Contributions to the Cinematic Image Keywords

Lengths Feet and Longer Loops

Thomas Edison Laboratories - Dickson and Brown (USA)


1889 Kinetoscope



Edison's 35mm Kinetoscope of 1902

Vitascope Projector


The invention of a camera in the Edison laboratories capable of recording successive images in a single camera was a more practical, cost-effective breakthrough to using multiple cameras. The application of photographic principles and the launch of photographic quality celluloid saw Thomas Edison and William Dickson developing their own moving picture device - the Kinetoscope, a peephole device which invited viewers to look into a hole in the top of a large wooden cabinet and experience true moving pictures.

1888 Thomas Edison meets Eadweard Muybridge, who shows him his zoopraxiscope; Edison sets William K. L. Dickson and other assistants to work to make a kinetoscope, "an instrument which does for the Eye what the phonograph does for the Ear". Edison’s assistant, William Dickson solved the mechanical problem of moving celluloid film through a camera, developing the sprocket system still in use. Edison files his first caveat (a Patent Office document in which one declares his work on a particular invention in anticipation of filing a patent application) on the Kinetoscope and Kinetograph on October 8. Link

The invention of the Kinetoscope influenced all subsequent motion picture devices. The Kinetoscope was completed by 1892..

View of the interior from above, showing the loop of film which is moved continuously through the machine by a sprocket roller driven by an electric motor. Underneath the picture gate (middle right) is an electric light. The round shutter wheel revolved, giving intermittent flashes of light, momentarily 'freezing' each successive frame of the film as it passed. The viewer perceived this rapid series of images as a continuously moving picture.


The Kinetoscope contains a loop of about 46 feet (14 metres) of film which ran at 46 frames a second, giving the viewer just twenty seconds of moving pictures. Later machines were enlarged to contain 150 feet (45 metres) of film running at 30 frames a second, giving 80 seconds viewing time. This allowed a round of the popular boxing films to fit on a single machine.

1896 - THOMAS ALVA EDISON (1847-1931) Edison perfects and shows his Vitascope projector which used the same film as the Kinetoscope. The Vitascope was the first commercially successful celluloid motion picture projector in the U.S. The Vitascope was an improved version of the Phantoscope, an invention of Francis Jenkins in 1893. Jenkins sold the rights to Edison through Thomas Armat. Edison presents the Vitascope for the first time in New York City at the Koster-Bial Music Hall, the present location of Macy’s.


Link to Movie Clip
Frames from early experimental attempt to create sound motion pictures by the Edison Manufacturing Company. W.K.L. Dickson plays the violin in front of a horn connected to a cylinder recording machine.
It represented Edison's dream to unite the motion picture with the phonograph and make talking pictures a reality. To operate the new invention, a patron looked through the peep-hole viewer of a Kinetoscope while listening to a soundtrack piped through ear tubes attached to a Phonograph in the cabinet. The device did not offer exact synchronization and ultimately failed to find a market.

1889 George Eastman began the manufacture of photographic film strips using a nitro-cellulose base
Chronophotographe Continuous roll of film to produce a series of images.
Emulsion coated celluloid Film sheets
John Curbett



Sound for film required the technical capability to synchronize the audio elements with those of the picture. Technology was needed that could both record and reproduce audio clearly in large halls. In 1926 Warner Brothers premiered their audio Vitaphone system. The Vitaphone used a phonograph disc, loudspeakers and electronic amplification. 1927's "The Jazz Singer", a silent picture with a Vitaphone score, is considered the world's first talking picture. The early years of cinema saw huge changes and evolutions in form, technology and exhibition. This period saw films grow from 60-second observational exercises into feature entertainment. The sideshow at the county fair soon became the primary leisure activity. The back rooms of cafes became 1000 seat movie palaces.

Viewing and Screening Link to Photo
Nickleodeons - First Screening Rooms Link to Photo

Detailed Info Link



One camera records succesive images









"Sneeze" (1894) One of the first films made by Edison was of an assistant sneezing.

Vaudeville Acts Video Clip Link - Eugene Sandow

Edison Company's actuality films

The Edison Company's actuality films contained scenes of vaudeville performers, notable persons, railway trains, scenic places, foreign views, fire and police workers, military exercises, parades, naval scenes, expositions, parades, and sporting events. A newly-invented mobile camera had made it possible for the Edison Company to film everyday scenes in places outside the studio in a fashion similar to the French Lumière films. Comic skits and films relying on trick effects in the style of French filmmaker Georges Méliès were also popular.
Actuality Films
"Actuality" is a term used by historians to describe short non-fiction films produced by American and European filmmakers during the first ten years of the motion picture industry. Actuality films typically recorded noteworthy persons, places and events of interest to general audiences and were the most frequently-produced film type in America, until overtaken in popularity by comic and dramatic narrative films after 1902.


