History of cinema

Origins of cinema

The cinema was born at the end of the xix th  century . If the animation dates back at least to the xvii th  century , with ” magic lantern  “, wait until 1891 to see appearing the first patent for the animation of photographic images and the successful production of a first silver camera . The collective spectacle that will result is born a few years later.

In numerous articles and books, you can still read today, especially in France, that “the cinema inventors are the Lumière brothers 1  ” . They developed and built a machine to record and project moving photographic views in public, which they called the Cinematograph . At the time, the press invited to the first projections Light, speaks not of the Cinematograph, but the “Kinetoscope (or Kinetograph) Lumière Brothers 2  ” . On December 22, 1895, when Auguste and Louis Lumière present their invention to the scientists of the Society of Encouragement, they still call “projection Kinetoscope 3, Or Kinetic Light their cameras and viewing devices. The camera , invented by Thomas Edison and his principal collaborator, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson in 1891 , the Kinetograph , the first camera , and the apparatus allowing to see the films individually , the Kinetoscope , are cited in references, proof of their anteriority. The invention of the Lumière brothers, or more precisely that of Louis Lumière and his engineer, Jules Carpentier, is both a camera and a projector (and even a copy printer), which will appeal to wealthy fans. Moreover, with the possibility of seeing animated photographic views on the big screen, the Lumière brothers are launching the cinema show. This invention, which improves others, more rudimentary, immediately appears as a fatal competitor to pre-existing animated shows.

In French, the apocope of the trademark Cinématographe, the cinema, will prevail in the current language in a few years. But in other countries, it’s moving pictures , movies , and also Kino . The Larousse Encyclopedia says: “This global impact will lead many historians to consider December 28, 1895 as the date of birth of cinema 4  ” . It evokes the projection that the Lumière brothers organized in Paris for the general public, in the Salon Indien du Grand Café, at o  14 of the Boulevard des Capucines , but it was not the first time thatAnimated photographic views , as well as Louis Lumière called his films 5 , were shown in public. Certainly, the success of the projections of the Grand Café gives a new start to the exploitation of the films, as Edison still practiced it in 1895 , explains with humor Edward Waintrop , critic of cinema and general delegate of the Directors’ Fortnight at the Festival de Cannes . “While Mr. Edison has developed a small box with very dim lighting that allows only one or two isolated people to experience this moving picture phenomenon, the Light has chosen a system to share the experience at an entire assembly 6 ” . To make the two inventors the fathers of the cinema, is nevertheless abusive. To make them the initiators of animated screenings on the big screen is no less so, since it is their compatriot Émile Reynaud who, the first, in October 1892 , organized before a paying public assembly the first animated projections on big screen of the first drawings animated (the animation is part of the cinema). The Lumière brothers themselves did not claim as much and corrected the affirmation that made them the only inventors of the cinema, as reported by Maurice Trarieux-Lumière, grandson of Louis Lumière and president of the Association Frères Light:”My grandfather has always recognized with perfect honesty, I bear testimony to the contributions Janssen, Muybridge and Marey, inventors of chronophotography Reynaud, Edison and especially Dickson 7  ” .

Build the machine called “The Cinematograph” do not return to invent what is at the heart of the th art, its essence, movies (from Dickson is Edison who first, adopted the English word movie , which designates a veil, a layer, to works of cinema, with reference to the photosensitive emulsion lying on one side of the support). No movies, no cinema! And the Edison-Dickson couple is at the origin of the first movies of the cinema, as Laurent Mannoni, curator at the Cinémathèque française of the precinema and the cinema apparatuses affirms : the first films were recorded by the ” Kinétographe ”  (in Greek, writing of the movement): camera of the American Thomas Edison, patented the , employing 35 mm perforated film and intermittent film feed system by “ratchet wheel” . Between 1891 and 1895, Edison performs some seventy movies 8  ” . However, still for Laurent Mannoni, “the cinema did not miraculously appear in 1895” , and “the industry of” animated photographs “could hatch, in the 1890s, thanks to practices and practices established since centuries ” 9 .

