With today’s smartphone technology giving us the ability to make a high quality movie almost instantly, it’s hard to believe there was a time before making a movie was simple, cheap and easy.
In fact, for many years, the most compelling movies of the past were the stories told by your parents and grandparents, and later, crackling audio recorded on a large vinyl record and projected into your ears from a wooden box. . pretty primitive stuff.
Reading: When was the first movie created
but all this changed thanks to the work of one man: eadweard muybridge.
His experiments and efforts, often funded by generous benefactors, reshaped the possibilities of society and paved the way for what we now think of as staples of modern life: easily accessible and digestible visual content.
the first film ever made
We’ll get into the details of who, where, why, how and when, but this, for your viewing pleasure, is the first movie ever made:
is an 11 frame clip shot on June 19, 1878 using twelve separate cameras (frame 12 not used) to film a man riding a horse on the palo alto farm of leland stanford (the founder of the stanford university) (the eventual site of stanford university).
Not exactly the action-packed, special effects, gritty-style Hollywood blockbusters gracing our movie screens today, but they’re pretty impressive considering that no one, in the history of the entire world, had done a movie before.
who made the first movie?
As mentioned, the man we have to thank first for this 11-frame cinematic is Eadweard Muybridge.
Edward James Muggeridge was born on April 4, 1830, in England, and for some unknown reason, later changed his name to the much more difficult to spell Eadweard James Muybridge. During his twenties, he traveled America selling books and photographs before a serious head injury he suffered in a stagecoach accident in Texas in 1860 forced him to return to England to rest and recuperate.
there he married 21-year-old flora and had a son. Upon discovering letters between her and a local drama critic, Major Harry Larkyns, discussing the fact that Larkyns may have fathered Muybridge’s 7-month-old son, she shot Larkyns at point-blank range, killing him, and was arrested that night without protest. .
At his trial, he pleaded insane on the grounds that his head injury had drastically altered his personality, but undermined this plea by insisting his actions were deliberate and premeditated.
The jury dismissed his insanity plea, but he was ultimately acquitted of justifiable homicide. It turns out that in the 1900s, it’s completely okay to kill your wife’s supposed lover in a fit of passion.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the person we have to thank for creating the first film.
why the first movie was made
In 1872, one of the main saloon debates revolved around this question: when a horse trots or gallops, are all four of the horse’s legs off the ground at the same time?
The answer to this question is clearly obvious to anyone who has seen slow-motion footage of a horse in flight, but it is much more difficult to be sure when the animal is moving at full speed.
in 1872, then california governor, racehorse owner and eventual founder of stanford university, leland stanford, decided to settle the debate once and for all.
approached muybridge, who was a famous photographer at the time, and offered him $2000 to prove conclusively whether a horse had ever participated in an “unsupported transit”.
Muybridge provided conclusive proof of what we now consider to be common knowledge in 1872 when he produced a unique “western” photographic frame of the Stanford horse trotting with all four legs off the ground.
when and where was the first movie made
This early experiment stimulated Muybridge’s interest in capturing a sequence of images of a galloping horse, but the photographic technology of the time was inadequate for the task.
Most photographic exposures took between 15 seconds and a minute (meaning the subject had to remain still for that long), making them completely unsuitable for capturing an animal running at full speed. furthermore, automatic shutter technology was in its infancy, making it unreliable and expensive.
He spent the next six years (partially interrupted by his murder trial) and spent over $50,000 of Stanford’s money (over $1 million in today’s money) improving both camera shutter speeds and emulsions. of the film, and finally slowed down the camera’s shutter speed. to 1/25 of a second.
On June 15, 1878, he placed 12 large glass-plate cameras in a line at Stanford’s Palo Alto Cattle Farm (now the campus of Stanford University), placed a sheet in the background to reflect as much light as possible and fitted them with a rope to fire sequentially as the horse passed.
results are all 11 frames from the first movie ever made (frame 12 was not used in the final movie).
but having 11 frames taken in sequence doesn’t make a movie.
how the first movie was made
To make a movie, frames must be viewed consecutively at high speed. This is a simple feat to accomplish today, but no device capable of presenting these images existed in 1878, so Muybridge created one.
In 1879, Muybridge devised a way to view his famous images of galloping horses in sequence at high speed. it consisted of a circular slotted metal casing containing 16-inch glass disks. the casing was rotated by hand in a circular motion and the images of the glass disks were projected onto a screen like this:
This was initially called zoographiscope and zoogyroscope, but eventually became zoopraxiscope.
the first movie
The first movie ever made was the Roundhay Garden scene shot in 1888. Louis Le Prince and dazzle the eye with a remarkable display of 4 people walking in a garden created this 2.11 second cinematic masterpiece.
you might want to sit down for this:
I told you 🙂
the first film with sound
The evolution of sound in film has come a long way. Here’s a brief summary:
the first film with accompanying sound
The first motion picture ever created with an accompanying soundtrack was William Dickson’s test project on Thomas Edison’s latest invention: the Edison Motion Picture Phone.
