You might decide to go to the cinema of an evening and pick a film to see when you get there, or even switch on your TV or Netflix and have a search through, but film and its audience used to have a very different feel. The period of Early Cinema is truly fascinating and the culture quite bizarre when you look back now.
When Early Cinema began, film simply referred to a ‘moving picture’ with the earliest films lasting a few minutes if that. With pop-up cinemas appearing in storefront spaces or the like, in various towns and villages, it very much became a social event. The whole village would go together to see the latest ‘film’. At the start, film was a novelty but cinema goers soon demanding more, putting pressure on film makers to achieve and deliver things that would constantly impress and challenge their audiences.
(via Black Hole Reviews)
It is a well known fact that Early Cinema did not use diegetic sound (sound relating to the action in the film); there was no speech or background noise that went alongside film. Instead films were accompanied with a musical composition which fit the subject matter of the film. Speech itself was hard to co-ordinate alongside film and film makers were yet to find a way of doing this. Certain films introduced written speech cards which would appear in between the live-action film itself.
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The very earliest films used little or no cinematic techniques and showed a completely stationary shot. As film developed and film makers experimented, camera movement and angles were introduced. Many of the first films were authentic or staged scenes from everyday life. Scenes such as sporting or public events were particularly popular, which gave audiences the chance to experience a day at the races for example. Cinema introduced the concept of travel to many; something that was previously impossible.
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A lot of Early Films used slapstick comedy to keep their audiences entertained. The music became a vital part of this too, showing that speech was not needed to make an audience laugh. Early films shocked viewers because the principle was unlike anything they had seen before. Particular films where the train would approach the camera shocked audiences and had many screaming for fear that the train would leap off the screen and run over them. Another well known film in which a man is run over by a horse cart caused a similar effect with audiences believing that the man had died in reality not just on film. The boundaries between reality and film were yet to be established.
(via Dr North)
As film makers began to experiment more and more they found a way of ‘colouring in’ films, just like with photographs. Certain pastel tones started to seep into films and add another dimension. Film makers began to get clever and cinematography techniques were created; colours were used for a specific purpose, as well as camera angles or movements.
A lot has moved on since the birth of cinema but cinematography is still an essential consideration to any film maker, with whole teams dedicated to develop the varying aspects of this. If you’re interested in learning more or want to find out how to make your own film, get in touch!