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Introduction to Cinema

Unit 1

Unit 1

Brief History of World Cinema

Structure: 1.1 Introduction Objectives 1.2 The Beginnings of Cinema 1.3 Lumiere Brothers Experiment 1.4 Silent Era D. W. Griffith Charlie Chaplin 1.5 The Advent of Sound 1.6 Color Movies 1.7 Summary 1.8 Glossary 1.9 Terminal Questions 1.10 Answers

1.1 Introduction
What is World Cinema? If you sit back and recollect the number of movies you have watched, you might roughly place them in two bags: films from your own country, and foreign films. Or you might take a step further and classify them into tragedies, comedies, action movies, horror movies, going by the film genres you must be familiar with by now from your reading of unit-5 of the second semester SLM History of Media. Possibly, you might even group movies in terms of languages, dialects, attitudes and other nuanced criteria. World cinema in a general sense constitutes of Indian, Iranian, French, American, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Danish, Italian cinema...... the trail goes on. Surely, you can add to the list! From a broader perspective, world cinema spans across several genres, and in a multitude of languages, the experience of which can be studied in terms of the nature of cinematic technique used, and even the stance of viewership which differs from audience to audience and specifically from viewer to viewer. So to say, you, the viewer, are also a part of the integral framework of cinema. No matter from which part of the world you stem from, your experience of world
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cinema is uniquely personal. And when the personal factor cannot be evinced, there are certain tested ways of viewing cinema which may prove beneficial to you. Let us begin then with an understanding of how to view cinema as a precursor to understanding the early beginnings of cinema which are elaborated in this unit. Look up the following link to get an idea on active viewership: [http://www.filmsite.org/filmview2.html] Objectives: After studying this unit, you should be able to: discuss the origin of cinema describe the silent era highlight the chief aspects of the sound era elaborate how color movies have developed.

1.2 The Beginnings of Cinema


As you learnt in the SLM entitled History of Media in the previous semester, optical toys, shadow shows, magic lanterns, and visual tricks have existed for thousands of years. Many inventors, scientists, manufacturers and scientists have observed the visual phenomenon that a series of individual still pictures set into motion created the illusion of movement a concept termed persistence of vision.

Fig. 1.1: Magic Lantern (Source: wernernekes.de)

Persistence of Vision is an ability of the human brain to retain images perceived by the eye for a brief period of time after they disappear from the field of vision. (This made the art of cinema possible.) The illusion of motion was first described by British physician Peter Mark Roget in 1824, and was the first step in the development of the cinema. In the mid 19th century entrepreneurs started to exploit this phenomenon for its entertainment
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value. Thereby, you see, cinema as we know it today had a very humble beginning. Using multiple still cameras, which capture consecutive stages of movement, Briton Eadweard Muybridge becomes the first man in history to record continuous live action. In 1878, under the sponsorship of Leland Stanford, Governor of California, Mayubridge successfully photographed a horse named "Sallie Gardner" in fast motion using a series of 24 stereoscopic cameras. It came to be called Series Photography, the precursor of movie pictures. True motion pictures, rather than eye-fooling 'animations', could only occur after the development of film (flexible and transparent celluloid) that could record split-second picture shots. Some of the first experiments in this regard were conducted by Parisian innovator and French physiologist Etienne Jules Marey in the 1880s. In 1882, Marey, replaced Muybridges multiple camera setup with the Chronophotographic gun a single camera capable of taking consecutive pictures of live action. Marey's chronophotographs (multiple exposures on single glass plates and on strips of sensitized paper celluloid film that passed automatically through a camera of his own design) were revolutionary. He was soon able to achieve a frame rate of 30 images. Further experimentation was conducted by French-born Louis Aime Augustin Le Prince in 1888. Le Prince used long rolls of paper covered with photographic emulsion for a camera that he devised and patented. The work of Muybridge, Marey and Le Prince laid the groundwork for the development of motion picture cameras, projectors and transparent celluloid film hence the development of cinema. In 1887, George Eastman appropriated the invention of celluloid roll film from Reverend Hannibal Godwin. Eastman began to mass produce it in 1889. Meanwhile, Thomas Alva Edisons laboratory had been developing a motion picture system known as the Kinetoscope. William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, a young Edison Laboratories assistant was assigned to develop a camera, which would be able to capture movement by allowing for more extensive sequences than the chronophotographic gun. He designed a motion picture camera that used Eastman celluloid stock. Kinetoscope
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apparatus allowed only one person at a time to watch the short films through a peephole. Self Assessment Questions 1. What do you mean by Persistence of Vision? 2. Who was the first man in history to record continuous live action using the technique of multiple still cameras?