The kinetophone was a combination of the kinetoscope, Thomas Edison’s single-viewer movie player, with his wax cylinder phonograph.
If you were one of the lucky few to witness it in late 1894 or early 1895, this is what you would have seen.
complex plot structure, lack of true character development, and poor special effects failed to impress audiences or critics 🙂
The obnoxiously large cone on the left side of the screen is a microphone connected to a wax cylinder recorder just off screen.
The kinetophone’s disadvantage of being viewed by only one person at a time, combined with advances in projection technology that make movie viewing a group experience, resulted in the kinetophone being replaced before it was could gain widespread popularity (or some).
the short film with sound
Between 1900 and 1910, several significant advances were made in motion picture and sound technology.
The first was a series of devices that mechanically linked a movie projector to a record player to synchronize sound.
Usually, images were captured on a machine, such as a chronograph, and sound was recorded on a chronophone. these two separate elements were then synchronized to create the movie.
Like the kinetophone, these machines had significant limitations. they were extremely quiet, they could only record a few minutes of audio, and if the disc skipped, the next audio would be out of sync.
These limitations prevented them from being used for more than short films, and they were never adopted in Hollywood.
the first hollywood movie with sound
Over the next 10 years, two major developments transformed cinema.
the triergon process
The first was the ‘sound on film’ or tri ergon process.
Invented by Engl Josef, Massolle Joseph, and Hans Vogt in 1919, it translated sound waves into electrical pulses and then into light, allowing the sounds to be hardcoded directly onto the film next to the accompanying images.
This eliminated the issue of skipping soundtracks, resulting in a higher quality product for consumers to enjoy.
the audio tube
The second great advance was the development of the audion tube.
Originally invented by Lee de Forest in 1905, the audion tube enabled the amplification of electrical signals and was used in a number of different technological applications.
He later combined this technology with a sound-on-film process of his own development, called phonofilm, sparking a short film production craze.
Nearly 1000 short films with sound were produced in the 4 years after the development of the phonofilm in 1920.
none of these, however, were hollywood productions.
the phonofilm failed to impress hollywood and was never adopted by any studio. the first movie and sound system to be taken seriously was the vitaphone.
The Vitaphone was a sound-on-disc system developed by General Electric, a company that had started out with a relatively small studio called Warner Brothers Pictures Incorporated.
the first hollywood movie with sound
Together, Warner Brothers and General Electric produced Hollywood’s first feature film with sound called Don Juan.
Although it doesn’t have a synchronized voice, it does have synchronized sound effects and a soundtrack recorded by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
Despite his popularity, Don Juan was unable to recoup his production costs of $790,000 (approximately $11 million in today’s money) because most theaters lacked the necessary facilities to play movies with sound.
the first film with a speech
the critical success of don juan convinced the warner brothers that cinema with sound was the future of cinema. this was contrary to what most of the movie industry was doing because not only was there not a readily available standardized audio system to improve theaters, but the actors, although skilled in pantomime, were not trained to speak in the theaters. films.
The studio took on significant debt and spent nearly $3 million (over $42 million in today’s dollars) to rewire all of its theaters to play recorded audio through the Vitaphone.
Furthermore, in 1927 they announced that all films produced would be accompanied by a vitaphone soundtrack.
To ensure that their first speech film would be a success, they decided to adapt a popular Broadway show at the time, The Jazz Singer. It was the second most expensive film ever produced at the time (behind Don Juan) starring the popular actor of the time, Al Jolson.
it was originally planned as a silent movie with 6 synchronized songs performed by jolson. However, in two scenes, Jolson’s improvised dialogue made it to the final cut, making the jazz singer the first film with dialogue (commonly known as “talkie”).
Here’s the weirdest movie trailer I’ve ever seen. I guess the art of creating a tempting trailer was still a few years away in 1927…
The audience response was overwhelming, with co-star Eugenie Besserer recalling that as they began their dialogue scene, “the audience went into hysterics.”
The film became an overwhelming box office success, grossing over $3 million in ticket sales.
This was followed in 1928 by the first spoken production on the vitaphone, also created by the Warner Brothers, called The Lights of New York.
the first color film
The development of the first color film followed an equally complicated path as that of the first films with sound.
the first film presented in color
The first film to be presented to the public in color was not actually shot in color. I know, confusing.
the film, made by w.k.l. dickson, william heise, james white for thomas edison’s edison co company in 1895, it was titled annabelle serpentine dance, and was meant to be viewed through the edison kinetoscope mentioned above.
for your viewing pleasure…
weirdly this movie has been rated over 1500 times on imdb and what’s even weirder it’s been rated 6.4/10.
what did you expect from a 30 second movie made in 1895 as the first attempt to add color to a movie?
