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Cinematography Everything You Need To Know Essay, Research Paper
Cinematography: Everything You Need To Know
Cinematography is the technique and art of making motion pictures, which
are a sequence of photographs of a single subject that are taken over time
and then projected in the same sequence to create an illusion of motion.
Each image of a moving object is slightly different from the preceding one.
A motion-picture projector projects the sequence of picture frames,
contained on a ribbon of film, in their proper order. A claw engages
perforations in the film and pulls the film down into the film gate,
placing each new frame in exactly the same position as the preceding one.
When the frame is in position, it is projected onto the screen by
illuminating it with a beam of light. The period of time between the
projection of each still image when no image is projected is normally not
noticed by the viewer.
Two perceptual phenomena–persistence of vision and the critical flicker
frequency–cause a continuous image. Persistence of a vision is the
ability of the viewer to retain or in some way remember the impression of
an image after it has been withdrawn from view. The critical flicker
frequency is the minimum rate of interruption of the projected light beam
that will not cause the motion picture to appear to flicker. A frequency
above about 48 interruptions a second will eliminate flicker.
Like a still camera (see CAMERA), a movie camera shoots each picture
individually. The movie camera, however, must also move the film precisely
and control the shutter, keeping the amount of light reaching the film
nearly constant from frame to frame. The shutter of a movie camera is
essentially a circular plate rotated by an electric motor. An opening in
the plate exposes the film frame only after the film has been positioned
and has come to rest. The plate itself continues to rotate smoothly.
Photographic materials must be manufactured with great precision. The
perforations, or holes in the film, must be precisely positioned. The
pitch–the distance from one hole to another–must be maintained by correct
film storage. By the late 1920s, a sound-on-film system of synchronous
SOUND RECORDING was developed and gained widespread popularity. In this
process, the sound is recorded separately on a machine synchronized with
the picture camera. Unlike the picture portion of the film, the sound
portion is recorded and played back continuously rather than in
intermittent motion. Although editing still makes use of perforated film
for flexibility, a more modern technique uses conventional magnetic tape
for original recording and synchronizes the recording to the picture
electronically (see TAPE RECORDER).
If the number of photographs projected per unit time (frame rate) differs
from the number produced per unit time by the camera, an apparent speeding
up or slowing down of the normal rate is created. Changes in the frame
rates are used occasionally for comic effect or motion analysis.
Cinematography becomes an art when the filmmaker attempts to make moving
images that relate directly to human perception, provide visual
significance and information, and provoke emotional response.
History of Film Technology
Several parlor toys of the early 1800s used visual illusions similar to
those of the motion picture. These include the thaumatrope (1825); the
phenakistiscope (1832); the stroboscope (1832); and the zoetrope (1834).
The photographic movie, however, was first used as a means of investigation
rather than of theatrical illusion. Leland Stanford, then governor of
California, hired photographer Eadweard MUYBRIDGE to prove that at some
time in a horse’s gallop all four legs are simultaneously off the ground.
Muybridge did so by using several cameras to produce a series of
photographs with very short time intervals between them. Such a multiple
photographic record was used in the kinetoscope, which displayed a
photographic moving image and was commercially successful for a time.
The kinetoscope was invented either by Thomas Alva EDISON or by his
assistant William K. L. Dickson, both of whom had experimented originally
with moving pictures as a supplement to the phonograph record. They later
turned to George EASTMAN, who provided a flexible celluloid film base to
store the large number of images necessary to create motion pictures.
The mechanical means of cinematography were gradually perfected. It was
discovered that it was better to display the sequence of images
intermittently rather than continuously. This technique allowed a greater
presentation time and more light for the projection of each frame. Another
improvement was the loop above and below the film gate in both the camera
and the projector, which prevented the film from tearing.
By the late 1920s, synchronized sound was being introduced in movies.
These sound films soon replaced silent films in popularity. To prevent the
microphones from picking up camera noise, a portable housing was designed
that muffled noises and allowed the camera to be moved about. In recent
years, equipment, lighting, and film have all been improved, but the
processes involved remain essentially the same. RICHARD FLOBERG
Bibliography: Fielding, Raymond, ed., A Technological History of Motion
Pictures and Television (1967); Happe, I. Bernard, Basic Motion Picture
Technology, 2d ed. (1975); Malkiewicz, J. Kris, and Rogers, Robert E.,
Cinematography (1973); Wheeler, Leslie J., Principles of Cinematography,
4th ed. (1973).
film, history of
The history of film has been dominated by the discovery and testing of the
paradoxes inherent in the medium itself. Film uses machines to record
images of life; it combines still photographs to give the illusion of
continuous motion; it seems to present life itself, but it also offers
impossible unrealities approached only in dreams.^The motion picture was
developed in the 1890s from the union of still PHOTOGRAPHY, which records
physical reality, with the persistence-of-vision toy, which made drawn
figures appear to move. Four major film traditions have developed since
then: fictional narrative film, which tells stories about people with whom
an audience can identify because their world looks familiar; nonfictional
documentary film, which focuses on the real world either to instruct or to
reveal some sort of truth about it; animated film, which makes drawn or
sculpted figures look as if they are moving and speaking; and experimental
film, which exploits film’s ability to create a purely abstract,
nonrealistic world unlike any previously seen.^Film is considered the
youngest art form and has inherited much from the older and more
traditional arts. Like the novel, it can tell stories; like the drama, it
can portray conflict between live characters; like painting, it composes in
space with light, color, shade, shape, and texture; like music, it moves in
time according to principles of rhythm and tone; like dance, it presents
the movement of figures in space and is often underscored by music; and
like photography, it presents a two-dimensional rendering of what appears
to be three-dimensional reality, using perspective, depth, and
shading.^Film, however, is one of the few arts that is both spatial and
temporal, intentionally manipulating both space and time. This synthesis
has given rise to two conflicting theories about film and its historical
development. Some theorists, such as S. M. EISENSTEIN and Rudolf
Arnheim, have argued that film must take the path of the other modern arts
and concentrate not on telling stories or representing reality but on
investigating time and space in a pure and consciously abstract way.