The four fundamental stages of the invention of cinema, thus of what is the very object of the cinematic creation: the films , apart from the invention of gelatin silver 10 , a gelatinous emulsion – made from ‘elements of animal origin – containing a suspension of silver bromide crystals, the basis of silver photography , which concerns primarily photography , can be classified chronologically as follows:

  1. 1888  : The American John Carbutt invents a supple and transparent cellulose nitrate carrier , in 70 mm wide strips marketed by the industrialist George Eastman 11 .
  2. 1891  : American Thomas Edison, assisted by William Kennedy Dickson and William Heise , designs the film 35 mm vertical scrolling, with 2 sets of 4 rectangular perforations per frame , as we still know it today (after a brief passage in 19 mm format with horizontal scrolling). The two men develop the Kinetograph , shooting device, and the Kinetoscope , individual viewing device 12 . They record the first films of cinema, and can show them moving to the public thanks to the Kinetoscope.
  3. 1892  : The French Émile Reynaud designs the first cartoon film, which he draws directly on a perforated flexible tape 70 mm long indefinite (made of multiple squares of gelatin, reinforced with shellac and fine springs) , scrolling horizontally. He began using a machine design, the Optical Theater , the first public viewing moving images on a big screen 13 . He commissioned the first original music composed specifically for a film 14 , three years before the Lumière brothers’ screenings.
  4. 1895  : The Bisontins Louis and Auguste Lumière, better known under the name of the Lumière brothers, synthesizing the discoveries of their predecessors, conceive in Lyon the Cinématographe, a camera capable of recording photographic images in motion on a 35 mm Eastman film wide to 2 sets of 2 round perforations per frame (device abandoned since), and to restore them in projection. They organize the first paid public screenings of photographic images in motion on the big screen 2 , or at least those which provoke the greatest global impact, because before them, other projections of the same kind took place, in Berlin (Max Skladanowsky and his brother Eugen, with their Bioskop ) and in New York ( Woodville Latham with his Panoptikon ).


Pour désigner les recherches qui précèdent l’invention des premiers films de cinéma, et qui n’utilisent pas le film souple de celluloïd, on parle selon les auteurs de précinéma15, ou d’« archéologie », de « haute-époque » pour la période antérieure à 18959. La date de 1888 peut être quelquefois retenue comme séparation entre le précinéma et le cinéma, l’invention du film souple en celluloïd par John Carbutt et sa commercialisation par l’industriel George Eastman en 1888 sous la forme de rouleaux de 70 mm de large étant la condition sine qua non pour amorcer un spectacle qui allait devenir une industrie culturelle. Certes, Reynaud utilisait un autre matériau, aussi de 70 mm de large mais constitué de carrés de gélatine indépendants pour plus facilement les colorier et les repérer l’un par rapport à l’autre par transparence. Ces carrés étaient assemblés et formaient une bande unique qui se déroulait d’une bobine à l’autre en passant par un système de projection, non pas mécanique, mais optique.

La majorité des historiens du cinéma, comme l’Américain Charles Musser16, n’ont pas la même définition du précinéma, et classent Edison et Reynaud dans cette catégorie, au motif que le mode de visionnement d’Edison n’était pas la projection, et que la pellicule de Reynaud n’était pas la pellicule 35 mm que nous connaissons encore aujourd’hui. Mais, si l’on se base sur ces remarques, la pellicule 35 mm à perforations rondes à raison d’un seul jeu par photogramme des frères Lumière n’était pas non plus la pellicule standard de cinéma à deux jeux de quatre perforations rectangulaires par photogramme mise au point par le duo Edison-Dickson. Ce qui conduirait de façon absurde à mettre l’invention des frères Lumière dans le précinéma. D’autre part, de nos jours les systèmes de visionnement sont le plus souvent étrangers à la projection (téléviseurs, ordinateurs personnels, écrans à cristaux ou plasma, smartphones), mais n’en présentent pas moins des films documentaires, des fictions de cinéma ou des séries de télévision. Les supports eux aussi se sont diversifiés, et le 35 mm relèvera bientôt de la muséologie, du moins en prise de vues cinématographique. Les disques numériques et autres supports de données numériques s’imposent inexorablement. Pour l’historien d’aujourd’hui, le cinéma ne doit pas être réduit à la définition de ses premières apparitions sur grand écran.

