The Evolution of Cinema – 7 eras that defined world cinema.
The art of moving images – cinema is a visual storytelling medium that depicts the written narrative. The origin of the world’s most recent art form roots back to the early nineteenth century, when Edward Muybridge created the first ever motion picture ‘Sallie Gardner at a Gallop’ consisting of 24 individual photographs shot in rapid succession making a moving picture.
From this, to the black & white and silent era, and to the modern day high-tech films – the world of cinema has witnessed massive advancements and evolution over centuries. Today, movies are much more advanced and visually appealing than they were back when it all began. Let’s learn more about how cinema has evolved over the period of time.
Inception: The Silent Era
Back in 1891, Thomas Edison invented the Kinetoscope – an early motion picture exhibition device that allowed one individual at a time to watch short silent movies of about 20-30 seconds long. Very soon, Broadway in New York City got its first ‘Kinetoscope Parlour’ or movie theatre. After this, longer recording time, different projection styles, and cameras were tried out.
However, the experimentation phase really began with the invention of Cinématographe. In March 1985, the first motion picture ever called ’La Sortie des ouvriers de l’usine Lumière’ was showcased in Paris.
In 1902, Cinema took another flight, and straight to the moon this time with Georges Méliès’ ‘Le Voyage dans la Lune’ or A Trip to the Moon. He used techniques such as superimposition of images, fading, double exposures and scale models in an era that was technically unpredictable. With this, a new standard for production value and special effects was brought into picture!
Greater complexity and length were added to films with the passing years of the Silent Era. It was named after its lack of sound and laid the foundation for future eras to follow. The Era gave us movies like Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush and many more silent classics. The Silent Era ended in the late 1920s’ when sound was added.
Movies were made in color starting 1916 with the development of a Technicolor technique.
Within the silent era, films evolved from a novelty show to a full-blown entertainment industry.
The Sound Era
In 1927, The Jazz Singer – the first ever feature-length motion picture with music heralded the Sound Era. Cinema had now evolved from silent films characterized by Charlie Chaplin to films with synchronized music.
Addition of sound to films benefitted various genres – American gangster films like ‘Little Caesar’ and ‘The Public Enemy’ gained popularity in 1931. Walt Disney, a short cartoon producer released its first English-speaking animated feature – ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’. In Bollywood, the country’s traditional song-and-dance drama was common in most sound films.
The birth of musical films also took place in this era when the first classic-style Hollywood musical – ‘The Broadway Melody’ was released in 1929.
By 1930s’, Hollywood was dominated by Technicolor, dialogues had taken precedence over slapstick in Hollywood comedies, and Filmmakers had now started experimenting with the expressive use of sound.
Hereafter, innovations in sound kept emerging but the sound-on-film method became the industry standard until the digital revolution.
The Golden Age of Cinema
With the releases of classics like Wuthering Heights, Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and many more in 1939 – filmmaking took a new turn with various advancements in film devices, plot, and technology.
The films started getting longer, plotlines were more complex, relatable human characters drove the narratives, artificial lighting and special effects were introduced, and an industry standard was established.
Between 1950s’ and 70s, the cinema viewing experience was made better with the arrival of Cinerama in 1952, followed by Cinemascope in 1957, and Omnimax in 1970.
This period was also marked as the Golden Era for Indian Cinema or Bollywood with the most critically acclaimed films of all time like Raj Kapoor’s ‘Awaara’, Guru Dutt’s ‘Pyaasa’, ‘Kagaz Ke Phool’ and various other Bollywood classics produced between 1950 and 1960. ‘The Apu Trilogy’ by Satyajit Ray, caught the attention of global audiences through international film festivals.
The Golden Age witnessed some of the finest filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, Satyajit Ray, and many more who influenced the world of Cinema profoundly and forever.
The Blockbuster Era
The 1960s’ and 70’s gave us innovative blockbusters such as ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, ‘Sholay’, and many more packed with action, drama, comedy, and romance.
Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jaws’ is regarded as the first blockbuster film, and it gave rise to many more groundbreaking films such as ‘Star Wars’, ‘Indiana Jones’, and ‘Batman’ to name a few.
In 1980s’, the increasing presence of television and VCRs in the homes of audiences led to a popularity in renting movies for home usage.
Good collaborations can take you a long way, especially when it comes to making a feature film. Make the most use of the readily available resources to you.-. The right collaborations will not only contribute towards easing the budgets in case of limited resources, but also challenge your ideas to bring out the best possible outcome for your feature film.
The Independent Era
The rise of successful independent cinema marked the beginning of the Independent Era in the 1990s’. Studios were creating their own independent production companies after the success of the studio-funded Miramax Films, right before the release of Tarantino’s runaway hit ‘Pulp Fiction’.
Special-effects films such as ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’, ‘Jurassic Park’, and ‘Titanic’ dominated the scene, whereas independent films such as Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Sex, Lies, and Videotape’ and Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’ were catching up with success at cinemas as well as on home video.
This was also the year when online film distribution came into picture, family-oriented animated films such as ‘Aladdin’, ‘Lion King’, ‘Toy Story’ were making their way back into the world of movies, and by the end the decade, VCRs had already started getting replaced by DVD players as the last cinematic transition of the century.
New Age Cinema
3D technology for the cinema, online streaming platforms for home entertainment, the rise of documentary film as a commercial genre, more sophisticated home theatre systems, special edition DVDs, globalization of cinema – this was the first decade of the 21th century in a nutshell.
The continued evolution of film technology brought about a paradigm shift in how movies are made as well as consumed. Cinema has revolutionized in terms of production, distribution, and the overall experience itself. Today, films are produced with high-tech digital cameras, computer-generated effects added in postproduction, and showcased not only in theaters, but also on websites and online streaming platforms to a worldwide audience.
If the history of this most recent form of art, and different aspects of film creation is what intrigues you, then WWI Virtual Academy’s Certificate Program in Film Appreciation is just the right choice for you. Take a journey and dive deeper into the enigmatic world of cinema with us – learn more!