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{{STARSArticle|citation=One of the most influential technologies of the past hundred years has been motion pictures.  Not only are movies big business, but they are also a large part of popular culture.  They have an enormous impact on how people perceive the world and how people behave, as they provide information, elicit empathy, and shape everyday behavior.  This entertainment medium and art form began more than a hundred years ago as a relatively simple technology of motion-picture camera and projector.  Since then, continual technological innovation has improved the medium, all the while expanding its expressive possibilities.|timeline={{STARSTimeline|year1=1834|event1=Invention of the Zoetrope|year2=1888|event2=Patent caveat by Thomas Edison for the Kinetoscope|year3=1890|event3=Construction of a practical movie camera by Thomas Edison and W. Laurie Dickson|year4=1892|event4=Construction of the Kinetoscope, for viewing motion pictures, by Edison and Dickson|year5=1894|event5=Opening of a Kinetoscope parlor in New York City|year6=1895|event6=Demonstration of film projection by Auguste and Louis Lumière in Paris|year7=1903|event7=Release of "The Great Train Robbery", a movie that tells a story|year8=1923|event8=Demonstration by Lee De Forest of a sound-on-film process|year9=1927|event9=Successful showing of the sound movie "The Jazz Singer"|year10=1935|event10=Release of the first full-length color film shot in three-strip Technicolor, "Becky Sharp"|year11=1952|event11=Release of the 3-D movie "Bwana Devil"|year12=1953|event12=Introduction of the wide-screen technology CinemaScope with "The Robe"|year13=1970|event13=Introduction of IMAX films, projected on a much larger screen|year14=1982|event14=Use of computer animation in the movie "Tron"|year15=1992|event15=Release of the first movie with the Dolby digital sound system, "Batman Returns"|year16=1995|event16=Release of the first movie created entirely on a computer, "Toy Story"}}|essay=One of the most influential technologies of the past hundred years has been motion pictures. A photographic technique for capturing action became a new medium, a significant part of the economy, and a dominant part of popular culture. A long series of technical advances created the medium and allowed it to grow to express the visions of filmmakers and to provide entertainment for most of the world's population.  
 
{{STARSArticle|citation=One of the most influential technologies of the past hundred years has been motion pictures.  Not only are movies big business, but they are also a large part of popular culture.  They have an enormous impact on how people perceive the world and how people behave, as they provide information, elicit empathy, and shape everyday behavior.  This entertainment medium and art form began more than a hundred years ago as a relatively simple technology of motion-picture camera and projector.  Since then, continual technological innovation has improved the medium, all the while expanding its expressive possibilities.|timeline={{STARSTimeline|year1=1834|event1=Invention of the Zoetrope|year2=1888|event2=Patent caveat by Thomas Edison for the Kinetoscope|year3=1890|event3=Construction of a practical movie camera by Thomas Edison and W. Laurie Dickson|year4=1892|event4=Construction of the Kinetoscope, for viewing motion pictures, by Edison and Dickson|year5=1894|event5=Opening of a Kinetoscope parlor in New York City|year6=1895|event6=Demonstration of film projection by Auguste and Louis Lumière in Paris|year7=1903|event7=Release of "The Great Train Robbery", a movie that tells a story|year8=1923|event8=Demonstration by Lee De Forest of a sound-on-film process|year9=1927|event9=Successful showing of the sound movie "The Jazz Singer"|year10=1935|event10=Release of the first full-length color film shot in three-strip Technicolor, "Becky Sharp"|year11=1952|event11=Release of the 3-D movie "Bwana Devil"|year12=1953|event12=Introduction of the wide-screen technology CinemaScope with "The Robe"|year13=1970|event13=Introduction of IMAX films, projected on a much larger screen|year14=1982|event14=Use of computer animation in the movie "Tron"|year15=1992|event15=Release of the first movie with the Dolby digital sound system, "Batman Returns"|year16=1995|event16=Release of the first movie created entirely on a computer, "Toy Story"}}|essay=One of the most influential technologies of the past hundred years has been motion pictures. A photographic technique for capturing action became a new medium, a significant part of the economy, and a dominant part of popular culture. A long series of technical advances created the medium and allowed it to grow to express the visions of filmmakers and to provide entertainment for most of the world's population.  
  