Théories sur le mouvement

Le phénomène de la persistance rétinienne est observé au xviiie siècle par le Franco-Irlandais Chevalier d’Arcy qui fabrique un disque rotatif sur le périmètre duquel est fixé un charbon ardent. À partir d’une vitesse de rotation de sept tours à la seconde, le charbon ardent donne l’illusion d’un cercle lumineux continu, « qu’il ne pouvait être attribuée qu’à la durée de la sensation17 ». La « sensation qui dure », qu’on appelle la persistance rétinienne, est souvent considérée, à tort, par les cinéphiles et le grand public comme étant la base de la perception du mouvement au cinéma18. In reality, this passive physiological phenomenon, linked to the retina, intervenes secondarily.

En 1830, une expérience du Britannique Michael Faraday, utilisant une roue dentée en rotation (sorte de scie circulaire en bois, en carton, ou en métal léger, appelée depuis roue de Faraday), démontre que si on regarde la roue en mouvement, l’œil n’arrive pas à identifier chacune des dents, il perçoit la roue comme un disque continu19. En revanche, si on observe l’image de cette roue dans un miroir à travers les dents, le cerveau perçoit la roue comme étant immobile, les dents paraissant bien séparées l’une de l’autre. C’est ce que le Belge Joseph Plateau remarque lui aussi en 1832, et qu’il interprète comme preuve de l’existence de la persistance rétinienne. Pour obtenir cette sensation, il remarque par expérimentation qu’il est nécessaire que la roue tourne à raison de 12 dents passant en un point en une seconde20, proche des 7 tours par seconde déterminés par le Chevalier d’Arcy17. Voulant démontrer sa théorie, Joseph Plateau fabrique la même année son Phénakistiscope avec des vignettes dessinées. Plateau imagine que « si la vitesse est assez grande pour que toutes ces impressions successives se lient entre elles et pas assez pour qu’elles se confondent, on croira voir chacune des petites figures changer graduellement d’état20 ».

Joseph Plateau’s interpretation is correct with regard to the vision of the wheel seen directly, when the disc seems to be continuous, without teeth, because the retinal persistence causes a blur effect, as a camera does when it takes to the tenth of a second, or to the fiftieth of a second, a snapshot of a fast-moving character (race or jump): the arms and legs are not visible in detail in the photograph, but appear as a fuzzy mass. All photographers, even amateurs, know this phenomenon whose remedy is simple: choose a shorter exposure, hundredth of a second, or better, thousandth of a second.

But the second phenomenon (the moving wheel seems motionless when viewed in the mirror through the rotation of the teeth) is given by another feature of human perception, discovered by Max Wertheimer 21 at the beginning of the xx th  century, it is called “the beta effect” (confused even today with the phi effect , another phenomenon also highlighted by Wertheimer), a phenomenon of interpretation of vision by the brain, which explains our perception of images animated in motion 22 . It is the ability of the brain to identify two flashing lights, distant from each other, as being a single luminous object that it believes to see moving.

“A good example is given by the giant fixed luminous arrows shifted one behind the other, in cascade, which signal on the motorways a tightening of the circulation or a deviation, and which turn on and off ones after the others, giving the illusion of a single arrow that would move in the indicated direction 23 . “

It is the beta effect that gives the illusion that the image of each tooth of the Faraday wheel is related to the image of the previous tooth, and so on, giving the impression – dangerous! – that the wheel is immobilized. The image seen in the mirror is actually a decoy, an illusion given by the posterior cortical area of ​​the brain, this area that analyzes the vision and transforms it into perception, an interpretation of the vision. Apparent immobility explains how the brain perceives the succession of many photograms of a film as part of the same object, unaware that it is a succession of distinct objects. This is how the brain interprets the vision of the different positions of a character in a film, following fixed photograms,

