Aug 012012

Amy Bell looks at the birth of a medium…

Film and cinema was one of the greatest inventions of all time because it provided people with a brand new way of finding enjoyment. One of the first motion pictures to ever be released was The Horse In Motion, which was released in 1878. Eadweard Muybridge, who was a photographer, made this film. He took several photographs of the different movements of horses. He put all the photographs together to make it look as if the horse was actually moving. He set up a row of twelve cameras, each making an exposure in one-thousandth of a second. He later made a lantern to project moving images of horses.

Two of the first forms of capturing images were dioramas and stereoscopes. Dioramas were painted backdrops with three-dimensional figures depicting famous historical events. Stereoscopes were hand-held viewers that created three-dimensional effects by using oblong cards with two photographs printed side by side. The short films that were made with using these devises were shown at newly built theatre houses, known as cinemas. Cinemas were invented during the early 1890s and offered a cheaper, simpler way of providing entertainment to the masses.


During the 1830s two devises for recording moving images were invented, the phenakistoscope and zoetrope. The phenakistoscope is an optical device and the zoetrope is a series of drawings on a narrow strip of paper inside a revolving drum. The magic lantern was also invented, which projected pictures and paintings at 16 frames per second, this way the brain could perceive it as motion.

There is much debate as to who actually invented cinema, but the truth is that there is no one person or company who invented cinema, it just naturally developed. The Lumiere Brothers are the most famous filmmakers of the early cinema era.

In 1888 the inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Edison invented the kinetoscope with the help of W.K.L. Dickson. The kinetoscope creates the illusion of movement by conveying a strip of perforated film bearing sequential images over a light source with a high-speed shutter.

The Lumiere Brothers invented a projection system that helped make the cinema a commercially viable enterprise internationally. They designed an elegant little camera, the cinematographe, which used 35mm film and an intermittent mechanism modeled on that of a sewing machine. The first film made using this system was Workers Leaving the Factory, which was made in March 1895.



Facts and Figures of the Early Film Era


  • Georges Melies was the inventor of the horror genre and in 1896 he made his first horror film called Le Manoir Du Diable (The Haunted Castle), which means ‘The Manor of the Devil’. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was considered as one of the greatest horror films of the silent era.
  • The Great Train Robbery, which was released in 1903 was the first western ever made. It was one of the most popular and successful early films of all time.
  • The first theatre houses to appear were Nickelodeons. These were tiny theatres that could only hold around one hundred people. These movie theatres proved to be popular because they provided a different kind of entertainment.
  • Most films in the early cinema era consisted of one shot. The camera was set up in one position and the action unfolded during a continuous take.
  • The first ever female filmmaker was Alice Guy. She made her first film La Fee Aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy) in 1896.
  • In 1912 the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) was set up. Its purpose was to protect filmmakers from prosecution, protect the public from harm and help people decide if the film is suitable for them to watch.