we have our ambitious and enthusiastic ancestors to thank for!!!