The field of cinema is made up of some media which include; motion pictures, film and movies.The history of cinema, also known as film, traces back to over one hundred years ago from the beginning of the 19th century to date.
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The cinema has been its development from its abstract form and today it is the most important means of communication. Since its innovation, motion pictures have a huge impact on arts, technology and politics. This paper discusses the significance of early cinema for our study of the history of the cinema.
In cinema development, the most significant endeavor has been to recreate and present reality through various artistic means which have been developed in line with cinema technology. In art history, we get to learn that cinema was not invented overnight and thus, it is a product of a gradual accumulation of insight and the technology which was available at different times.
The early cinema evaluation in cinema history takes the learner through the pioneering work of many people who inspired Auguste and Louis Lumière to come up with a Cinématographe system, which presented moving pictures in 28 December 1895.
Cinema historians has it that there were many inventions which preceded Cinématographe such as the moving image projections and shadow plays, which traces their origin in Java and India thousand years ago. These included creating a silhouette by manipulating some leather puppets using rods and placed beyond a translucent material. The technology of shadow plays has been adopted, effected and fitted into today’s cinema and are being used.
After this technology of shadows; there was the invention of the magic lantern which was made from a box, a candle which could be enclosed inside and a drawn image. From this invention, there was still the element of projection which is still in use today. The magic lanterns became more prevalent in the 19th century and they came with sophistication as they deployed a number of lenses.
This technology became very popular and the lanterns were present in most parts of the world by the 19th century. Early cinema gives us the knowledge we would never had in the way the technology evolved and the early inventors in the field. In the study of any history, there must be some traceable path of development of the subject matter and so is the history of cinema connected to early cinemas.
As early as 1888, Alva Edison posited that, “I am experimenting upon an instrument which does for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear, which is the recording and reproduction of things in motion” (Robinson 138). In this line Edison invented his favorable phonograph and as his initial point, the model of a cylinder was not so promising and so Edison resorted to using a strip of transparent film, a technology borrowed from Marey from Europe. By 1892, two great innovations had been made by Edison namely; Kinetograph, which was used to record images and the Kinetoscope, which was used to view them. But it was soon after that the machines were making a lot of money and he realized that some inventions were threatening their business. This was Edison’s first invention to get into commercial and it fared very well and this can be evident from his statement quoted here, that;
We are making these peep show machines and selling a lot of them at a good profit. If we put out a screen machine there will be a use for maybe ten of them in the whole United States. With that many screen machines you could show the pictures to everyone in the country – and then it would be done. Let’s not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. (Robinson 39)
Lumière brothers on the other side of Europe are credited for inventing the motion picture and this followed many pioneers who made numerous contributions during that time. The significance of these inventions in the early times is the seeking of knowledge which could be advanced today to produce more accomplished inventions.
The knowledge of early cinema can help those who take film production career especially in the designing and making of films. For example, it was from the early cinema that Henri Langlois recreated movies and from them he won an honorary award in 1974. Langlois showed different early films every night and those who liked his films were amazed at his programming ability.
Langlois had films from the Nazis, which he recovered and refined them and he invented from early films a job which no one thought of before. Therefore, early cinema can be very helpful in enriching today’s entertainment and information industry thus significant to cinema historians. The phantom of the Cinematheque reveals Langlois’ quest for the art form which resembles Lumière’s shadows (Robinson 39).
Moreover, it was Adre Bazin who prospected that film has its foundation in photography and thus possesses the realistic aspect of it. Therefore, he believes that film; as in early cinema, has the ability to capture the real world. This makes us see the sense in the fact that early films captured the reality of the time more than anything else.
The study of the history of film therefore enables students of cinema history to capture the reality of the world when they were being made. Since history reflects many common social aspects which have been carried to today, it is possible to reflect the reality of yesterday in today’s communication and entertainment. This cannot happen without the availability of the early cinema as well as their study.
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In conclusion, early cinema cannot be taken lightly in their contribution of today’s film industry. The cinema has evolved from Lumière brothers, to Cohn Brothers and by today we have seen Hollywood give rise to Bollywood and the technology is still in the way of its growth to high heights. Therefore, the inventions of early cinema were more than just a technology at that time and it came along centuries leaving strong foundations.
The film industry, which is leading in offering entertainment, information and education, could not have the way it is today were it not for the efforts of the inventors of cinema. Most of the materials which are incorporated into the film today can be traced back in the cinema error and they act to enrich each other.
This could not have been possible without the knowledge of early cinema innovations. Early cinema therefore plays a significant role not only in the study of the history of cinema but also in its assessment, appreciation and adoption.
Robinson, David. Realising the vision: 300 years of cinematography, in Cinema: the Beginnings and the future, edited by Cristopher Williams. London: University of Westminster Press, 1996. Print.