Others, such as Andre Bazin and Siegfried KRACAUER, maintain that film must
fully and carefully develop its connection with nature so that it can
portray human events as excitingly and revealingly as possible.^Because of
his fame, his success at publicizing his activities, and his habit of
patenting machines before actually inventing them, Thomas EDISON received
most of the credit for having invented the motion picture; as early as
1887, he patented a motion picture camera, but this could not produce
images. In reality, many inventors contributed to the development of
moving pictures. Perhaps the first important contribution was the series
of motion photographs made by Eadweard MUYBRIDGE between 1872 and 1877.
Hired by the governor of California, Leland Stanford, to capture on film
the movement of a racehorse, Muybridge tied a series of wires across the
track and connected each one to the shutter of a still camera. The running
horse tripped the wires and exposed a series of still photographs, which
Muybridge then mounted on a stroboscopic disk and projected with a magic
lantern to reproduce an image of the horse in motion. Muybridge shot
hundreds of such studies and went on to lecture in Europe, where his work
intrigued the French scientist E. J. MAREY. Marey devised a means of
shooting motion photographs with what he called a photographic gun.^Edison
became interested in the possibilities of motion photography after hearing
Muybridge lecture in West Orange, N.J. Edison’s motion picture
experiments, under the direction of William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, began
in 1888 with an attempt to record the photographs on wax cylinders similar
to those used to make the original phonograph recordings. Dickson made a
major breakthrough when he decided to use George EASTMAN’s celluloid film
instead. Celluloid was tough but supple and could be manufactured in long
rolls, making it an excellent medium for motion photography, which required
great lengths of film. Between 1891 and 1895, Dickson shot many 15-second
films using the Edison camera, or Kinetograph, but Edison decided against
projecting the films for audiences–in part because the visual results were
inadequate and in part because he felt that motion pictures would have
little public appeal. Instead, Edison marketed an electrically driven
peep-hole viewing machine (the Kinetoscope) that displayed the marvels
recorded to one viewer at a time.^Edison thought so little of the
Kinetoscope that he failed to extend his patent rights to England and
Europe, an oversight that allowed two Frenchmen, Louis and Auguste LUMIERE,
to manufacture a more portable camera and a functional projector, the
Cinematographe, based on Edison’s machine. The movie era might be said to
have begun officially on Dec. 28, 1895, when the Lumieres presented a
program of brief motion pictures to a paying audience in the basement of a
Paris cafe. English and German inventors also copied and improved upon the
Edison machines, as did many other experimenters in the United States. By
the end of the 19th century vast numbers of people in both Europe and
America had been exposed to some form of motion pictures.^The earliest
films presented 15- to 60-second glimpses of real scenes recorded outdoors
(workmen, trains, fire engines, boats, parades, soldiers) or of staged
theatrical performances shot indoors. These two early tendencies–to
record life as it is and to dramatize life for artistic effect–can be
viewed as the two dominant paths of film history.^Georges MELIES was the
most important of the early theatrical filmmakers. A magician by trade,
Melies, in such films as A Trip to the Moon (1902), showed how the cinema
could perform the most amazing magic tricks of all: simply by stopping the
camera, adding something to the scene or removing something from it, and
then starting the camera again, he made things seem to appear and
disappear. Early English and French filmmakers such as Cecil Hepworth,
James Williamson, and Ferdinand Zecca also discovered how rhythmic movement
(the chase) and rhythmic editing could make cinema’s treatment of time and
space more exciting.
American Film in the Silent Era (1903-1928)
A most interesting primitive American film was The Great Train Robbery
(1903), directed by Edwin S. PORTER of the Edison Company. This early
western used much freer editing and camera work than usual to tell its
story, which included bandits, a holdup, a chase by a posse, and a final
shoot-out. When other companies (Vitagraph, the American Mutoscope and
Biograph Company, Lubin, and Kalem among them) began producing films that
rivaled those of the Edison Company, Edison sued them for infringement of
his patent rights. This so-called patents war lasted 10 years (1898-1908),
ending only when nine leading film companies merged to form the Motion
Picture Patents Company.^One reason for the settlement was the enormous
profits to be derived from what had begun merely as a cheap novelty.
Before 1905 motion pictures were usually shown in vaudeville houses as one
act on the bill. After 1905 a growing number of small, storefront theaters
called nickelodeons, accommodating less than 200 patrons, began to show
motion pictures exclusively. By 1908 an estimated 10 million Americans
were paying their nickels and dimes to see such films. Young speculators
such as William Fox and Marcus Loew saw their theaters, which initially
cost but $1,600 each, grow into enterprises worth $150,000 each within 5
years. Called the drama of the people, the early motion pictures attracted
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