1.3 Lumiere Brothers Experiment


The Lumiere brothers, Auguste and Louis, were sons of well known Lyons based portrait painter Antoine Lumiere. Antoine, noting the financial rewards of new photographic processes, abandoned his art and set up a business, manufacturing and supplying photographic equipment. Joining him in this venture was Louis who began experimenting with the photographic equipment his father was manufacturing. During his experimentation, Louis discovered a process, which assisted the development of photography. He developed a new 'dry plate' process in 1881 at the age of seventeen, which became known as the Etiquette Bleue process, and gave his fathers business a welcome boost. A factory was built soon after to manufacture the plates in the Monplaisir quarter of the Lyons Suburbs. By 1894 the Lumieres were producing around 15,000,000 plates a year. Antoine, by now a successful and well known businessman, was invited to a demonstration of Edisons Peephole Kinetoscope in Paris. He was excited by what he saw and returned to Lyons. He presented his son Louis with a piece of Kinetoscope film, given to him by one of Edisons concessionaires. The brothers worked through the winter of 1894, Auguste making the first experiments. Their aim was to overcome the limitations and problems, as they saw them, of Edisons peephole Kinetoscope. They identified two main problems with Edisons device: first, its bulk the Kinetograph the camera, was a colossal piece of machinery and its weight and size resigned it to the studio. Secondly the nature of the Kinetoscope to the viewer, meant that only one person could experience the film at a time.

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By early 1895, the brothers had invented their own device combining camera with printer and projector and called it the Cinmatographe. Patenting it on February 13th 1895, the Cinmatographe much smaller than Edisons Kinetograph, was lightweight (around five kilograms), and was hand cranked. The Lumieres used a film speed of 16 frames per second, much slower compared with Edisons 48 frames per second this meant that less film was used and also the clatter and grinding associated with Edisons device was reduced. Perhaps most important was Louis decision to incorporate the principle of intermittent movement using a device similar to that found in sewing machines. This was something Edison had rejected as he struggled to perfect projection using continuous movement. The brothers kept their new invention a closely guarded secret with Auguste organising private screenings to invited guests only. The first of such screenings occurred on 22nd March 1895 at 44 Rue de Rennes in Paris at an industrial meeting where a film especially for the occasion, Workers leaving the Lumire factory, was shown. They caused a sensation with their first film, although it only consisted of an everyday outdoor image factory workers leaving the Lumiere factory gate for home or for a lunch break. Unlike Edison, the Lumiere Brothers were quick to patent the Cinmatographe outside of their native France, applying for an English Patent on April 18th 1895. The brothers continued to show their invention privately, again on June 10th to photographers in Lyon. Such screenings generated much discussion and widespread excitement surrounding this new technology in preparation for their first public screening. As generally acknowledged, cinema (a word derived from Cinematographe) was born on December 28, 1895, in Paris, France.

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Fig. 1.2: Lumiere Brothers (Source: nationalmediamuseum.org.uk)

The Lumieres presented the first commercial exhibition of a projected motion picture to a paying public in the world's first movie theatre the Salon Indien, at the Grand Cafe on Paris' Boulevard des Capucines. The 20-minute program included ten short films with twenty showings a day. They used a film width of 35mm, and a speed of 16 frames per second an industry norm until the talkies. Aside from technological achievements, another Frenchman who was a member of the Lumiere's viewing audience, Georges Melies, added to the development of cinema with his own imaginative fantasy films. When the Lumiere brothers wouldn't sell him a Cinematographe, he developed his own camera (a version of the Kinetograph), and then set up Europe's first film studio in 1897. An illusionist and stage magician, and a wizard at special effects, Melies exploited the new medium with a pioneering 14-minute science fiction work, A Trip to the Moon (1902). Melies called his filmed scenes Tableaux. The shots were static, but the action within each tableaux was full of movement. Melies also introduced the idea of narrative storylines, plots, character development, illusion, and fantasy into film, including trick photography (early special effects), dissolves, wipes, 'magical' super-impositions and double exposures, the use of mirrors, slow-motion and fade-outs/fade-ins. Highly impressed with the story telling ability of Melies, a former Kinetoscope operator Edwin Stanton Porter developed parallel action- telling
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stories in a simultaneous, overlapping fashion. In Porters most successful film, The Great Train Robbery (1903), parallel action becomes the foundation of narrative film making. In an effective, scary, full-screen close up (placed at either the beginning or at the end of the film at the discretion of the exhibitor), a bandit shot his gun directly into the audience. The film also included exterior scenes, chases on horseback, actors who moved toward (and away from) the camera, a camera pan with the escaping bandits, and a camera mounted on a moving train. Porter also developed the process of film editing a crucial film technique that would further the cinematic art. In the early 1900s, motion pictures were no longer innovative experiments. They soon became an escapist entertainment medium for the working-class masses, and one could spend an evening at the cinema for a cheap entry fee. Kinetoscope parlours, lecture halls, and storefronts were often converted into nickelodeons, the first real movie theatres. The normal admission charge was a nickel (sometimes a dime hence the name nickelodeon.) They usually remained open from early morning to midnight. The first nickelodeon, a small store-front theatre or dance hall converted to view films, was opened in Pittsburgh by Harry Davis in June of 1905, showing The Great Train Robbery. Urban, foreign-born, working-class, immigrant audiences loved the cheap form of entertainment and were the predominant cinema-goers. The demand for films gradually boosted the volume of films being produced, which resulted in higher profits for their producers. Self Assessment Questions 3. The first public screening of the Cinmatographe by the Lumiere Brothers was at ______________. 4. The first real movie theatres were called ________.

1.4 Silent Era


The art of motion pictures grew into full maturity in the "silent era" before silent films were replaced by talking pictures in the late 1920s. One-reel shorts, silent films, melodramas, comedies, or novelty pieces were usually accompanied with piano playing, sing-along songs, illustrated lectures, other kinds of magic lantern slide shows or skits.
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As silent films had no synchronized sound for dialogue, onscreen inter titles were used to narrate story points, present key dialogue and sometimes even comment on the action for the audience. Inter titles often became graphic elements themselves, featuring illustrations or abstract decorations that commented on the action. Showings of silent films almost always featured live music, starting with the pianist at the first public projection of movies by the Lumiere Brothers. From the beginning, music was recognized as essential, contributing to the atmosphere and giving the audience vital emotional cues. Until the standardization of the projection speed of 24 frames per second for sound films in 1926, silent films were shot at variable speeds anywhere from 16 to 23 frames per second. 1.4.1 D. W. Griffith More than anyone in the silent era, D. W. Griffith saw the potential of a film as an expressive medium, and exploited that prospect. Griffiths films became part of history in the making unleashing the power of movies as a catalyst for social change.

Fig. 1.3: D. W. Griffith (Source: silent-movies.org)

As a young man he was determined to become a playwright and left home to learn his craft as an actor. For twelve years he crisscrossed the country, acting in minor productions, learning how to tell a story and how to sell it.

