A lecture about the history of moving pictures


Many believe that the story first began in
America in 1877, when two friends were arguing over whether a horse ever had all four feet
or hooves off the ground when it galloped. To settle the bet, a photographer was asked
to photograph a horse galloping and the bet was settled because you could see that all
the hooves were off the ground in some of the photos. What was even more interesting was that if
the photos were shown in quick succession the horse looked like it was running—in
other words ‘moving pictures’. The person who became interested in taking
the moving pictures to its next step was the famous American inventor Thomas Edison
Actually, he didn’t do the work himself but rather asked a young Scotsman in his employ
to design a system, which he did Now this young fellow was clever because the
first thing he did was study other systems—primitive as they were—of moving pictures and then
put all the existing technologies together to make the first entire motion picture system. He designed a camera, a projection device
and the film. The system was first shown in New York in
1894 and was really very popular. Apparently people lined up around the block
to see the wonderful new invention. There were, however, a couple of problems
with the system The camera weighed over 200 kilograms and
only one person at a time could see the film. Well now, news of the new system in America
travelled fast and a number of rival European system started to appear once people had heard
about it. The single problem with all the systems was
they couldn’t really project the film onto a screen—you know, so more than one person
could see it. Then in 1985 three systems were all developed,
more or less at the same time and independently of each other
I guess the most famous of these was by the Lumiere Brothers from France, and they called
their system the cinematograph which of course is where the word cinema comes from
There were also two brothers in Germany who developed a successful system and they called
it a bioskop Well now, once the problem of projection had
been solved, the next challenge for the inventors was to make the films longer and more. A continuing problem at the time was that
the films had a tendency to break when that were being played— a problem which was caused
by the tension between the two wheels or ‘ reels’ as they are called, which hold the film. Now this problem was solved by two American
brothers. They developed the ‘Lantham Loop’, which
was the simple addition of a third reel between the two main reels, and this took all the
tension away with the result that the film stopped snapping. So now there was a real possibility of having
films of more than two or three minutes, and this led to the making of The Great Train
Robbery—the very first movie. It only lasted 11 minutes but was an absolute
sensation, and there were cases of people watching the movie and actually fainting when
the character fired a gun at the camera! Almost overnight movies became a craze, and
by 1905 people in America were lining up to see movies in ‘store theatres’, as they
were called then. I guess the next big step in terms of development
of technology was to have people actually talking on the film, and the first step towards
this was in 1926 when sound effects were first used on a film. It wasn’t until the following year however
that the first ‘talkie’, as they were called then, was made. This film featured actors speaking only during
parts of the film and was called The Jazz Singer, and it wasn’t until 1928 that the
first all-talking film was produced, and this was called The Lights of New York. Unfortunately, the sound on this early film
was not very good and I believe they put subtitles on the film—that is, they printed the dialogue
along the bottom of the film to compensate for this poor sound quality. Now, with the addition of sound, moving pictures
became far more difficult to make…

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