Silent Films

Since the first introduction of moving images in the late 19th century, we have been fascinated with its powerful entertainment and storytelling capabilities. Capturing the essence of people moving around, talking, and gesturing is the highest power of documentation. It surpasses the letters, diaries and still photography that previously had been the primary method of recording and communicating.

In a sense, the consumer-accessible film that became available in the early 1900s represents the 20th century version of what we now call user-generated content. From the moment that manufacturers like Eastman Kodak Company provided consumers the ability to take home movies on their own, the industry began a wonderful and complex evolution that has brought us to the YouTube video generation of today.

Now, anyone can be his or her own historian and upload moving images to the World Wide Web. But how did we get here?

Evolution from 16mm Film to Digital Video

The introduction of motion picture cameras and projectors in the 1880s created enthusiastic audiences for this new medium, and prompted wealthy individuals with the financial resources to go out and purchase a home movie camera of their own.

Early efforts at producing cameras and projectors for consumers were quite expensive, however, and to make matters more challenging, the early film was manufactured out of a nitrate, a highly flammable and dangerous material. Many of the early silent films have been lost due to their nitrate composition.

One of the more successful formats to subsequently emerge in the 1920s was 16mm film by Eastman Kodak. (The mm increment refers to the actual width of the film strip). Recognizing its significance, several manufacturers started producing cameras based on this format. Unlike the nitrate film of earlier years, the newer film was manufactured on a celluloid base, for greater safety. The cost for a typical family, however, was still somewhat prohibitive. Only the rich and privileged had the means to buy the equipment necessary. This fact galvanized the market into experimenting with less costly film formats for mass manufacturing.

The progress that has been made in the last few years has been phenomenal. No more so that is recent blockbuster Avatar, and the fact that this technology is going to get even better is incredible.

Of all the movies that have been made in 3D, and there have been quite a few, 3 really stand out for me. You many have already seen them, if you haven’t you should really make the effort.

A fine example of how the 3D technology could be used in a completely new medium is the U2 concert. This made us all feel as if we were there in front row seats. For those of us who couldn’t get there in person, this sure was the next best thing.

Not being able to get to see one of your favorite bands live is gutting, but when there are cinematic triumphs such as this one, it doesn’t make you feel so bad after all. The stunning effects have to be seen to be believed, and never in my life have I experienced the feeling of actually being somewhere I wasn’t.

Beowulf was released in 2007 in two versions, ordinary and 3D. To be honest, the former was nothing to get excited, just a re telling of the Beowulf tale with nothing new to get excited about.

The 3D version, however, was simply stunning. The visual effects blew you away and it was praised by cinemagoers and critics alike. The movies released since have more than likely taken a lot of inspiration from Beowulf.

Years in the making, James Cameron at the helm, the winner has to be Avatar. Mentally stimulating and visually stunning, this truly is a modern classic. This really is like nothing that has ever hit the cinema screen before; it has overtaken Titanic as the highest grossing film ever. I wouldn’t bet against it at the Oscars either.

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