History of Edison Motion Pictures

Fiction Films - Acted films became more popular than actuality Films.



Actualities, Advertising, Animation, Early Documentary-Style Films, Drama and Adventure, Humorous, Trick, Reenactments





The Life of an American Fireman

The Great Train Robbery


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1903 Edwin S. Porter, working for Edison makes "The Life of an American Fireman" which displayed new visual storytelling techniques and incorporated stock footage with Porter's own photography. It acted as a major precursor to Porter's most famous film "The Great Train Robbery" also made in 1903 which displayed effective use of editing and photography technique.

Video Link - Download Video Clips - High RES

Real Media Version available at:

Use of Editing and Photography Technique




Lumière brothers photo and clips of "Le Repas ou Repas de bébé" and "Barque sortant du port"
Lumiére Brothers - Cinématographe  

One of the first commercial, public showings of a motion picture (and made with a celluloid film camera/projector), took place December 28 of 1895 at the Grand Café on the boulevard des Capucines in Paris. The Lumiere’s used the basement to open their movie theatre known as the ‘Cinematographe Lumiere Freres' . A private showing of the machine took place in March of the same year. The device was the Cinematographe (below left & right), and was used in scheduled showings from that point on. It was constructed by Jules Carpentier of the Lumiere factory, and had a claw-like mechanism in order to provide the required intermittent pull-down movement of 35mm perforated-celluloid film. The film which had two perforations per frame, was also manufacured by the Lumiere business.


The Lumière's (France)

1895 Louis and Augustine Lumiere issued a patent for a device called a cinematograph capable of projecting moving pictures



Based on the Kinetoscope, The Cinématographe, invented by Auguste and Louis Lumière was a combined camera, projector and printer. Here it is set up for projection, using a magic lantern lamphouse as a light source. The Cinématographe was hand-cranked and the film ran from the top spool holder though the projector to a box in the stand below.

The Lumière camera was a machine for both film projection and development. Not only could the camera perform two tasks in one box, but the box was small - weighing 12 pounds, much lighter than the Kinetoscope, invented by William Kennedy Laurie Dickson for The Edison Laboratory.
The Lumières and film making Now that the first real film camera was in use, it was up to its pioneers to use it. The first experimentation by Louis Lumière showed everyday real events. His film The Arrival of a Train at the Station (1895) showed the train coming in diagonally across the screen, a very unconventional method of framing. Therefore, the Lumières pioneered not just the technicalattributes of the camera but also its artistic attributes, creating a dialogue of REALISM that has always been a crux of cinema as distinct from the fantastic film



Record, View and Project in One Device



The Arrival of a Train at Grand Central Station (1895)

Workers Leaving the Lumiére Factory and Arrival of a Train in the Station.


The Lumieres represent a mode of filmmaking which attempts to let the film camera's basic function--the mechanical reproduction of visual reality--remain at the center of the film's interest. This approach to filmmaking would eventually spawn the documentary, and was typically defended by a group of film theorists known as the Realists.


1895 The first experimentation by Louis Lumière of the Cinematographe camera showed everyday real events. His film The Arrival of a Train at Grand Central Station (1895) showed the train coming in diagonally across the screen, a very unconventional method of framing. Therefore, the Lumières pioneered not just the technical attributes of the camera but also its artistic attributes, creating a dialogue of realism that has always been a crux of cinema.

In the films of the Lumiére brothers the subject of the camera becomes the subject of our interest.

Movement through the frame provides the primary means of visual pleasure. Link








Voyage to the moon


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Georges Melies represents a mode of filmmaking which attempts to use the plastic, malleable features of the cinema (editing, trick photography, special effects) to produce a manipulation of the reality that was present in front of the camera as the film was recorded.

1902 Georges Méliès produces his magnificent "Voyage to the Moon", a fifteen minute epic fantasy parodying the writings of Jules Verne and HG Wells. The film used innovative special effect techniques and introduced colour to the screen through hand-painting and tinting.

