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First Talking Films

At first there were movies without any sound. The earlier movies had challenges when it came to sound enhancements. However, music accomplishments and card titles were used for talking purposes. Luckily, there was introduction of a microphone which also presented a question of how to effectively use it. Here is a discussion of the journey of sound in movies resulting in first talking films:

Before Sound

The inter-titles were used for brief explanatory explanation to the audience. It was at the discretion of the director or writer to be poetic or lush. Some artists chose positively purple poetry like the 1928 Erich von Stroheim’s Wedding March movie. He never invented sound but he is credited as one who believed in the phonograph and visual medium to lead to the first talking films. His dream began as early as 1885. However, there were several obstacles that restricted sound inclusion in movies. One notable issue was the satisfaction of the audience with silent movies. The use of a raconteur inhibited the development of sound technology. In addition, the pinnacle of silent acting, film writing, music and photography was 1920s.

Sound invention

The 1927 Jazz Singer is what most of you consider starting line of the first talking films. On the contrary, Vitaphone and Warner Brothers are the pioneers of sound films considering their short movies with some jokes and songs. It is worth mentioning that they released Don Juan in 1926. This is a year before Mammy was sang by Al Jolson.

Despite the desire to increase audience utility, technology presented numerous challenges to film makers. Matching visuals and sound in a way that allowed everyone to get it vividly was an uphill task. This was an amplification and synchronization technicalities. The solution to these problems originated majorly in America unlike the film origin history. Warner Brothers, RCA, AT&T and Western Electric are corporations that invested heavily in this front. Two of them merged to form Vitaphone that produced a pioneer commercially viable audio system. It was a phonograph platter hooked on a film projector using large belts. This was later replaced by standard celluloid strip that enabled easier synchronizing.

Furthermore, film still had many problems. The sound cameras and other equipment were noisy and big hence portability was a problem. There was also the need for sound proofing them in a blimp as first talking films were being perfected. After years of hassles, it discovered that you could move the microphone around thus a boom stick was designed. This is why first talking films were very static due to static microphones hence the cast spoke from one spot. In addition, the cameras lacked desired supple and graceful fluidity. You can see the film sound difficulties in son 1952 films. The non-technological problems like cast sound mismatch were solved after sound advent. Striking a balance between dialogue and action was also a problem to screen writers.

The transition from silent to first talking films had some actors flourish in both technological eras. Some of those who did this are William Powell, Gary Cooper and Joan Crawford. The role of women in film sound is also great. It is believed that a female director called Dorothy Arzner invented the boom microphone. First talking films were shot in various languages like the 1931 Dracula.

In conclusion, sound revolutionized the film industry. Production had to change with the introduction of sound technology. Scenarists had to become dialogue writers. Actors also had to change with the changing film norm in terms of fluency among others. The musical film genre could not survive without this development that produced first talking films.

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Film Restoration

In the 1980’s, it became apparent that the heritage of motion pictures was at risk of getting lost. Nitrate film preservation was a continuous problem. Moreover, the safety film that was normally used as replacement started getting affected by a vinegar syndrome; a unique decay. The manufactured color film was at risk of fading. At the time, the only known solution was duplicating the original film to a medium that is more secure.

Out of all American sound films made before 1950 and American silent films made before 1929, 90 % of them are lost. Even if the preservation institutional practices are dated back to 1930’s, it was not until 1980 that the field received an official status when UNESCO made a realization of the moving images’ as an essential part of the global cultural heritage.

Even though preservation and archiving are the initial steps taken towards conservation of the cinematic heritage, we cannot ignore restoration. Unless it is maintained in optimum conditions, the film is a fragile medium and with time, it is prone to scratches, deterioration and vinegar syndrome. In India for example, most of the films are in a deplorable state due to complacency and neglect.

What is Film Restoration?

Film restoration refers to a series of continuing efforts by archivists, film historians, cinematheques, non-profit institutions and museums in their bid to preserve images and rescue the decaying film stock .In a wider sense, restoration today assures that a movie will continue existing just like it was in its original format. For many years, the aim of preservation’ was to create a durable copy without losing quality. Today film preservation entails the concept of duplication, handling, accessibility and storage. Archivists seek to protect film and share content publicly.

Film restoration is the process of returning a film format to its previous known state. It not only entails repairing the physical damage or film deterioration, but also considers the intent of the original creator, his accuracy, artistic integrity and film completion. The process includes selection, cleaning, physical repair and other digital and photochemical techniques for creating new materials and images.

Restoration of Film in India

Presently, the film restoration carried out in India does not fall in the full-fledged restoration. Normal practice is to do a digital clean-up and scan while disregarding the restoration and repair of the material’s original source. Many of the film laboratories have closed down their facilities in photochemical that are necessary for carrying out quality restoration. If not restored urgently, India risks losing the numerous original camera negatives.

The future of Film Restoration

In pursuit of this objective, the Foundation in India is seeking to collaborate with other image archives from across the globe to ensure availability of the latest technology, most suitable facilities, and techniques for restoration. In order to keep up with the latest technological developments, the foundation will make arrangements and take part in seminars and workshops by the field leaders. The aim is in developing a native film restoration facility in conjunction with international field leaders.

The rapid emergence of digital technologies in recent years in this field has now redefined film preservation.

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A Brief History of Film

In many ways, the history of the world is the history of its art forms. From the earliest days of human consciousness, individuals had a deep-rooted need to express themselves. This is why the early humans painted cave walls and created crude music instruments. As the civilization evolved, so did the need to invent new and exciting ways how this need for artistic creativity could be presented. One of the most recent additions to the world of arts is the process of cinematography. Moving images, as a film was first known, is a relatively young art form, especially when it is compared to painting, composing or writing. However, it still has a very rich history that is full of events and periods that allowed the art of cinematography to move forward. Here is a short examination of the most important moments in the history of film.

The Beginning

All art historians agree that the history of this artistic medium started in 1890, where the first motion picture capturing cameras were created. Following the science and technology of the photographic art and industry, the motion picture cameras defined a methodology that allowed for a capture of a sequence of images which were played in a rapid succession. This allowed the observer to see the image move, which is the moment when film was born. In this first decade, movie production companies were made and they created films comprising of several shots, which lasted for several minutes. The first official movie studio was built and opened in 1897.

The Expansion of the Art in the 1900’s

With the first decade of the 20th century, movies became more complex, with things like the close-up shot being invented, along with more complex plots and longer runtimes. In 1906, the first feature length film was made in Australia, while a year later the first full-time movie theater opened in Pittsburgh. Just a few years later, movie theaters were a standard occurrence in most of the US and Europe, while new inventions like artificial a low-key lighting, special effects and shot continuity made the films a lot more engaging. The period of the First World War allowed the camera technology to be improved.

The Interwar Years

In the years between the two world wars, the history of film was marked by two genres: comedy and drama. But soon after, genres like war films and historical epics began to be produced. In California, a place called Hollywood was created as the cornerstone of a new movie industry which made annually over 800 movies. As of late 1920’s most theaters came with some kind of an external sound system, either live music or record players to accompany the films, but these were still soundless. The same period also saw a rise in movies used in propaganda purpose, especially when it comes to large nations of the world.

The Modern Period

The modern period of the history of film begins with the end of the Second World War. From this point on, the movie industry in most of the world begins to flourish, new techniques are invented constantly and places like India, South America, Japan and the Soviet Union enforce their roles in the global makers of films. In the 1950’s the US enters its Golden Age, followed by the French New Wave which reinvigorates the artistic vision of the unorthodox directors in the 1960’s. Emboldened, people like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Francis Ford Coppola make history in the 1970’s. Their work continues to this day as many new generations embrace digital technology and the Internet to push the future of film across the 21st century and farther.

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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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A Message from Mars

The earliest British Sci-Fi movie, The Message from Mars, 1913, restored by the British Film Institute.

The institute’s tireless efforts to restore films like this one ensure that many of these silent, unusual films, windows into a time many of us don’t even realize cameras were there to see, survive into the future. The painstaking reconstruction may seem choppy to our eyes, but the technological advances that were occurring at the time allowing for an hours long film is astonishing.

These works of fiction are often overlooked when looking at film from this era, as it had little historical value, however, it’s a wonderful look at the creativity and story-telling process of the time. It’s the first steps away from the stage-play affect of most early films as early filmakers realized they could step away from the “stage” as it were and create more naturalistic imagery.

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Check this out! The earliest filmed version of Alice in Wonderland! Restored by the British Film Institute. Keep an eye out for more content.