Friday, November 2, 2007
The blog has covered a range of aspects to screen, colour and sound technologies, which had significant social, cultural, economic and industrial impacts on cinema. The Hollywood system would not have existed without the evolution of these technologies.
One of the interesting aspect to the history of film technology is the shift of major players with Fox and Warners Bros. overtaking the key studios at the time because they were willing to take the risks.
There is a great deal of information linked into the postings from a range of websites, but the wikipedia entries are detailed and precise, particularly about widescreen. For those skeptical of wiki, I would recommend following up any of the books recommended or cited in the blog postings.
The famous 'chicken run' and fight sequences take advantage of the widescreen's ability to show more action and spatial flexibility, which heightens the tension between Jim Stark and Buzz. However, the mansion and astronomy sequences in cinemascope produce a far greater range of emotional undertone to the story.
Fox Cinemascope was produced as a reaction to Cinerama and 3-D, but the Cinerama remained unscathed by the development. Instead the conflict arose between Fox and Paramount VistaVision competing to be the industry standard. VistaVision technology focused on the negative by producing a finer-grained and wider film negative surface removing the aspect ratio conversion upon projecting the image to screen.
Authors: David Bordwell, Janet Staiger and Kirstin Thompson
Publisher: Columbia University Press
There is a tendency for academic texts to become outdated, but this book is one of the exceptions. When Bordwell and Thompson or Staiger for that matter are attached to any film book, there is definite certaintity it will be user-friendly. The book provides an overview of the different socio-cultural, economic and industrial factors involoved with the developed of classic cinema. The authors pay a great deal of attention to the significance of technology within the context of other factors and the relating importance between the different technologies. There are a lot of pages, which may dishearten some potential buyers. Therefore, a possible first choice would be the first chapter of Bordwell and Thompson's Film Art: An Introduction, New York:McGraw-Hill, 2005.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
The delay in using colour came from the dominant position held by Technicolor, who was an industry leader of colour film in the United States. The company protected its market position through strict secrecy and contracting out the equipment and operators placing great restrictions on the production process while refusing to directly challenge the studio's control over the production sphere.
There were three main changes to the industry between the period of the 1940s to the 1950s enabling the growth of colour film production:
- In 1947 Technicolor were successfully charged with restraint of trade through a anti-trust suit;
- In 1949 Eastman Kodak opened a range of new commercial processes through his development of the single strip colour process and printing film stock;
- The film industry needed to find ways to compete with the pressures of television
Further information about Technicolor can be located in:
Steven Neale's Cinema and Technology: Image, Sound, Colour
London:MacMillan, 1985, pp 129-144
The resources is relatively small, but there is generally a great deal of repetition in published texts about early cinema technology. Therefore, the quality is far more important than the quantity, but the user should note that the resources are predominantly British. This offers a slightly different historical perspective to the United States by presenting a more aesthetic connection to technology as opposed to the business and industrial relationship with technology reflected in the United States cinema history.
- Warner Bros. film was successful and placed pressure on other studios to change to talkies; and
- The film has a tendency to be falsely consider the 'historic moment' of when sound in film was invented.
The sound in Jazz Singer was predominantly made up of singing with only a few sequences of synchronised dialogue and produced on vitaphone sound-on-disc system. While the film extended on the use of sound in Don Juan, but sound was still at an infantile stage. However, the success of the film enourage the major studio who were Paramount, Lowes and First National to follow Warner Bros. By 1928, the sound on disc was replaced with sound being photographed straight on to the film.
A little trivia: the sound was processed on the left hand side of the film.
The introduction of sound in Warners Bros. production was a primary focus, whereas sound was an element of a huge acquisition by Fox in the 1920s. This led to an extensive vertical integration project where Fox purchased theatre chains, distribution rights and production including German director F.W. Murnau, who made Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) a highly artistic film using synchronised music and sound effects track including intertitles.
The additive colour process was introduced, which used red/green filters on a rotating colour wheel in sync with the film. It was projected onto the film removing the issue of bleeding, but the prcoess was highly unstable.
The subtractive process was more successful and predecessor of technicolor where coloured images were produced on the celluloid and projected onto the screen using white light.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
There is an extensive and well written history of cinerama in wikipedia providing a chronological account of the technological developments involved with the forms.
The widescreen film became a special theatrical event in the 1950s through three key developments:
- Films being booked as blockbusters to a small number of first-run theatres as opposed to standard distribution.
- The theatres were refurbished creating a more spectacular experience
- The total experience between the widescreen and refurbishment created a form of participatory recreation where the audience were active contributor in the process.
These changes to cinema becoming a theatrical event were significantly important because there was a decline in box office after World War II and a greater emphasis placed on leisure time creating a broader range of competition.
André Bazin who is one of the most influential film critic and theorists distinguished an audience’s participation in theatre and cinema by noting theatre as a live experience requiring an active involvement by the audience whereas, cinema separated the performance space. John Belton in
In the 1950s there were four key developments in widescreen:
- Eratz Widescreen
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The film can be purchased at Amazon.com:
In Australia, the film can be purchased online through EzyDVD for $19.83 plus shipping:
The AWSM provide a series of poster and image galleries:
- Classic Posters Gallery - includes 20s & 30s precode posters, David O. Selznick classics and Gone With the Wind;
- Unusual Posters - There a six pages of posters categorised under witty titles by the studios who released the films including MGM and Columbia (megascope) and pioneers including Eastman Kodak;
- Hi Resolution Images - Is presented in two series based on technology development
Series 1 - Superscope, Cinerama, Cinecolor, Scanoscope, Todd-AO, Technicolor, DeLuxe Labs, Kinemacolor, etc.
Series 2 - Rectified Todd-AO, CinemaScope 55, 28mm Amateur, 35-32 Dual Rank, Iwerks QUATRO, VistaVision 8 Perf, MGM Camera 65, etc.
The image oriented site provides examples of different technological developments in cinema and briefly explains the problematic aspects of them without overburdening the reader with endless pages of details. After all, for an informal account wikipedia provides a great overview and there are many formal texts available in libraries and bookshops around the world. However, the site demonstrates the importance of understanding the history of images by looking at a sample of these images.
There is a clear understanding that cinema is highly dependent on technology, particularly Hollywood, which is evident in animation, science fiction, special effects...and well pretty much every technical element in filmmaking. However, the site highlights the cultural impact of technology at a relatively chaotic period of cinema.
To assist the implementation of sound Warners Bros. approached finance company Goldman Sachs and managed to convince the firm of the potential of sound, which lead to the joint venture between Warners Bros and Western Electric. In 1926, they established Vitaphone to produce sound films and market sound equipment.
- In small sized theatres - pianist/organist;
- In medium sized theatres - actor/musicians/noise making machines behind the screen;
- In prestigious theatres - orchestral accompaniment.
In general there were three issues to introducing sound in film:
Monday, October 29, 2007
Film theory is saturated with information about Melies, but the biographic information can be found on FranceFilm Website.
Author: James Lastra
Publisher: Columnia University Press
This film book is a gift to the truly nerdy. While this blog covers span of the early 20th century American cinema, Lastra goes back to the eighteenth century considering sensory theories around the development of photography, phonography and cinema as a leader in establishing modernity. Lastra takes an unique approach to a highly concreted and defined history to appreciate the development and present condition of contemporary society. It is hard imagine this book being an overnight sell-out, but Lastra demonstrates the relationship between cinema and technology are far complex than the general view. Furthermore, Lastra highlights the cultural significance of the relationship between the prototypes technologies and cinema.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
- the importance of the market;
- the relationship between the film industry, the audience and outsiders;
The relationship between the market and technology is quite complex because temporal social and economic considerations must be factored into the equation of development, innovation and implementation.
In a lot of situations technology there is a game of hit and miss within the market, where social and economic conditions have not been ready for technological developments. For example, this occurred with the widescreen aspect ratio, which was developed in the 1920's, but the industry did not use it until the 1950s.
The other factor involved with the market is product differentiation. A trend in American film industry has been film companies developing their own new technologies to gain a market advantage or to find a niche.
Industry - utilises technology in developing production practices as opposed to making changes to the look or sound. The industry uses it as a facilitator because film companies are financially cautious through the capital-intensive nature of film production. The nature of the film industry comes down to economic demand, if the audience want it, then the industry implement it. A recent example of this attitude is change from 35mm to digital. In the 1990s there was a lot of discussion about the industry moving to digital, but the audience had no interest in the development. Therefore, most of the industry has continued to use 35mm.
Audiences - historically, have been attracted to the novelty of technological innovations, which has occurred with the initial introductions of sound, colour and widescreen. Although, the novelty quickly wears off, which is evident with 3D that premiered in 1953 and lost popularity by 1954.
Outsiders - this category of innovators are the primary force behind the innovation in film technology. They are indirectly linked to the film industry through the experimenting and developing of technology in testing its limitations. The purposes of these technologies are for non-film-industries, but eventually make their way into the industry. For instance, AT & T (phone company) and RCA (radio company), focused on developing and improving sound technologies for their industries as opposed to the film industry.
If you would like information about generative mechanisms can be located in The Coming of Sound, Douglas Gomery and excerpts can be found in google books.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
- The Lumiere Projector of 1895;
- The invention of film sound in 1927;
- The invention of film colour in 1935
The approach can be considered as an example of 'teleological history', which is the concept of history goes towards an assumed and clearly defined end. In the context of film technology it would be towards realism.
The use of teleological historiography is very problematic and there is significant evidence that proves the approach fails to properly explain the history of film technology.
A better way to consider the history of film technology is to view it as the effect of a range of complex forces where each new technology developed and distributed can be regarded as an event. Tied into the event is a convergence of generative mechanisms.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Film and technology have a long history, which is evident by the significant changes in the film industry being marked with the implementation of new forms of technology. Although technology is not only relevant to the development of cinema, but to the aesthetic qualities of films and genres. This is most prevalent in the evolution of animation and science fiction. Another important aspect of this relationship is the impact of technological changes in the context of spectatorship. As you can see the relationship between film and technology cover a broad scope and it remains at the cutting edge of cultural advancement.