November 8, 2023

The Evolution of Filmmaking

By Natasha Cooper

The wonders of film have been captivating audiences for roughly one hundred and thirty years now.  But of course, we have seen many changes in this entertainment and art form.  This blog will take a look at the evolution of film, with a focus on Hollywood and study its origins, and progressions to better understand where we are at today, and some important stops made along the way.

The Origins of Film

While film in a modern sense is often thought of as an art form, its inception was the product of years of scientific and technical research and experimentation. It is hard to label a singular inventor of film, yet there are certainly a few notable figures who played a significant part.

In 1891, the Edison company invented a prototype of the kinetoscope which was a device that allowed one person at a time to view moving pictures. The Kinetoscope was introduced over fifty years after the emergence of daguerreotype photography, proving the 19th century was crucial for the development of photographic technologies. The first public demonstration of the kinetoscope took place in 1893 and became a commercial endeavor the following year. However, it was the invention of the cinématographe by the Lumiere brothers in 1895 that would lead to the presentation of projected moving images to a paying audience. The cinématographe – which consisted of a camera, projector and film printer in one machine was also much lighter than the kinetoscope, and because of this and its projection technologies, it could be easily transported and show short films to audiences of people. These two inventions would mark the beginning of the public's adoration of the spectacle of moving pictures!

The Creation of a Film Industry

The first thirty years of film were instrumental in further developing film technology’s capabilities and establishing national film industries. While films were silent for the first several decades of their creation, they were certainly not a “silent” experience.  They were often accompanied by music, lectures or narration and audience participation was customary. In film's early days, often the subject matter consisted of news, natural landscapes or vaudeville performances.  By 1914, several national film industries had been established, especially within Scandinavia, Europe and Russia. By this time, film was transitioning to a narrative format, captivating audiences through storytelling. As more people paid to see movies, this stimulated various industries to grow, continuous development of film technology, and also led to large studios being created.  The first world war had a harsh effect on the European film industry, and it was during this time that Hollywood began to surpass European cinema in terms of output and consumption.

Adding Colour and Sound

Attempts to integrate colour with moving images were already underway by 1906. However, this process proved to be highly difficult as well as expensive.  While some attempts were made through the 1910’s and 20s to add colour into film, this was not experienced by the masses until it was used for Gone with the Wind (1932) and The Wizard of Oz (1939). Adding synchronized sound to film was also a major change for the industry which first occurred in the feature film The Jazz Singer (1927). This was done with the Vitaphone which used a separate disc of the sound recording that would play concurrently with the film. However, this method was quickly replaced by using a technology called a variable density soundtrack which recorded both soundwaves and optics.  In the early 1930’s, a new aspect ratio was being experimented with by directors.  Aspect ratio relates to the height and width of the screen and is formatted numerically in ratio form with the first number representing width and the second, height.  The new ratio which became known as the “Academy ratio”  was 1.37:1 and was used consistently until the 1950’s.

The Golden Age of Cinema

The “Golden Age of Cinema” often refers to the films and cinematic experience through the 1930’s, 40's, 50's and sometimes 60’s, traditionally within the Hollywood context, but can also be referred to within global film as well.  During this time, the technical foundations of film had been laid, and improvements in cameras and quality of pictures were constant. Sound and colour were now effortlessly incorporated into movies, and there was growing freedom of expression in plots, scripts and techniques in cinema.  Some of the iconic movie stars we still think of today like Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne and Audrey Hepburn to name a few, were all catapulted to stardom during this period of film.

Seventies Cinema

            The seventies in Hollywood and filmmaking brought with it out of this world creativity, grit, and variety that in many ways represented the decade’s complex and changing society.  Directors like Scorsese, Spielberg and Lucas, were pushing boundaries and telling new kinds of stories that were possible due to further technological advancements.  Even in lower budget films, the implementation of handheld cameras and escaping the confines of Hollywood studios to real life locations added a new sincerity to movie making.  In the context of seventies’ films, and the evolution of Hollywood, Star Wars is an absolute must to discuss. The beginning of this saga was instrumental in opening doors to science fiction while maintaining a pure and familiar form of storytelling. Closing out the decade, films from 1979 like Alien, Apocalypse Now, and Superman foreshadow a continuation of box office hits that center on societal issues like war, superheroes, and the human race interacting with entities from space. 

The 21st Century

            After taking a brief look at the evolution of film from its inception to the latter half of the 20th century, hopefully those reading this blog will have a better understanding of where we stand today in the world of film.  While we have reached a point of digitization and computerized methods of creating movies, none of that would have been possible without the endless improvements, and movements that took place 100, 50, or even 20 years ago.  While it might seem concerning that box office sales have in recent times plummeted, the truth of the matter is that people are consuming movies at a faster rate than ever before, and there is constantly a need for new stories and creators.  For those interested in the film industry, or specifically filmmaking, there are growing opportunities to indulge in these interests and turn them into a skillset to prepare you for the workforce.  For more information on the evolution of filmmaking and how you can be part of the future of this industry, check out The Virtual Film School of Canada

Natasha Cooper is a student at Toronto Metropolitan University in the Creative Industries program.  She is specialising in film, history, and curatorial studies.  After completing her studies, her goals are to work within the film industries in a communications or logistics role.  Natasha is very excited to be working for the Virtual Film School blog. For more information, you can visit her LinkedIn profile.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

phone-handsetpushpinclockchevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram