History of Film


What started out as still photography, films have slowly grown into a multimillion dollar industry of grand special effects. It began with a simple design, the camera obscura, perfected in 1600 by Giambattista della Porta. This device was composed of small hole in a box which allowed external light to pass through, inverting the image and projecting it with color and perspective preserved. The elements of film, such as scripts, actors, sets and directors, came from plays, a form of entertainment that predates films by thousands of years.

On June 11, 1877, the idea of what photography images could do changed when Eadweard Muybridge successfully photographed a horse using a series of twenty-four stereoscopic cameras in a row. The exercise here was originally designed to settle the issue of whether horses’ hooves left the ground when running. W.K.L. Dickson took it to the next level under Thomas Edison’s direction, with a patent for the Kinetograph, a device which took a series of instant photographs on emulsion coated 35 mm film. Unfortunately, this initial method was only visible through a peephole by a single person at a time. It was only until Charles Franci Jenkins and his new projector technology, the Phantoscope, showed a reel to the first audience in June 1894.

This worked just fine for commercial dispersion, and the silent film genre ruled the industry for thirty years of the early 20th century. They were shown only at specific venues of operation and special effects were very primitive, from cardboard cutouts and models to draping translucent fabrics over the eye of the lens and stop motion animation for fictitious effects. Single frame animation was developed by Edwin S. Porter in 1907, and was displayed through a small film called The Teddy Bears. Sound and dialogue were officially introduced in the late 1920s, and finally color in the mid 30s.

War efforts in the 40′s left a propaganda taste in the film industry’s mouth and film plots went from fantastical stories to plotlines that outlined the public fear of communist uprisings. Following political and society trends is still common practice within the industry. In 1968, studios introduced the modern Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating system for films. Film ratings are categorized as G, appropriate for all ages, PG, parental guidance suggested, PG13, appropriate for viewers age 13 and over, and R, restricted to adult viewership only.

In the late 80′s and early 90′s, studios began experimenting and mastering computer animated special effects. 1995 brought the first full-length film entirely developed using computer-generated imagery, Toy Story, by Pixar Animation Studios. In recent years, films have mastered 3D graphics which have taken the industry by storm.

Studying film at the university level became popular during the 1970s. At the same time, producers realized that younger film graduates were more in-tune with the largely untapped youth market within the film industry, and began hiring at a fast pace. Film degrees are now fairly standard at major universities, and many schools are entirely devoted to them. Check out our article on featured film programs for a list of accredited, respected film schools.

Get information on film production degrees by using the form on this page.  School representatives will guide you through the process and answer any questions you might have.

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