To thwart the phenomenon of retinal persistence that would bring a blur making it impossible to perceive each position of the wheel, by a mask effect that contravenes the following image, it is the teeth themselves, through which one must look at the image, which interrupt this persistence, erase it somehow is the refresh rate , as it is said for a computer screen . And that’s why in one of those scientific toys that were invented during the 19th century century, called optical toys, we look at the succession of vignettes drawn through slits or through mirrors in rotation, the passage between each slot or between each mirror face ensuring by shutter the refreshment of the viewer’s vision. In the cinema, it is the role of the shutter – rotary or guillotine for certain cameras – in the cameras and the projection apparatuses 24 . The academic Jacques Aumont emphasizes, in his studies on the cinema, the paradoxical handicap that presents the retinal persistence in the perception of the movement and the need to erase it with each change of photogram:

“The detailed information would be temporarily removed at each black between successive frames (note: the black corresponding to the passage of the shutter in front of the lens to hide the movement of the film, and which records a black separation between each frame) and this masking is precisely what would explain why there is no accumulation of persistent images due to retinal persistence 25 . “

The insects, ultra-short nerve connections, see the world average of 300 fps 26 . They would see, if they wished to go to the cinema, a lazy succession of different but perfectly motionless images.

The decomposed movement

The “living room toys” or optical toys , which were favored by a rich public, were aimed at developing scientific curiosity in the minds of children from good families. The Phenakistiscope of Joseph Plateau is a simple toy fair.

Eadweard Muybridge and his famous French equivalent Étienne-Jules Marey , develop various machines or optical processes for a more scientific than commercial purpose, to try to decompose, and thus study, the movements of human beings or animals, and general any phenomenon too fast to be analyzed by the look (examples: drop of a drop of water, explosions or chemical reactions).

“This knowledge could not be acquired by simple observation, because the most sustained attention, concentrated on the action of a single muscle, has great difficulty in grasping the phases of activity and rest, even in the slowest pace. How then can we hope to capture both the action of all the limb muscles in all phases of a rapid pace 27 . “

They wish to show clearly, by a dazzling succession of photographs, the mechanism of the march, the race or the jump in the man, or how the bird activates its wings, how the cat always falls on its paws, etc. It is not their intention to make a spectacle from their works; recreation of movement is not their first concern. The co-founder of Cahiers du Cinéma , André Bazin , spiritual father of François Truffaut , remarked with relevance:

“Film does almost nothing to the scientific spirit … It is significant that Marey was only interested in the analysis of the movement, not the reverse process which allowed the redial 28 . “

Moreover, the scientific challenge protects these photographers because their models are busy in front of the camera in puri naturalibus , ie completely naked, and in the Victorian era, it was unthinkable to present these photos to the general public without a solid scientific or medical justification (the nude paintings are not as scandalous as nudes in photos).

It is undoubtedly a bet, launched between a rich owner of horses and opponents, which allows Eadweard Muybridge to mount in 1878 an expensive experiment, sponsored by the amateur of thoroughbreds. It is a question of knowing when, during his galloping, the feet of a horse leave the ground together. By tradition, all the equestrian painting represented, until this experience, the four members of the horse in extension, as if it crossed an obstacle 29 . Muybridge aligns along a race track twelve then twenty-four photographic chambers to shutter super-fast ( 500 eof second), actuated one after the other by metallic threads stretched across the passage of a galloping horse. Several tests are necessary. During one of them, the horse drives the dark rooms that break. The system is transformed: the threads, after triggering the snapshots, detach and prevent cameras from being scanned by the passage of the animal 30 . The photographs obtained prove that a galloping horse never leaves the ground in position of extension of the limbs (except during a jump). His four hooves lose contact with the ground just once, as his legs gather under his body.

Bet won thanks to chronophotography , name that Etienne-Jules Marey gave to his work. To support his demonstration, Muybridge imagines in 1880 the Zoopraxiscope , which starts from the illusion of movement to arrive, by slowing down and then stopping the machine, to describe each phase of the movement studied. He immediately launches the sale of the machine and its drives and starts with the San Francisco 31 . In 1893 , Muybridge presented in the United States, at the Chicago World Fair , projections of images painted on Zoopraxiscope, according to chronophotographies, intended for the general public, always with the same educational purpose to show the different phases of a gesture.

