Film has been around for many years now, even for over a century. In those years it has been used a medium with several uses. It’s used for propaganda, to advertise, to amuse… In short: film has a lot of different ways to be used, but what’s the history of it?
There were multiple things that helped with the development of film. The inventions of photography, projection, but maybe most important of all: celluloid rolls. But of course photography is where it all started. The oldest conserved photo dates from 1826 and was taken by Nicéphore Niépce. In that picture you vaguely see the rooftops of a city. But because it took around 8 hours to take the picture and the quality wasn’t the greatest, making films with it wasn’t really an option. In 1878 this wasn’t the case anymore. They were able to shorten the time to take a picture from 8 hours to around a fraction of second.
At that point they still used to take pictures on glass, metal, paper, etc. Until celluloid rolls were invented in 1889. Celluloids rolls were important, because they needed something to film on, which was flexible yet durable and also something that could be projected. The flexibility was quite important, because the roll had to go through the camera at a rapid pace. William Kennedy Laurie Dickson head technician of Edison Laboratories was the inventor of this item.
But this wasn’t enough, though. There was still need of a camera that was able to film these things. A camera that was able to stop for a very short amount of time with each frame, to absorb the image. To create these cameras they went to look at older inventions, like a Victorian sewing machine.
What still was missing was the way to show people the film. Previously they used a Zoopraxiscope to show a series of pictures, creating a small animated film. Edward Muybridge did it with his film that merely reached a running time of 3 seconds. In that film you can see a horse running, because Muybridge was curious if there was a moment when a horse ran, if both of its legs were of the ground. Later Charles-Emile Reynaud designed a paraxinoscope, which is almost exactly the same as a zoopraxiscope.
In 1893 the first kinetoscope (see featured image) was introduced by Thomas Edison. Edison and Dickson, the inventor of the celluloid rolls, worked together to make film about singing, boxing, etc. In 1895 there was the first color film. It was called “Annabelle’s Dance” and it was hand colored by Thomas Edison himself. Because of the invention of the kinetoscope a lot of people were inspired and even improved the machine. W. Paul had the idea to show the film to more than one person, Edison’s invention was only meant for one person, and he invented the first film projector. In 1896 he showed his first film. Not only Paul was inspired, also the brothers Lumière were. They went on and made the Cinématogrpahe. A device which contained a camera, an optical printer and a projector. The brothers grew out to be very popular. Their first film was called “La sortie des usines Lumièrs”, which translates to: “Workers leaving the factory Lumière” (at the bottom of the article there’s a link so you can watch it yourself)
They also went on to show their other films at 28 December 1895 in Paris, which is also marked as the first paid showing of film.
With that I want to end this article, hoping you’ve learned a bit of the basis of the history of film. There’s still plenty to discuss: the early films, more about the brothers Lumière, something about Georges Meliès… So expect more articles about the history of film!