==Inventing a medium==  
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*[[#Inventing_a_medium|<span class="tocnumber">1</span> <span class="toctext">Inventing a medium</span>]]
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*[[#Talking_pictures_and_color_movies|<span class="tocnumber">2</span> <span class="toctext">Talking pictures and color movies</span>]]
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*[[#CinemaScope_and_drive-in_theaters|<span class="tocnumber">3</span> <span class="toctext">CinemaScope and drive-in theaters</span>]]
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*[[#IMAX.2C_videocassettes.2C_and_computer-generated_imagery|<span class="tocnumber">4</span> <span class="toctext">IMAX, videocassettes, and computer-generated imagery</span>]]
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*[[#Home-theater_systems_and_the_move_to_digital|<span class="tocnumber">5</span> <span class="toctext">Home-theater systems and the move to digital</span>]]
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== <span class="mw-headline">Inventing a medium</span> ==
  
 
A precursor to motion pictures was the Zoetrope. Invented in 1834, it gave the impression of continuous motion when the viewer watched a rapidly changing series of still images. In 1888 Thomas Edison filed a patent caveat for the Kinetoscope, which, he wrote, would do "for the Eye what the phonograph does for the Ear". Using the recently invented celluloid film to hold the images, Edison and his associate W. Laurie Dickson built a practical camera in 1890 and a practical viewing device in 1892. With the latter, one looked through a viewer at the top of a box to see the backlighted film. In 1894 a Kinetoscope parlor opened in New York City. One put a penny in a slot in order to see a motion-picture sequence lasting about a minute.  
 
A precursor to motion pictures was the Zoetrope. Invented in 1834, it gave the impression of continuous motion when the viewer watched a rapidly changing series of still images. In 1888 Thomas Edison filed a patent caveat for the Kinetoscope, which, he wrote, would do "for the Eye what the phonograph does for the Ear". Using the recently invented celluloid film to hold the images, Edison and his associate W. Laurie Dickson built a practical camera in 1890 and a practical viewing device in 1892. With the latter, one looked through a viewer at the top of a box to see the backlighted film. In 1894 a Kinetoscope parlor opened in New York City. One put a penny in a slot in order to see a motion-picture sequence lasting about a minute.  
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In 1915 D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" helped create a demand for so-called feature films, lasting an hour or more, and, at about the same time, Hollywood emerged as a center of movie making. Film companies gravitated there for its climate, cheap land, and lack of labor unions. In the era of silent movies it was relatively easy to export films to other countries, and the U.S. movie industry became dominant worldwide. At the end of the decade it was the fifth largest industry in the United States, where there were some 20,000 movie houses. In Europe, quite a few countries, among them France, England, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, very early established strong national film industries. World War I, however, slowed growth there and helped Hollywood establish dominance.  
 
In 1915 D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" helped create a demand for so-called feature films, lasting an hour or more, and, at about the same time, Hollywood emerged as a center of movie making. Film companies gravitated there for its climate, cheap land, and lack of labor unions. In the era of silent movies it was relatively easy to export films to other countries, and the U.S. movie industry became dominant worldwide. At the end of the decade it was the fifth largest industry in the United States, where there were some 20,000 movie houses. In Europe, quite a few countries, among them France, England, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, very early established strong national film industries. World War I, however, slowed growth there and helped Hollywood establish dominance.  
  
==Talking pictures and color movies==  
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== <span class="mw-headline">Talking pictures and color movies</span> ==
  
 
A momentous technical advance was the development of sound movies. In 1923 Lee De Forest demonstrated a sound-on-film process, in which the sound was recorded optically on the film strip. In making the film, the amplitude variations of the sound were captured as variations in gray level on the film strip. In playback, a light shining through the soundtrack onto a photocell created an electrical signal sent to a loudspeaker. Hollywood, however, showed little interest, in part because there had already been many failed attempts at synchronizing sound with motion pictures. In 1924 Western Electric demonstrated a sound-on-disk system, which used the same electric motor to drive the projector and the phonograph so that it was easier to maintain synchronization.  
 
A momentous technical advance was the development of sound movies. In 1923 Lee De Forest demonstrated a sound-on-film process, in which the sound was recorded optically on the film strip. In making the film, the amplitude variations of the sound were captured as variations in gray level on the film strip. In playback, a light shining through the soundtrack onto a photocell created an electrical signal sent to a loudspeaker. Hollywood, however, showed little interest, in part because there had already been many failed attempts at synchronizing sound with motion pictures. In 1924 Western Electric demonstrated a sound-on-disk system, which used the same electric motor to drive the projector and the phonograph so that it was easier to maintain synchronization.  
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In Europe during the interwar years, the film industries in most countries thrived. Indeed, French and British cinema achieved international success in the 1930s, while in the same period the totalitarian regimes of Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union made much use of cinema as a propaganda medium. In Japan, for cultural and financial reasons, silent movies continued to be made through the 1930s. India had a thriving film industry, centered on Bombay (Mumbai), already in the 1920s, and in the decades since then, Indian cinema grew to be second only to Hollywood in earnings and influence.  
 