For his part, Étienne-Jules Marey develops in 1882, with the same scientific concern to decompose a movement too fast to be analyzed by the human eye, his photographic rifle which, in one second, saves twelve photographs on small circular glass supports (like a revolver). Marey’s shotgun is often mistaken for the first camera. The purpose of this device was not the reconstitution of the movement, and the twelve negative labels on glass obtained were examined by scientists one by one, through separate positive prints, or together with an overlay of photographs 32 .

In 1888, Marey abandoned the glass plate, preferring the paper medium, and in the summer of 1889 the flexible and transparent roll of cellulose nitrateinvented by the American John Carbutt , both marketed by George Eastman – the future Kodak  – which now broadcasts it in Europe following the 1889 World Fair . Marey successfully adapts the latter to his photographic rifle and, the same year, he develops, with his collaborator Georges Demenÿ , a film cameraequipped with a swinging cam mechanism, able to advance the flexible celluloid film in synchronism with the closure of a shutter to obtain a photographic decomposition of the movement, no longer on the same plate, but image by image on a roll continuous non-perforated. This “photochronographic” camera – the word “chronophotography” will be officially retained in 1889 – is patented on October 3, 1890 33 , 34 . The Cinémathèque française holds approximately 420 original Marey and Demenÿ negative rolls from 0.11 m to 4.19 m in length from 1890 on chronophotographic celluloid film rolls, such asThe mounted Bixio horse (28 photographs), The Bixio horse in the footsteps (61 photographs), Horse hitched to a car Boulevard Delessert , outdoor scene taken from a window of Marey’s home (36 photographs) or The Wave and Scenes of fencing carried out in 1890 in Naples , where he owns a residence, and kept at the museum Étienne-Jules Marey de Beaune 35 . Although we can watch them since then, they are not movies of the cinema . During the projection attempts, the training of the non-perforated film could cause photogramsvariable dimensions whose covering in viewing was not satisfactory, defect associated with any camming cam device. Marey tries from 1892 to make a chronophotographic projector adapted to these bands with the help of Demenÿ, but ended up giving up this project and declaring in 1894: “Arrived at this point in our research, we learned that our preparer had obtained in another way an immediate solution of the problem, it seemed to us appropriate to postpone new tests ” 36 . In 1893, Demenÿ had made a negative- sounding projector 37, but it will not be improved and will not leave the laboratory of Marey, which because of differences of opinion with Demenÿ on the commercial exploitation of such processes will prefer to separate from his collaborator in 1894.

In 1891 , Demenÿ began to make devices independently. He cuts and glues a series of vignettes drawn from the chronophotographic film onto a rotating glass disk, thus creating the phonoscope , patented on March 3, 1892 38 , 39 , where the pronunciation of the syllables of a few words is broken down into 22 photographs, in order language learning by the students of the National Institute for the Young Deaf of Paris . At the first international photography exhibition, which opens on April 20, 1892 at the Champ-de-Mars in Paris 40, he is the first to make public chronophotographic projections on screen, with this device having a very short cycle (about one or two seconds) and repetitive at the discretion of the operator, although assimilable to that of the optical toys . “Demenÿ, popularizing the experiments of Marey’s laboratory, had shown for the first time the animated portrait of a man saying: Long live France! or I love you! , a year before the similar chronophotographic projections added to his zoopraxiscope by Muybridge. This revelation of an animated split-second split was a revelation that Edison himself emphasized. » 41But it is May 25, 1895, too late in the face of the advances of the other inventors and two months after the first public screening of the Lumière brothers on screen, that he appropriately adapts to the flexible film the new chronophotographic camera, patented on October 10, 1893, that he had had to develop because he could not use his previous patents filed by Marey, only to finalize the projection version in the first half of 1896.

One of the greatest collectors of films and cinema equipment, James Card, the Henri Langlois (creator of the American Cinematheque ), who created in 1948 , in the luxurious and huge ( 50 pieces ) house of George Eastman to Rochester , the first museum of cinema, believes that the history of cinema should begin in 1880 , with the invention of the Zoopraxiscope Eadweard Muybridge 42. The intention is relevant because it is true that without the scientific work of Faraday, Marey and Muybridge, without forgetting William George Horner, they are not industrialists, as talented and curious as were Thomas Edison and the brothers Lumière, or a draftsman as clever and talented as Emile Reynaud, who would have allowed the emergence in the human mind of a scientific idea worthy of a madman: to record the movement of life, and to reproduce it at will.

