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Film

From Academic Kids

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Film_reel_and_film.jpg
"Film" refers to the celluloid media on which movies are printed

Film is a term that encompasses motion pictures as individual projects, as well as the field in general. The origin of the name comes from the fact that photographic film (also called filmstock) has historically been the primary medium for recording and displaying motion pictures. Many other terms exist — motion pictures, the silver screen, photoplays, picture shows, flicks — and most commonly movies. Academics and the English-speaking international community prefer to use film or "cinema", due to the colloquial nature of these other terms.

Films are produced by recording actual people and objects with cameras, or by creating them using animation techniques and/or special effects. They comprise a series of individual frames, but when these images are shown rapidly in succession, the illusion of motion is given to the viewer. Flickering between frames is not seen due to an effect known as persistence of vision — whereby the eye retains a visual image for a fraction of a second after the source has been removed. Perhaps of more relevance is what causes the perception of motion — a psychological effect identified as beta movement.

Film is considered by many to be an important art form; films entertain, educate, enlighten and inspire audiences. The visual elements of cinema need no translation, giving the motion picture a universal power of communication. Any film can become a worldwide attraction, especially with the addition of dubbing or subtitles that translate the dialogue. Films are also artifacts created by specific cultures, which reflect those cultures and, in turn, affect them.


Contents

History of film

Main article: History of Film

Mechanisms for producing artificially created, two-dimensional images in motion were demonstrated as early as the 1860's, including the zoetrope and the praxinoscope. These machines were outgrowths of simple optical devices (such as magic lanterns), and would display sequences of still pictures at sufficient speed for the images on the pictures to appear to be moving. Naturally, the images needed to be carefully designed to achieve the desired effect — and the underlying principle became the basis for the development of animation.

With the development of celluloid film for still photography, it became possible to directly capture objects in motion in real time using the new medium. Early versions of the technology sometimes required the viewer to look into a special device to see the pictures. By the 1880's, the development of the motion picture camera allowed the individual component images to be captured and stored on a single reel, and led quickly to the development of a motion picture projector to shine light through the processed and printed film and magnify these "moving picture shows" onto a screen for an entire audience. These reels, so exhibited, came to be known as motion pictures".

Motion pictures were purely visual art up to the late 1920s, but these innovative silent films had gained a hold on the public imagination. When films began to tell stories, instead of just record brief events, exhibitors sometimes provided a commentator to narrate the action, but this became unnecessary with the development of printed intertitles containing the actors' dialogue and other written, descriptive material as part of the visual experience. Rather than leave the audience in silence, theater owners would hire a pianist or organist or a full orchestra to play music fitting the mood of the film at any given moment. By the early 1920s, most films came with a prepared list of sheet music for this purposes, with complete film scores being composed for major productions.

In the late 1920s, technology allowed filmmakers to attach to each film a soundtrack of speech, music and sound effects synchronized with the action on the screen, these sound films were initially distinguished by calling them "talking pictures", or talkies.

The next major step in the development of cinema was the introduction of color. While the addition of sound quickly eclipsed silent film and theater musicians, color was adopted more gradually. The public was relatively indifferent to color photography as opposed to black-and-white. But as color processes improved and became as affordable as black-and-white film, more and more movies were filmed in color after the end of WWII, as the industry in America came to view color an essential to attracting audiences in its competition with television, which remained a black-and-white medium until the mid-60s. By the end of the 1960s, color had become the norm for film makers, and by the 1980s, an expectation of the younger generations by then comprising the majority of the audience for commercial films. Only in rare exceptions is black-and-white film now used; the choice is motivated by artistic reasons.

The motion picture industry

The making and showing of motion pictures became a source of profit almost as soon the process was invented. Upon seeing how successful their new invention, and its product, was in their native France, the Lumieres quickly set about touring the Continent to exhibit the first films privately to royalty and publicly to the masses. In each country, they would normally add new, local scenes to their catalogue and, quickly enough, found local entrepreneurs in the various countries of Europe to buy their equipment and photograph, export, import and screen additional product commercially. The Oberammergau Passion play of 1898 was the first commercial motion picture ever produced. Other pictures soon followed, and motion pictures became a separate industry that overshadowed the vaudeville world. Dedicated theaters and companies formed specifically to produce and distribute films, while motion picture actors became major celebrities and commanded huge fees for their performances. Already by 1917, Charlie Chaplin had a contract that called for an annual salary of one million dollars.

In the United States today, much of the film industry is centered around Hollywood. Other regional centers exist in many parts of the world, and the Indian film industry (primarily centered around "Bollywood") annually produces the largest number of films in the world. Though the expense involved in making movies has led cinema production to concentrate under the auspices of movie studios, recent advances in affordable film making equipment have allowed independent film productions to flourish.

