Precursors of film  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Film as an art form grew out of a long tradition of literature, storytelling, narrative drama, art, mythology, puppetry, shadow play, cave paintings and perhaps even dreams. In addition, the technology of film, emerged from developments and achievements much further back in human history.

With possible prehistoric origin due to it occurring naturally, near the year 1600, the camera obscura was referred to by Kepler and perfected by della Porta. Light is inverted through a small hole or lens from outside, and projected onto a surface or screen, creating a projected moving image, indistinguishable from a projected high quality film to an audience, but it is not preserved in a recording. Tarkovsky, in Andrei Rublev, pays homage to this film precursor by including a camera obscura via a hole in the door of a medieval room.

Early elaborate mechanical robots shared with film that information was stored in order to create a moving visual image for entertainment. In the former case, it was stored in the gearing, whereby all of the dances, bells, and whistles could be played back, a precursor to storage of digital media.

Plays and dances had elements common to films- scripts, sets, lighting, costumes, production, direction, actors, audiences, storyboards, and scores. They preceded film by thousands of years. Much terminology later used in film theory and criticism applied, such as mise en scene. Visual moving images and sound was not recorded for replaying as in film.

Shadow dancing, using projected light in combination with acting or dancing, is an ancient art in many world cultures, and includes projection from a light source. Puppetry, another ancient art form, shares elements with animation and claymation.

Ting Huan (丁緩) created an elementary zoetrope in China in 180 AD. A zoetrope is a cylinder lined with snapshots from a sequence of images of a motion, where the motion returns to its starting point at the end. The images are viewed through slits, so each image shows at a fixed time after the last, creating the image of motion, similar to blinking at a fixed interval while watching motion. If the "blinks" become close together, this created the illusion of motion. Zoetropes lacked projection of the image, and repeated after one turn of the cylinder.

In 1740 and 1748, David Hume published Treatise of Human Nature and An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, arguing for the associations and causes of ideas with visual images, forerunners to the language of film.

Optics developed in the European Renaissance, with a theory of lenses. Electromagnetic theory led to Edison's light bulb. Photographic film was created in the 1800's. Phonographic recording of sound was invented in the 1800's.

Early technological developments and developments in psychology

Shadow shows are known from the earliest recorded times, and the principle that an image is visually retained for a short time after observation has ceased was observed in ancient times.

Victorian innovations, c.1860-1901




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Precursors of film" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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