20080613 HG_9 The Glamour of Shanghai International Film Festival
Oct 042011
short film
by zoethustra

As the last decade of the nineteenth century approached, the world had photography and we have all seen how basic photographs were taken in films portraying the Wild West in the USA. What did not exist were the moving pictures which later gave us that portrayal. There was theatre and dances scripts written and performed live in front of an audience. Such entertainment was centuries old but a whole new world was dawning and just over a century on, it is all pervasive.

The first attempt at moving photographs may well have been when an attempt was made to discover whether a horse’s gallop ever involved all four hooves off the ground so a series of photographs were taken by a series of cameras with a trip wire touched by the hooves themselves to take the shots. Those shots were put together, a form of film.

Shortly afterwards a camera was developed that could take ten photographs per second using a film that was perforated. People began to see the possibilities and wrestled with the problems of actually achieving action until a device developed in Thomas Edison’s laboratory succeeded in 1891. However it was a device which involved the viewer putting his eye to the peep hole; one viewer a time was hardly likely to be a commercial success. So how did the medium that has developed so much to give us live news’ coverage, cult movies and blockbusters emerge?

Well, other innovators and inventors were also looking to produce something and the first successful showing to an audience in fact took place in Paris just four years’ later, two French brothers, the Lumiere brothers having created something that not only took and developed film, it could also project that film. That gave impetus to other inventors and very soon there were a series of such pieces, generally working on a standard sixteen shots per second.

The film films produced tended to be fairly boring in terms of their content it was the equipment itself that was the exciting element. Nothing of any great length was produced in the early days. Viewing for the audience meant a series of very short films often of everyday life, but from different parts of the world, largely documentary based. A whole show may not last more than half an hour and that show might be the only option for weeks until a new set of films was available and the process began again.

Imagine the contrast between that, the expectant audience waiting for a change in the content as eagerly as a century later, the cinema addict awaits the release of the latest cult movies. It was the only visual alternative then other than concerts and plays performed by a travelling troupe or singing and playing within the family at home. There was much progress to be made but the media and film revolution has begun.

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