The film was shot in black and white with each individual frame hand-tinted after shooting, thus creating the first color film without shooting the film in color.
the first feature film presented in color
The technique of hand dyeing films spread rapidly and it was not long before the first hand dyed feature film was released.
In 1903, French directors Lucien Nonguet ad Ferdinand Zecca released La Vie et la Passion de Jésus Christ (The Passion and Death of Christ) with hand-tinted scenes created using the pathécolor stencil-based film-tinting process.
The pathécolor process would continue to be used for almost 3 decades and the last film released using this technique was in 1930.
the first film shot in color
Until the early 2000s, it was widely accepted that the first color films were those shot using the kinemacolor system developed by George Albert Smith and released by Charles Urban’s Organization, Natural Color Kinemagraph Company.
The kinemacolor system exposed black and white film through alternating red and green filters. the camera shot at 32 frames per second (one red and one green), which, combined, gave them the silent film projection speed of 16 frames per second in color.
They had early success with their film The Delhi Dubar, a two-and-a-half-hour documentary of the coronation of the newly crowned King George V in Delhi in 1911 (India was still a British colony at the time).
here is a short clip from the movie:
However, this belief was proven incorrect with the discovery of color images of Edward Turner from ten years earlier.
Its footage of London street scenes, a pet macaw and her three children playing with a goldfish in the family’s back garden make this footage the first color footage ever shot.
created color images by shooting each frame through three separate lenses, each with a different color filter (red, green, and blue), and combining them to create a singular color film.
The process was patented on March 22, 1899 by Edward Turner and Frederick Marshall Lee. this was actually the second patented color filming process after h. isensee patented an earlier color imaging process, but was the first to prove its effectiveness.
Unfortunately, when Turner died in 1903, the man to whom he passed his technology in the hope that he could make it commercially viable, George Smith (yes, the guy from the previous section), discovered that the system was broken and finally discarded. creating kinemacolor in 1909.
Hollywood’s first bicolor feature film
despite its success and wide acceptance in europe, kinemacolor struggled to break into the american film industry. This was largely thanks to the Motion Picture Patent Company, an organization established by Thomas Edison to ensure control of the film industry and force filmmakers to use only the technology of MPCC members.
This created space for a new color system to become a favorite of Hollywood producers and directors: Technicolor.
herbert kalmus, daniel comstock and w. Burton Wescott, who took inspiration for the name of the company from him at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where they studied Kalmus and Comstock.
Like Kinemacolor, Technicolor was a two-color system, but instead of using alternating red and green filters, it used a prism inside the camera to split the incoming image into two streams filtered through red and green lenses. , which were then printed to the black and white filmstrip simultaneously.
Hollywood’s first two-color movie was made in 1917 and was titled The Gulf Between. Unfortunately, the film was destroyed in a fire on March 25, 1961, with only small snippets of footage surviving.
Fortunately, the second Hollywood feature film shot in the two-color Technicolor system survived. you can see it in full here:
However, I cannot guarantee the quality of the film, as it has a 6.6/10 rating on imdb, only 0.2 points higher than the 22-second clip, unframed and colorized. hand of annabelle serpentine. dance. good job imdb.
Hollywood’s first tricolor feature film
technicolor motion picture corporation continued to refine their process. they made great strides in their two-color system (which can be seen in the 1933 wax museum mystery) and in 1932, they finally completed development work on their three-color system.
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His three-strip system also used a prism to split the incoming visual stream, but this time it was split into three streams: green, blue, and red.
The first film released using this three-color system was a short Disney cartoon released in 1932 titled Flowers and Trees:
It wasn’t until 1934 that the first three-color Hollywood movie with real actors was released. here’s a short clip from that movie, service with a smile:
This three-strip system would be used by Hollywood until the last Technicolor film was produced in 1955.
the future of cinema
The film industry is not going to disappear any time soon. With a record $42.5 billion in ticket sales in 2019, it’s clear that the industry as a whole is as strong as ever.
In saying that, established players in the film production industry are facing challenges from emerging technology. The invention of the iPhone has put cinema-quality cameras in the hands of everyday people, and with previously obscure film terms like “storyboard” and “movie shot list” becoming more common, the barriers to entry to the film production industry are falling dramatically.
Will they pose a threat to established industry leaders? only time will tell for sure. but if the rate of innovation over the last 100 years continues at the same rate, there will surely be some changes.
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