Film is a term that encompasses motion pictures as individual projects, as well as — in metonymy — the field in general. The origin of the name comes from the fact that photographic film (also called film stock) has historically been the primary medium for recording and displaying motion pictures. Many other terms exist — motion pictures (or just pictures or "picture"), the silver screen, photoplays, the cinema, picture shows, flicks — and commonly movies.
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. Also of 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.
History of film
Mechanisms for producing artificially created, two-dimensional images in motion were demonstrated as early as the 1860s, with devices such as 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, a phenomenon called persistence of vision. Naturally, the images needed to be carefully designed to achieve the desired effect — and the underlying principle became the basis for the development of film animation.
With the development of celluloid film for still photography, it became possible to directly capture objects in motion in real time. Early versions of the technology sometimes required the viewer to look into a special device to see the pictures. By the 1880s, 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." Early motion pictures were static shots that showed an event or action with no editing or other cinematic techniques.
Motion pictures were purely visual art up to the late 1920s, but these innovative silent films had gained a hold on the public imagination. Around the turn of the 20th Century, films began developing a narrative structure. Films began stringing scenes together to tell narratives. The scenes were later broken up into multiple shots of varying sizes and angles. Other techniques such as camera movement were realized as effective ways to portray a story on film. 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 these purposes, with complete film scores being composed for major productions.
The rise of European cinema was interrupted by the breakout of World War I while the film industry in United States flourished with the rise of Hollywood. However, in the 1920s, European filmmakers such as Sergei Eisenstein and F. W. Murnau continued to advance the medium. In the 1920s, new 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 World War II, 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-1960s. By the end of the 1960s, color had become the norm for filmmakers.
The 1950s, 1960s and 1970s saw changes in the production and style of film. New Hollywood, French New Wave and the rise of film school educated, independent filmmakers were all part of the changes the medium experienced in the latter half of the 20th Century. Digital technology has been the driving force in change throughout the 1990s and into the 21st Century.