Development of The Cinema : From Science To Art -- Part 1

                             The development of the movie may be regarded from three different points of view : the Scientific, the Commercial, and the Aesthetic. The first is concerned with the mechanical advance of the instrument and its technicalities, dealings with the workings of the projector, the intricate mechanism of the camera, the various methods of sound production. The second is concerned  with the amazing growth of the film as an industry. The third views the progress which the film has made since its birth as a medium of dramatic expression. 

                           Except historically and technically, the birth and early years of cinema are neither interesting nor particularly brilliant in aesthetic achievement. Accounts of financial success and failures in tawdry commercialism are depressing. It is important now to mention a few salient facts in order to gain a perspective of the position of movies to-day.And, it seems Edison, for all practical purposes, started the ball rolling in 1887.

The Edison Kinetoscope and Lumiere Brother's Cinematographe

                        Edison, having perfected the Phonograph, desired to supplement the sound images with another mechanical device which would present visual images alongside those of sound. It is extraordinary to observe that this ambition of Edison, which brought the film into being, is precisely the opposite to the aim of the later-day producer, who attempted to supplement his visual images with their recorded sounds. The visual film was thought necessary to accompany the sound records. Fifty years later, the sound is deemed necessary to accompany the visual film.

                        In 1889, the first Eastman-Kodak film was constructed, that made the original cinema machine into being. In1894, the Edison Kinetoscope was presented commercially to New york public, and hundreds of those machines were sold in open market. The subjects of Edison's films made at his laboratory were chiefly boxing-matches, dances, all of which were suitable to show off the capabilities of the new invention on account of their movement. But the limitation of these films being viewed by only one person at a time gave rise to a demand for a machine like magic lantern, which would project the pictures onto a screen so that they could be a seen by a roomful of people. 

                    However, Edison disliked this proposal and thought that collective showings would exhaust the market, and he omitted to patent his device in foreign countries. Late 1894, Lumiere Brothers in Paris, inspired by the exhibition of Edison's device in their cities, brought out projectors. Their foremost aim was to overcome the limitations and problems. By early 1895, Lumiere Brothers had invented their own device combining camera with printer and projector and called it the Cinematographe. Patenting it on February 1895, the Cinematographe was much smaller than Edison’s Kinetograph. 

                     The first screenings occurred on 22nd March 1895 in Paris at an industrial meeting where a film especially for the occasion, Workers leaving the Lumière factory, was shown. The brothers photographed the world around them and some of their first films were 'actuality' films, like the workers leaving the factory.

Visual Images, Trick Effects To Story Telling

                          Wonderful trick effects of fade-outs, dissolves, and other photographic devices now familiar were attained by George Meiles. Meiles actually had his own studio, which was constructed in 1896, and amongst other films produced a version of Jules Verne's A Trip To The Moon.Although these novelties were widely successful, it was not until 1903 that the first real attempt to tell a story by moving pictures was made. The event was achieved by Edwin S. Porter's sensational 'The Great Train Robbery.' This film was rapidly succeeded by many other 'story pictures.' Thereafter, for some years, there set in an orgy of one-reel melodramas. 

                     The arrival of story-picture almost at once gave rise to the need for suitable places in which to project these efforts, which resulted in the theaters.

                      But all these scientific and mechanical advance of the cinema developed rapidly as compared with aesthetic progress, which has been either backward or absent at that time. The actual progress of the film along its proper, artistic path has been slow, and let's see those never-ending gradual progress, a bit faster in the later parts.

Reference :

The Oxford History of World Cinema : Edited by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith


sandeep ingilela said...

Fascinating. Waiting for the next part.

Vikram said...

Amazing, very concise and deep research...

Navin Mathew said...


Arun said...

@sandeep, Thank you. Will deliver the next part soon.

@Vikram, Thanks for the comment.

@Navin Mathew, Thank you.

Haricharan Pudipeddi said...

wonderful analysis buddy. So glad that you actually went so deep in to it :)

Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury said...

Wonderful & very informative..thanks much.

Murtaza Ali said...

Fantastic write up... great research! I wish you could write something similar for my blog as a guest writer. But, I know that getting your appointment wouldn't be easy and so I shall wait :-)

Btw, George Meiles' contribution to cinema cannot be overlooked. Martin Scorsese pays a tribute to the master pioneer in his Oscar-winning masterpiece, Hugo!!!

SPGR. said...

Nice... Excellent write up...

Arun said...

@Haricharan, Thanks for the comment.

@Chowdhury, Thank you. Keep visiting the blog.

Arun said...

@Murtaza Ali, Thank you very much. It would feel great to a guest post for ur blog. I will definitely write a post in your blog soon.
You are right, George Meiles is a pioneer. Since this post is about film history, i have depicted little of Meiles, and in the future i will think about posting a detailed study of Meiles' films.

@SPGR, Thank you. Keep visiting