The movie industry that draws enthusiastic crowds today has its beginnings in the late 19th century when cameras and animation were invented around the same time. Here are some important milestones in the development of motion-picture film technology and the early beginning of the movie industry.
Before film projectors
The history of cinematic technology dates back to prehistoric times with primitive techniques such as shadow puppetry and a technique called “camera obscura,” which utilizes a pinhole in a wall to project an inverted image onto an opposite wall in a dark room.
The invention of the film projector
The first idea that led to the invention of motion picture cameras was the “stroboscopic principle,” which was discovered by a Belgian man named Joseph Plateau. He published a paper about his discovery in 1833. His invention was called the fantascope that enabled people to watch a series of drawings through slits in a round cardboard disc. This motion illusion was developed before still photography was invented.
The next important step toward the moving picture projector was also proposed by Joseph Plateau when he developed the idea to project light through a series of images on transparent material on a rotating disc. Within a few years, in the latter half of the 19th century, film photography came into being, and inventors were very interested in incorporating this into a moving picture device. In 1878, the British photographer Eadweard Muybridge was the first to take a quick sequence of photographs in real time.
In the 1880s, the first true motion picture cameras were developed by Louis Le Prince that he wanted to use for capturing wildlife and nature. Another notable early cinematic projector was presented by Thomas Edison at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. The first motion picture shows that opened to the public were offered by the Latham family on Broadway, and their commercial production showed a prize boxing fight that had been filmed at Madison Square Garden.
The Lumiere brothers
The Lumiere brothers are credited by some as having invented the first truly viable cinematic camera. They called their invention the cinematographe, and this is where the term “cinema” comes from. The first true motion picture was shown at a business meeting that they had taken in 1895 that showed workers leaving a factory. They opened the Cinematographe theaters in four major cities on different continents in 1896.
The first films shown at the theaters were of French life. These included a newsreel of a conference in France and a documentary about the Lyon Fire Department. In 1905, the brothers took a break from the movie business to work on developing color technology.
The first cinemas
The first moving pictures were displayed at music halls and other concert venues before cinematic films had their own dedicated theaters. At this time, the motion-pictures were merely a novelty. One of the first dedicated venues for the film genre opened in Vitascope Hall in New Orleans in 1896. They showed a movie in the morning and another in the afternoon. In 1901, the Islington Palace was converted into a full-time cinematic theater. The first long-lasting theater that showed only films was the Nickelodeon in Pittsburgh that was established in 1905.
Movies in color
Although we usually think of movies before 1960 as black and white, the technology for color film was being developed almost as soon as motion pictures were invented. A British inventor introduced a color motion picture system in the late 1890s and received a patent in the year 1900. However, the earliest attempts to add color didn’t work very well because the color didn’t look natural.
The first devices passed the black and white images through a color filter to colorize the projected images. Early color films were shown at Madison Square Garden in 1909. A dramatic color film entitled “Checkmated” was released in 1910. The next important advancement for color films was to alter the images on the film rather than filtering color in the projector. The first publicly shown color film using this technique, called “Technicolor,” was “The Toll of the Sea,” released in 1922.
Film technology has continued to rapidly advance as more impressive special effects and higher quality images have been loved by audiences. There is a current trend of more immersive effects that include wraparound screens and 3D techniques that make audiences feel like they’re a part of the action. The realism of interactive games and media could be seen as an advancement in this area as well. It’s only a matter of time before something like the holodeck on Star Trek becomes a reality.