Profit is a key force in the industry, due to the costly nature of filmmaking; yet many filmmakers strive to create works of lasting social significance. The Academy Awards (also known as The Oscars) are the most prominent film awards in the United States, providing recognition each year to films, ostensibly based on their artistic merits. Also, film quickly came to be used in education, in lieu of or in addition to lectures and texts.

Film venues

When it is initially produced, a film is normally shown to audiences in a movie theater. The first theater designed exclusively for cinema opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1905. Thousands of such theaters were built or converted from existing facilities within a few years. In the United States, these theaters came to be known as nickelodeons, because admission typically cost a nickel (5 cents).

Typically, one film is the featured presentation. A feature film is sometimes defined as any film more than 60 minutes in length (90-120 minutes is typical, and a few films run up to 4 hours or more). Before showing this film, the theater may have shorter presentations. In Europe there has been advertising since before WWII; it has appeared in American cinemas in the late twentieth century. Historically, the feature presentation was often preceded by newsreels and short films, especially animation. There were "double features"; typically, a high quality "A picture" rented by an independent theater for a lump sum, and a "B picture" of lower quality rented for a percentage of the gross receipts. Today, the bulk of the material shown before the feature film (those in theaters) consists of previews for upcoming movies (also known as trailers).

Originally, all films are made to be shown in movie theaters. The development of television has allowed films to be broadcast to larger audiences, usually after the film is no longer being shown in theaters. Recording technology has also enabled consumers to rent or buy copies of films on video tape or DVD (and the older formats of laserdisc, VCD and SelectaVision—see also videodisc), and Internet downloads may be available and have started to become revenue sources for the film companies. Some films are now made specifically for these other venues, being released as made-for-TV movies or direct-to-video movies. These are often considered to be of inferior quality compared to theatrical releases. And indeed, some films that are rejected by their own studios upon completion are dumped into these markets.

The movie theater pays an average of about 55% of its ticket sales to the movie studio, as film rental fees. The actual percentage starts with a number higher than that, and decreases as the duration of a film's showing continues, as an incentive to theaters to keep movies in the theater longer. However, today's barrage of highly marketed movies ensures that most movies are shown in first-run theaters for less than 8 weeks. There are a few movies every year that defy this rule, often limited-release movies that start in only a few theaters and actually grow their theater count through good word-of-mouth and reviews. According to a 2000 study by ABN AMRO, about 26% of Hollywood movie studios' worldwide income came from box office ticket sales; 46% came from VHS and DVD sales to consumers; and 28% came from television (broadcast, cable, and pay-per-view).

Development of film technology

Filmstock consists of a transparent celluloid, polyester, or other plastic base coated with an emulsion containing light-sensitive chemicals. Cellulose nitrate was the first type of film base used to record motion pictures, but due to its flammability was eventually replaced by safer materials. Stock widths and the film format for images on the reel have had a rich history, though most large commercial films are still shot on (and distributed to theaters) as 35 mm prints.

Originally moving picture film was shot at various speeds using hand-cranked cameras; then the speed for mechanized cameras and projectors was standardized at 16 frames per second, which was faster than much existing hand-cranked footage. A new standard speed, 24 frames per second, came with the introduction of sound. Improvements since the late 1800s include the mechanization of cameras, allowing them to record at a consistent speed, the invention of more sophisticated filmstocks and lenses, allowing directors to film in increasingly dim conditions, and the development of synchronized sound, allowing sound to be recorded at exactly the same speed as its corresponding action. The soundtrack can be recorded separately from shooting the film, but for live-action pictures many parts of the soundtrack are usually recorded simultaneously.

As a medium, film is not limited to motion pictures, since the technology developed as the basis for photography. It can be used to present a progressive sequence of still images in the form of a slideshow. Film has also been incorporated into multimedia presentations, and often has importance as primary historical documentation. However, historic films have problems in terms of preservation and storage, and the motion picture industry is exploring many alternatives. Most movies on cellulose nitrate base have been copied onto modern safety films. Some studios save three B&W negatives exposed through red, green, and blue filters. Digital methods have also been used to restore and preserve films. Film preservation of decaying film stock is a matter of concern to both film historians and archivists, and to companies interested in preserving their existing products in order to make them available to future generations (and thereby increase revenue).

Some films in recent decades have been recorded using analog video technology similar to that used in television production. Modern digital video cameras and digital projectors are gaining ground as well. These approaches are extremely beneficial to moviemakers, especially because footage can be evaluated and edited without waiting for the film stock to be processed. Yet the migration is gradual, and as of 2005 most major motion pictures are still recorded on film.

See also

Wikibooks

Basic Types of Film

Lists

plus:

Other


Literature

  • The Oxford history of world cinema, Oxford University Press 1999, ISBN 0198742428
  • Malte Hagener, Michael T?erg: Film - an international bibliography Stuttgart et al. : Metzler, 2002, ISBN 3-476-01523-8
  • Amos Vogel, Film as a subversive art, Weidenfeld & Nichols 1974

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