In Europe during the interwar years, the film industries in most countries thrived. Indeed, French and British cinema achieved international success in the 1930s, while in the same period the totalitarian regimes of Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union made much use of cinema as a propaganda medium. In Japan, for cultural and financial reasons, silent movies continued to be made through the 1930s. India had a thriving film industry, centered on Bombay (Mumbai), already in the 1920s, and in the decades since then, Indian cinema grew to be second only to Hollywood in earnings and influence.  
  
==CinemaScope and drive-in theaters==  
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== <span class="mw-headline">CinemaScope and drive-in theaters</span> ==
  
 
In the United States weekly movie attendance declined from 90 million in 1948 to 51 million in 1952, partly as a result of television and partly as a result of the move of many people to the suburbs. Thousands of cinemas closed in the 1950s and 1960s. The movie industry sought to regain customers by technological improvements such as widescreen formats, stereo sound, and 3-D images. From 1952 through 1954, several widescreen formats were introduced, notably Cinerama, which required three synchronized projectors, and CinemaScope and Panavision, both of which used a single projector. CinemaScope premiered successfully with the 1953 movie "The Robe". Stereo, which gave a spatial distribution of sound using left and right loudspeakers driven by different soundtracks, became common, and some of the largest cinemas implemented sound systems with more than two tracks.  
 
In the United States weekly movie attendance declined from 90 million in 1948 to 51 million in 1952, partly as a result of television and partly as a result of the move of many people to the suburbs. Thousands of cinemas closed in the 1950s and 1960s. The movie industry sought to regain customers by technological improvements such as widescreen formats, stereo sound, and 3-D images. From 1952 through 1954, several widescreen formats were introduced, notably Cinerama, which required three synchronized projectors, and CinemaScope and Panavision, both of which used a single projector. CinemaScope premiered successfully with the 1953 movie "The Robe". Stereo, which gave a spatial distribution of sound using left and right loudspeakers driven by different soundtracks, became common, and some of the largest cinemas implemented sound systems with more than two tracks.  
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In the 1960s greater use of color and greater permissiveness in movie making were industry responses to the lure of television. In the United States, concern about the increase in sex, violence, and profanity in movies, however, led to the adoption of movie ratings in 1968. Lightweight cameras with portable synchronous sound equipment made it much easier to film on location, and faster film stocks made it easier to film indoors and at night. Development of new zoom lenses in the late 1950s led to extensive use of zoom in the 1960s.  
 
In the 1960s greater use of color and greater permissiveness in movie making were industry responses to the lure of television. In the United States, concern about the increase in sex, violence, and profanity in movies, however, led to the adoption of movie ratings in 1968. Lightweight cameras with portable synchronous sound equipment made it much easier to film on location, and faster film stocks made it easier to film indoors and at night. Development of new zoom lenses in the late 1950s led to extensive use of zoom in the 1960s.  
  
==IMAX, videocassettes, and computer-generated imagery==  
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== <span class="mw-headline">IMAX, videocassettes, and computer-generated imagery</span> ==
  
 
In 1970 a new format, IMAX, offered a screen size ten times that of conventional films. Because of construction costs, the number of IMAX theaters grew slowly, and production costs limited the number of IMAX movies. Dolby noise reduction, which reduced tape hiss and other noise, was introduced to movies with "A Clockwork Orange" in 1971, and multitrack sound finally became established in cinemas with the arrival of Dolby four-channel sound in 1975. The sound system attracted much notice with "Star Wars" in 1977, and this movie also made use of new special effects, notably "motion control", which was computerized control of both camera and model.  
 
In 1970 a new format, IMAX, offered a screen size ten times that of conventional films. Because of construction costs, the number of IMAX theaters grew slowly, and production costs limited the number of IMAX movies. Dolby noise reduction, which reduced tape hiss and other noise, was introduced to movies with "A Clockwork Orange" in 1971, and multitrack sound finally became established in cinemas with the arrival of Dolby four-channel sound in 1975. The sound system attracted much notice with "Star Wars" in 1977, and this movie also made use of new special effects, notably "motion control", which was computerized control of both camera and model.  
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Computers became important in film production, especially for computer-generated imagery (CGI). Such computer animation debuted in the movie "Tron", released by Walt Disney Pictures in 1982. By the end of the decade CGI was lowering the cost of producing certain effects and making possible images that could hardly be created in other ways. The Turner Broadcasting System made use of computer technology in another way when, in 1987, it began offering colorized versions of black-and-white movies.  
 