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Griffith played a number of roles as an actor before agreeing to move behind the camera as a director at the Biograph Company. During his five years at Biograph, Griffith took the raw elements of moviemaking as they had evolved up to that time lighting, continuity, editing and acting. Made in 1915, Birth of a Nation directed by Griffith was the first masterpiece of cinema, bringing to film the status accorded to the visual and performing arts. A story of the Civil War, Birth of a Nation captured the violence, the spectacle, and the excitement of the war. Using extreme and dramatic camera angles and complexly interweaved edits, the film brought an event to life unlike any film had done before. The film, however beautiful, was a sad testament to the deep prejudice of the times, and black audiences were outraged by its racist distortion of history. Griffiths next film, Intolerance (1916) was, paradoxically, a plea for brotherhood and understanding as well as a polemic against the radical social reformers who had demanded that The Birth of a Nation be censored. The film marked a new standard in film spectacle and in narrative complexity, intertwining four separate stories from four different historical eras. Following Intolerance with Broken Blossoms (1919) and Way Down East (1920) Griffith solidified his reputation as Americas preeminent director. He continued to reinvent the language of film, astounding people with epic stories, simultaneous narratives, sophisticated set design, and extensive travelling shows, which accompanied his films city to city. Broken Blossoms was the story of a tender love between a Chinese man and a young girl with a brutish and bigoted father. The beautiful and emotionally explosive film was the first from Griffiths new production company, formed that same year. The company, United Artists, brought Griffith together with the three greatest performers of the day; Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and Mary Pickford. Griffith spent the next ten years making films with United Artists and Paramount, but could never again reach the fame of The Birth of a Nation or Intolerance. As the 1920s roared on, Griffiths films seemed more and more old fashioned, and no longer appealed to the younger audiences. A Victorian storyteller, he had become temperamentally and artistically out of sync with his times. Though he had almost single-handedly invented the art of modern cinema, Griffith spent the last fifteen years of his life unable to find work. On
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July 23, 1948 he died in a small Los Angeles hotel. In the wake of his death and the coming of age of the movie industry, D.W. Griffith took his place in American cultural history as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. 1.4.2 Charlie Chaplin Charlie Chaplin is most recognized as an icon of the silent film era, often associated with his popular "Little Tramp" character; the man with the toothbrush moustache, bowler hat, bamboo cane, and a funny walk. The Little Tramp always found himself wobbling into awkward situations and miraculously wobbling away. More than any other figure, it is this kindhearted character that we associate with the time before the talkies. Born in London in 1889, Chaplin first visited America with a theatre company in 1907. Appearing as Billy in the play Sherlock Holmes, the young Chaplin toured the country twice. On his second tour, he met Mack Sennett and was signed to Keystone Studios to act in films. In 1914 Chaplin made his first one-reeler, Making a Living. That same year he made thirtyfour more short films, including Caught in a Cabaret, Caught in the Rain, The Face on the Bar-Room Floor, and His Trysting Place. These early silent shorts allowed very little time for anything but physical comedy, and Chaplin was a master at it. Chaplins slapstick acrobatics made him famous, but the subtleties of his acting made him great. For Chaplin, the best way to locate the humour or pathos of a situation was to create an environment and walk around it until something natural happened.

Fig. 1.4: Charlie Chaplin (Source: myclassiclyrics.com) Sikkim Manipal University Page No.: 10

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The concern of early theatre and film was to simply keep the audiences attention through overdramatic acting that exaggerated emotions, but Chaplin saw in film an opportunity to control the environment enough to allow subtlety to come through. With the advent of the feature-length talkies, the need for more subtle acting became apparent. To maintain the audiences attention throughout a six-reel film, an actor needed to move beyond constant slapstick. Chaplin had demanded the need for depth long before anyone else. After the arrival of sound films, Chaplin made The Circus (1928), City Lights (1931), as well as Modern Times (1936) before he committed to sound. These were essentially silent films scored with his own music and sound effects. City Lights contained arguably his most perfect balance of comedy and sentimentality. Chaplin's dialogue films made in Hollywood were The Great Dictator (1940), Monsieur Verdoux (1947) and Limelight (1952). Self Assessment Questions 5. The film The Birth of a Nation was directed by _________. a) Edwin S Porter b) D. W. Griffith c) Charlie Chaplin 6. In 1914 Chaplins first one-reeler film was __________.

1.5 The Advent of Sound


In the early years after the introduction of sound, films incorporating synchronized dialogue were known as "talking pictures," or "talkies." The first commercial screening of movies with fully synchronized sound took place in New York City in April 1923. The first feature film originally presented as a talkie was The Jazz Singer, released in October 1927. The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crosland featuring the movie star Al Jolson was originally conceived as a silent picture with musical interludes, but it accidentally developed several spontaneous talking scenes. Al Jolsons improvised lines attracted large audiences who had never heard informal dialogue on film before. Supported by a rich orchestral score, Jewish music, and popular songs performed by Jolson, The Jazz Singer became a huge international success.