But it is hard to forget the reasons that both Muybridge and Marey were pushing to share the results of their experiences with the general public, which were to teach new knowledge or rectify false knowledge. It must be remembered that “chronophotography (from the Greek kronos, time, photes, light, and graphein, record), brings together laboratory work that aims to suspend time to analyze the movement of living subjects, human beings or animals, what Marey calls a magnificent term, “the animal machine”. But the followers of the chronophotography do not seek the spectacular, only account for them the scientific experiment 43 . “The film show could in no way be the result of such a concern for scientific research, even if the invention of Zoopraxiscope and its marketing to the general public may indeed appear as a first step towards this show. In short, this is what the City of Science in Paris does nowadays, it is an organizer of shows and exhibitions, certainly, but its goal is not the spectacle, it is the sensitization and the initiation from the public to scientific research.

Yet, according to Thomas Edison’s own account, 44 it was the chronophotography experiments of Muybridge and Marey, as well as William George Horner’s Zootrope, that inspired his research, the end of which will be the invention of the Kinetograph and the recording of the first cinema films.

Attempts to record motion on film media

In the 1880s , all over the world, many researchers worked to develop a system for recording motion on a silver medium, and its restitution. Their motives are primarily commercial, whoever finds the right machine will see his fortune and his glory assured.

The French Louis Aimé Augustin The Prince manufactures an apparatus and files the patent in 1887 . It is an inverted variant of Marey’s photographic rifle, producing a series of 16 photographs shot by 16 lenses whose opening is one after the other, in front of as many plates of glass coated with photosensitive emulsion. He later replaced the plates, too heavy, with a strip of paper coated with a photosensitive substance (a few years later, Edison and the Lumière brothers will also use the paper for their first experiments) and he then manufactures a prototype of camera with a single lens, the Mark2, with a moving photo ribbon after photo. At the end of 1888, The Prince passed several tests on paper,The Leeds Bridge and A Roundhay Garden Scene (which are titles he did not give himself and which appeared fifty years later for grading purposes), but he does not manage to to project, or even to watch them in motion, they remain a series of photographs, similar to the results of chronophotography, and even below, since Muybridge is able to complete the “recording-reproduction” cycle with his Zoopraxiscope, and this, as early as 1880. Thus, the experimentation of The Prince turns short. Of course, he patented in France his single-purpose camera, the Mark2, which is probably the first real movie camera, but the filing of a patent is not a guarantor of the purpose of an invention, and so of its concrete reality, and what is certain, it is that the Prince did not patent of apparatus of viewing.

However, we can assume that if the researcher had not mysteriously disappeared body and soul in 1890 after climbing a train Dijon-Paris, he would have continued his research and would have benefited, as Thomas Edison and later the Lumière brothers, transparent support John Carbutt, but the fate had decided otherwise.

The Prince of tests were reported in 1930 on the flexible film 35 mm , while the cinema was already an adult and growing, and Roundhay Garden Scene , for example, can be viewed as a curiosity since the pre- cinemabut Louis Aimé Le Prince never had the opportunity to watch it in motion. Firstly, the paper strips are very fragile, and if they manage to resist the single passage in a camera, however they can not withstand repeated viewing. Secondly, the paper strips are not transparent enough to allow projection, even of poor quality. Later, Thomas Edison and Dickson, with their many paper essays, which they humorously call “Monkeyshines” 45 , and after them the Lumière brothers, will never claim to have screened the big screen with their paper tests. The Lumière Institute evokes the preliminary essays of Louis Lumière and Charles Moisson,”The tests found are standard 35 mm wide sensitized paper strips , just like Edison 46 films .  ”