Computers became important in film production, especially for computer-generated imagery (CGI). Such computer animation debuted in the movie "Tron", released by Walt Disney Pictures in 1982. By the end of the decade CGI was lowering the cost of producing certain effects and making possible images that could hardly be created in other ways. The Turner Broadcasting System made use of computer technology in another way when, in 1987, it began offering colorized versions of black-and-white movies.  
  
==Home-theater systems and the move to digital==  
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== <span class="mw-headline">Home-theater systems and the move to digital</span> ==
  
 
In the 1990s, viewing of movies in the home increased markedly. There were video rentals and video purchases and, late in the decade, DVD rentals and DVD purchases. Cable and satellite TV offered movie channels and pay-for-view movies. And direct-to-video movies, bypassing theaters altogether, became an important business. People acquired home-theater systems, with large screens and multiple speakers, so that the home experience approximated the cinema experience. The most obvious technological change of the decade was the arrival of DVDs and DVD players in 1997. Another obvious change was improved sound, both in cinemas and in homes. The 1992 movie "Batman Returns" pioneered Dolby Digital, a 5.1-channel digital sound system. (The channels were left, center, right, left-rear, and right-rear, supplemented by a subwoofer channel for lowest frequencies.) A similar system became part of DVD specifications, and a principal attraction of many home theaters was a six-speaker sound-system for Dolby Digital.  
 
In the 1990s, viewing of movies in the home increased markedly. There were video rentals and video purchases and, late in the decade, DVD rentals and DVD purchases. Cable and satellite TV offered movie channels and pay-for-view movies. And direct-to-video movies, bypassing theaters altogether, became an important business. People acquired home-theater systems, with large screens and multiple speakers, so that the home experience approximated the cinema experience. The most obvious technological change of the decade was the arrival of DVDs and DVD players in 1997. Another obvious change was improved sound, both in cinemas and in homes. The 1992 movie "Batman Returns" pioneered Dolby Digital, a 5.1-channel digital sound system. (The channels were left, center, right, left-rear, and right-rear, supplemented by a subwoofer channel for lowest frequencies.) A similar system became part of DVD specifications, and a principal attraction of many home theaters was a six-speaker sound-system for Dolby Digital.  

Revision as of 15:42, 13 January 2010

Author: Frederik L Nebeker

Citation

One of the most influential technologies of the past hundred years has been motion pictures. Not only are movies big business, but they are also a large part of popular culture. They have an enormous impact on how people perceive the world and how people behave, as they provide information, elicit empathy, and shape everyday behavior. This entertainment medium and art form began more than a hundred years ago as a relatively simple technology of motion-picture camera and projector. Since then, continual technological innovation has improved the medium, all the while expanding its expressive possibilities.

Timeline

1834 Invention of the Zoetrope
1888 Patent caveat by Thomas Edison for the Kinetoscope
1890 Construction of a practical movie camera by Thomas Edison and W. Laurie Dickson
1892 Construction of the Kinetoscope, for viewing motion pictures, by Edison and Dickson
1894 Opening of a Kinetoscope parlor in New York City
1895 Demonstration of film projection by Auguste and Louis Lumière in Paris
1903 Release of "The Great Train Robbery", a movie that tells a story
1923 Demonstration by Lee De Forest of a sound-on-film process
1927 Successful showing of the sound movie "The Jazz Singer"
1935 Release of the first full-length color film shot in three-strip Technicolor, "Becky Sharp"
1952 Release of the 3-D movie "Bwana Devil"
1953 Introduction of the wide-screen technology CinemaScope with "The Robe"
1970 Introduction of IMAX films, projected on a much larger screen
1982 Use of computer animation in the movie "Tron"
1992 Release of the first movie with the Dolby digital sound system, "Batman Returns"
1995 Release of the first movie created entirely on a computer, "Toy Story"

Essay

One of the most influential technologies of the past hundred years has been motion pictures. A photographic technique for capturing action became a new medium, a significant part of the economy, and a dominant part of popular culture. A long series of technical advances created the medium and allowed it to grow to express the visions of filmmakers and to provide entertainment for most of the world's population.

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Bibliography

References of Historical Significance


References for Further Reading


About the Author(s)

Frederik Nebeker received a B.A. in mathematics from Pomona College, an M.A. in history of science from the University of Wisconsin, and a Ph.D. in history of science and technology from Princeton University. He worked at the American Philosophical Society and at the Center for History of Physics before moving in 1990 to the IEEE History Center at Rutgers University, where he is currently Senior Research Historian. He is author, co-author, or editor of ten books, most recently Dawn of the Electronic Age: Electrical Technologies in the Shaping of the Modern World, 1914 to 1945 (Wiley & Sons, 2009).

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