"Mélies' own piece of cinematic history is a fascinating watch. The special effects and techniques used are stellar for the time period and show off the desire of even early directors to use the camera in every conceivable way for myriad effects. The indictment of the bumbling imperialists is apt and definitely set the way for the next century of sci-fi (hmm..colonization of space? ummm, 2001? star wars?) as a place for commentary and the motion picture itself as a medium for presenting that which we couldn't see everyday with our own two eyes (or in the case of the moon man, one eye). "
Commentary from

1902 served up two of his most distinguished and delightful pieces, the celebrated L'Homme a la Tete de Coaoutchouc (The Man With the Rubber Head) in which Méliès' head is seen to expand to bursting point after his half-witted assistant energetically pumps a pair of giant bellows. This devious, but simple illusion was executed by constructing a small carriage on a track that was moved slowly towards the static camera, thus enlarging the head. Today film-makers employ a track to move the camera in what is termed a "dolly shot".


Méliès work provides an early example of film technique that uses spectacle and special effects to produce visual pleasure. Link

Special Effects
hand painting and tinting

Uses technique of multiple exposure


Camera Techniques
Dolly Shot

Mary Janes Mishap 1903 British film maker George Smith makes Mary Janes Mishap which was praised for its sophisticated use of editing. The film uses medium close-ups to draw the viewers attention to the scene, juxtaposed with wide establishing shots. The film also contains a pair of wipes which signal a scene change. Use of Editing



DW GRIFFIN Birth of a Nation
One of the most important figures of the early years was D.W. Griffith. Griffith is heralded as having established modern film narrative. His first feature is, unfortunately, one of the most contentious films in American Cinema, "Birth of a Nation" (1915). The film is a notorious depiction of an ante-bellum American South. The story decries the former slave population of America as shiftless and immoral and glorifies the establishment of the Ku Klux Klan. When the film was released, there was a huge outcry regarding the blatantly racist content and the portrayal of blacks in the American South. From a contemporary perspective, it is still offensive. "Birth of a Nation" is the quintessential example of film structure. Griffith's development of plot, and his dramatic use of editing and parallel storytelling became integral to the structure of Hollywood and mainstream filmmaking. Using double exposures and cross-referencing images, story elements and characters, Griffith was able to establish a complex, visual narrative.  


Photographing an object, wrote Delluc, lends it new meaning by opening the viewer to the perspective of the person filming.







Abel Gance (1889-1981 - France)




The Impressionists at first concentrated on the image, using optical tricks to illustrate the impressions of the characters: dreams, memories, visions and thoughts. They made shots with a distorted mirror, put excerpts of pictures through filters, or divided the frame into smaller individual pictures. They emphasised subjectivity with the "subjective camera"; using extreme perspectives, and tilted angles and movements that showed the scene through the eyes of the characters. They attached great importance to the mise-en-scene (the staging). They encouraged untheatrical and reserved acting, and used lighting effectively to illuminate sets that were often designed by contemporary painters and architects in the cubist or art deco style. After 1923 the Impressionists moved away from the picture and camera focus to experiment with quick rhythmical cut sequences, having been inspired, like many, by Griffith's daring montages.

Rendering the world through emotions and impressions.
The filmmaker most commonly associated with this impressionist avant-garde is Abel Gance, whose film Napoleon stands as one of the great masterworks of cinema. Gance attempted to match the importance to French history of the Emperor Bonaparte with a new form of cinema. He did so via an epic silent film (roughly four hours in length) which climaxes with a grandiose battle sequence shot using an experimental widescreen process called "Polyvision." Polyvision featured three cameras running next to one another. Sometimes the Polyvision cameras were used to capture widescreen images of the epic battle, while other times, it was used to give us three images to be processed simultaneously.

Abel Gance, hated static scenes. "Napoleon" is full of shots where the camera moves on pendulums and gyroscopes.

Albert Dieudonne as Napoleon in the spectacular 3 screen Polyvision finale of Napoleon. Polyvision predated Cinerma by 25 or so years. Link

Another example of Polyvision

The film is considered to be a masterpiece of world cinema, pioneering, as it does, just about every means of moving a camera known to man. Gance was also obsessed with composing multiple images in the same frame, overlayering double exposures and disolves one on top of the other in much the same way as many digital artist do with computers these days.

Abel Gance revolutionized film technology with a masterful mix of real-time editing and rapid cutting, a technique he invented. ... Specifically, the controversial "Napoléon" introduced audiences to hand-held cameras, 3D effects, and the highly sophisticated Polyvision, which used a wide, triple screen to present three distinct moving images.