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By the early 1930s, the talkies were a global phenomenon. Most of the early talkies were successful at the box-office, but many of them were of poor quality dialogue-dominated play adaptations, with stilted acting (from inexperienced performers) and an unmoving camera or microphone. Screenwriters were required to place more emphasis on characters in their scripts, and title-card writers became unemployed. The first musicals were only literal transcriptions of Broadway shows taken to the screen. Nonetheless, a tremendous variety of films were produced with a sense of wit, style, skill, and elegance that have never been equalled before or since. Self Assessment Question 7. The first feature film originally presented as a talkie was _________ . a) The Jazz Singer b) Intolerance c) The Kid 8. What were talking pictures?

1.6 Color Movies


As with sound, experimentation with color film dates back to the early years of cinema. The first hand-tinted movies appeared as early as 1896; with each frame elaborately painted under a magnifying glass. As an alternative to dyeing the already developed film, the Belgian company Gevaert introduced colored celluloid to be used as a film base. This process gave the effect of more evenly distributed hues. The principles of color photography, developed in 1855 by James Clerk Maxwell, the Scottish physicist, were gradually applied to cinematography. Maxwell proved that practically all natural colors may be reproduced by mixing red, green and blue light. By 1899, F. Marshall Lee and Edward R. Turner patented a color camera with rotating red, green and blue filters placed in front or behind the lens. In 1922, the Boston based Technicolor Company invented a camera capable of splitting the incoming light into two beams with two negatives. After a complex chemical procedure, two film positives were developed: one dyed orange-red, the other, green. The positives were cemented together for projection resulting in good quality color images. Some of the prominent movies shot in this fashion were, The Ten Commandments (1923) and Merry Widow (1925).
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One of the drawbacks of early technicolour was the shifting registration of colors. By 1932, however, a new three color camera was developed; it was perfected by the end of the decade. The first three-colour technicolor film is Disneys animation, Flowers and Trees (1932). Becky Sharp (1935) is the first full-length live action feature film to use this technology. The Adventures of Robinhood (1938), Gone with the Wind (1939) are some other great movies, which benefited most from the three strips processing in color. Cinema which was born in 1895 in Paris soon spread all over the world. From being a mere visual entertainment in black and white, it transformed into an audio visual colorful treat, appealing both to head and heart. Self Assessment Questions 9. The first three color Technicolor film was Disneys ________. 10. Who developed the principles of colour photography?

1.7 Summary
In this unit, you got an overview of the early history of cinema; in particular of the silent era, the sound era and the advent of color in movies. You may now make a list of all the movies mentioned in this unit, watch and analyze them in view of the link provided in the introduction, on the art of active viewership. You will no doubt be surprised to see history unfold in a new light: of the beauty of early innovations in terms of cinematic technique, and the thrill of being part of a yester-year audience exposed anew to the then modern technology. For instance, you might have watched Charlie Chaplin flicks a zillion times, but watch them (in the historical perspective) by way of active viewership and you will live through his movies afresh with a heightened cinematic experience. Happy viewership!

1.8 Glossary
Magic Lantern: a 17th century apparatus designed to project images from glass plates. Persistence of Vision: an ability of the human brain to retain images perceived by the eye for a brief period of time after they disappear from the field of vision.

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Continuity editing: an editing principle, which maintains a smooth and chronological flow of action. Hand tinting Manual coloring of film strip, which produces a desired mood for the projected image.

1.9 Terminal Questions


1. What were the various inventions which contributed to the growth of Cinema? 2. Write a note on the contributions of D. W. Griffith to the Silent movie era. 3. Describe the change of black and white films into color movies.

1.10 Answers
Self Assessment Questions 1. The ability of the human brain to retain images perceived by the eye. 2. Eadweard Muybridge 3. The Grand Cafe on Pariss Boulevard de Capuchines in Paris, France. 4. Nickelodeons 5. B 6. Making a Living 7. The Jazz Singer 8. Films incorporating synchronized dialogues were called talking pictures. 9. Flowers and Trees 10. James Clerk Maxwell Terminal Questions 1. Hints: Chronophotographic gun Thomas Alva Edisons KinetoscopeLumiere Brothers Cinematographe Color film mass production of Color film by Eastman process of synchronization of Sound. 2. Hints: Extreme and dramatic camera angles complexly interweaved edits narrative complexity simultaneous narratives sophisticated set design. 3. Hints: Hand tinted movies coloured celluloid rotating primary colour filters before the lens of the camera was inventing a camera capable of splitting the incoming light into two beams which expose two negatives later a new three color camera is developed.
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