Metropolis (1926, Fantascienza - con Alfred Abel, Fritz Alberti, e Grete Berger)

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The most direct contribution was made by the special effects photographer Schufftan, who invented a process which still bears his name today: "miniatures are reflected onto a glass with a magnifying mirrored surface, which is placed at a 45 angle relative to the camera lens. This surface is scraped away from the areas in which live action is to take place, leaving holes behind which the actual sets are constructed and lit to correspond with the lighting of the model." Link





At the film college in Moscow a group of young filmmakers gathered under the leadership of Lev Kuleshov, who attempted to find theoretical and experimental ways in which abstract thoughts could be portrayed on film. The primary thesis was that in the cinema the cut ranks ahead of the picture content, so meaning is communicated through montage rather than mise-en-scene. "With montage", stated Kuleshov, " one can destroy, repair, or entirely reformulate one's material".

Among the most important representatives of the movement are Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin, and Dziga Vertov. They showed in their films the multiple possibilities of cinematic montage. Eisenstein first promoted the "montage of attractions" and the "collision montage", a quick sequence of emotionally charged pictures, which in a shocking manner collide with one another in order to shake the viewer and to bring him to new realisations. In his first film "Strike", he combined images of the murder of strikers against bloody sequences from a slaughterhouse. Montage served Pudovkin as a means to illustrate feelings and had the goal of awakening the emotions of the viewers rather than provoking them to be reflective. The images of protesting factory workers alternates with rays of sunlight, which tear through the walls of clouds, forming a metaphor of revolutionary hope. Stalinist totalitarianism finally put a halt to the desire for experimentation of the Soviet avant-garde, and from then on, Soviet films were supposed to offer either light entertainment or encourage the formation of the socialist state.

Lev Kuleshov and Dziga Vertov - pioneers of Soviet cinema, working under economic constraints, re-edited existing film-stock to develop their ideas of film grammar. Kuleshov experimented with how shots before and after an image affected its interpretation. He realized he could modify an audience's reaction to a shot by changed the images either side of it in a montage sequence. Vertov developed an influential theory called Kino-Pravda (film truth) and stressed the importance of rhythm in editing, for example, speeding up a montage sequence towards its climax. Link

Dziga Vertov
The Man with the Movie Camera

Dziga Vertov
As a young filmmaker and theoretician, Vertov was at the forefront of a roaring debate about the role of art in Soviet society. How would artistic endeavors best serve the ideals and practices of the people and the State? With the 1919 publication of the "Kinoks-Revolution Manifesto," Vertov announced his solution to the aesthetic conflict, and Soviet cinema was never the same. ...

Show the masses fantastic images of the good life, Vertov maintained, and they will lie about complacently, dreaming of a day when they too can luxuriate in baths of plenty. Vertov loathed these so-called fiction films and insisted that the future of cinema depended on reporting the truth....

"Man with a Movie Camera" (1929) stunned audiences with its highly self-conscious use of the camera as the eye to replace the human eye. A day-in-the-life of an urban metropolis like Moscow, "Man with a Movie Camera" employed the montage techniques that Vertov mastered back in medical school. ...

Often deemed the "Father of Cinema Verité," Vertov's liberal editing style and highly sophisticated camera techniques ensured his venerable spot on cinema's timeline. ...

Dziga Vertov's Man With a Movie Camera (1929) is a stunning avant-garde, documentary meta-narrative which celebrates Soviet workers and filmmaking. The film uses radical editing techniques and cinematic pyrotechnics to portray a typical day in Moscow from dawn to dusk. But Vertov isn't just recording reality, he transforms it through the power of the camera's "kino-glaz" (cinema eye).

Vertov desired to create cinema that had its own "rhythm, one lifted from nowhere else, and we find it in the movements of things." For Vertov an emphasis on the psychological interfered with the worker's "desire for kinship with the machine." And as a peoples' artist, Vertov felt that the peoples' cinema must "introduce creative joy into all mechanical labor" and "foster new people."

As Vertov revealed the joys of work, the rhythm of workers and machines, he also felt that filmmaking (as a largely technological medium) was also a component of that mechanical reality.

Vertov uses kino-eye to transcend the very reality he celebrates. In a 1923 manifesto, Vertov wrote "I am kino-eye, I am mechanical eye, I, a machine, show you the world as only I can see it." And he boldly asserted: "My path leads to the creation of a fresh perception of the world I decipher in a new way a world unknown to you." Again this ground-breaking film brings to fruition Vertov's earlier vision of what cinema should be. His camera, in the hands of brother Mikhail Kaufman, is never static; it travels where we can't--up smokestacks, under train tracks--and through continuous explosions of cinematic trickery--variable camera speeds, dissolves, split-screen effects, the use of prismatic lenses, and tightly structured montage--Vertov transforms not only reality, but traditional narrative cinema. He moves outside of Hollywood storytelling (three-act structures, goal-oriented characters), and closer to an absolute language of cinema that he seeks.



The Battleship Potemkin
Sergei Eisenstein(1925, Drammatico - con Alexander Atonov)

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In 1925, in order to commemorate the Revolution of 1905, the Communist Party commissioned the renowned film "Potemkin" (also called " battleship Potemkin"). The film was made in the Black Sea port of Odessa. In 1958 it was voted the best film ever made, by an international poll of critics.




Sergei Eisenstein
Architect and Engineer

Eisenstein constructed these films using shots as his cinematic building blocks. He avoided long takes, which detracted from the control he could exert over his images and the impact they subsequently had on an audience. The short shots were referred to as shocks or attractions because they stood out and commanded attention within a film. These shocks were edited together in a process called montage, to convey a particular meaning. For example, in Strike the nature of the slaughter perpetrated by the Cossack army is conveyed by juxtaposing scenes of advancing soldiers with a bull being slaughtered and ink being spilt over a street-map of the city being attacked.


Eisenstein sets his camera for the kind of unconventional angle Link

Following from
The architect in Eisenstein was inspired by Renaissance conceptions of space. He studied Leonardo da Vinci's work and was influenced by Freud's interpretation of da Vinci. Trying to bridge the gap in what he felt was the distorted space induced by technology, Eisenstein pushed the outer envelope of filmmaking. He attempted to understand how the sensations of the machine age could be incorporated in the grand style of the Renaissance ...

EisensteinÕs first film, the revolutionary "Strike," was produced in 1924, following the publishing of his first article on theories of editing in the review Lef, edited by the great poet, Mayakovsky. He proposed a new editing form, the "montage of attractions" -- in which arbitrarily chosen images, independent from the action, would be presented not in chronological sequence but in whatever way would create the maximum psychological impact. Thus, the filmmaker should aim to establish in the consciousness of the spectators the elements that would lead them to the idea he wants to communicate. He should attempt to place them in the spiritual state or the psychological situation that would give birth to that idea. He theorized that cinema was a synthesis of art and science. These principles guided Eisenstein's entire career, and had a major impact on filmmakers to this day for its stark contrast to "American-style" narrative montage.

Following from

Battleship Potemkin (1925) in the sequence shot on the Odessa Steps, provides the classic example of film montage. Rapid cuts, shot and counter-shot, sustaining the narrative action and adding a dimension of emotional excitation that is itself a source of visual pleasure. Eisenstein's film is a fictionalized recreation of episodes from the 1905 Revolution in Russia. In the tradition of D.W. Griffith's epics like The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916). Extending the power of the history film through his use of montage, Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, inscribes a moment crucial to the founding ideology of Russia during the first years of Stalin's dictatorship.

Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925) in the sequence shot on the Odessa Steps, provides the classic example of film montage. Rapid cuts, shot and counter-shot, sustaining the narrative action and adding a dimension of emotional excitation that is itself a source of visual pleasure. Eisenstein's film is a fictionalized recreation of episodes from the 1905 Revolution in Russia. In the tradition of D.W. Griffith's epics like The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916). Griffith's films established the genre of the historical drama and like most such films inscribes contemporary ideologies (including in Griffith's case an embrace of the Ku Klux Klan in The Birth of a Nation). Extending the power of the history film through his use of montage, Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, inscribes a moment crucial to the founding ideology of Russia during the first years of Stalin's dictatorship.

Montage of Attractions





The riveting effects of montage, produced in the cutting room and the seemingly authentic recreation of history in Battleship Potemkin return us our initial set of analytical parameters, those between documentary footage shot in the camera and those constructed effects that derive from editing and film plastics. Seeming authenticity is not disturbed and is often enhanced by shot/counter-shot editing. Visual pleasure we will see even normalizes itself to the hybrid effects of the jump cuts used by Jean-Luc Godard in Breathless (1959). From