Another Frenchman, Georges Demenÿ , a gymnastics teacher, is hired by Étienne-Jules Marey, with whom he experiments with chronophotography as a specialist in body movements. He gets confused with Marey when he proposes to bend his research to the mainstream market by commercializing the results of some shots. Marey, who swears by science, puts him out. Demenÿ has just made a machine, the Phonoscope, qui ressemble à un jouet de salon, dont les dessins sont remplacés par des photographies successives. Ces photographies sont prises avec sa caméra “photochronographique” sur du support celluloïd Eastman que Demenÿ découpe en 22 photographies transparentes, semblables à des diapos, qu’il dispose sur le pourtour d’un disque en verre d’un diamètre de 42 cm mis en rotation devant une boîte à lumière47. Selon le principe des Zootrope ou Phénakistiscope, le personnage photographié semble bouger. Demenÿ fait l’article : « On peut ainsi, dans les familles, conserver des traces vivantes des ancêtres, il suffira d’un tour de manivelle pour faire voir aux enfants leurs grands-parents et revoir ses propres grimaces de nourrisson48. » En 1892, il projette ces disques chronophotographiques en public lors de la première exposition internationale de photographie au Champ de Mars49,50 et enregistre deux sujets : un personnage (lui-même) disant face à l’objectif : « Vive la France ! » et un autre : « Je vous aime ! », qui durent le temps de chaque phrase, qu’il présente devant un industriel, Léon Gaumont, en faisant prononcer les mots par un partenaire dissimulé derrière l’écran. Léon Gaumont est intéressé mais le pousse à mettre au point une machine qui sortirait du modèle des jouets de salon, et permettrait une prise de vue continue. L’industriel rêve de commercialiser des photographies animées, il achète le Phonoscope, afin d’encourager Demenÿ, et le rebaptise Bioscope. Sous son égide, Demenÿ sort en 1896 une caméra pouvant se transformer en appareil de projection, semblable à celle des frères Lumière, le Biographe, qui utilise du film Eastman de 60 mm de large, sans perforations, mis en mouvement par des pinces, qui est supplanté par le procédé Lumière, puis perforé au format Edison et entraîné par une came battante48. Le procédé est pratiquement tout de suite abandonné.

Les premiers films du cinéma

C’est en 1891 que l’Américain Thomas Edison, l’un des inventeurs de l’ampoule électrique et le concepteur et fabriquant du Phonographe, qui, le premier, avec l’aide de son collaborateur William Kennedy Laurie Dickson51, réussit des prises de vues photographiques animées et leur présentation au public.

Essais inaboutis

L’inventeur et industriel américain, devenu presque sourd pendant son adolescence, rêve de coupler au phonographe une machine qui permettrait d’enregistrer l’image d’un chanteur ou d’un orchestre interprétant une chanson ou un air d’opéra.

« On pourrait ainsi assister à un concert du Metropolitan Opera cinquante ans plus tard, alors que tous les interprètes auraient disparu depuis longtemps51. »

Edison développe leurs recherches à partir des techniques d’enregistrement qu’il a déjà expérimentées pour le son. Il utilise dès 1888 un cylindre de verre, à la manière du premier Phonographe, enduit d’une substance photosensible, enfermé dans un petit coffre en bois le protégeant de la lumière ambiante. Une ouverture mobile, mue par une vis sans fin, est équipée d’un objectif qui reçoit l’image de la scène filmée et la projette sur le cylindre en rotation, de façon intermittente grâce à un obturateur à disque mobile qui assure chaque instantané décomposant le mouvement en une succession d’images. Après la prise de vues, le cylindre est plongé directement dans les bains de traitement argentique, et donne le négatif, les sels d’argent exposés à la lumière deviennent noirs, les non exposés ne noircissent pas, les valeurs sont inversées : le ciel est noir, un morceau de charbon est blanc. Ensuite, un positif est obtenu en enroulant à l’extérieur du cylindre une feuille de papier enduit d’émulsion photosensible et en illuminant l’intérieur du cylindre, selon le procédé du tirage contact, le verre laissant passer la lumière qui expose le papier en inversant une seconde fois les valeurs, qui sont ainsi rétablies : les noirs sont noirs, les blancs sont blancs. La feuille peut être découpée ensuite à la manière d’une pelure d’orange, et donne un long ruban de papier portant les photogrammes dans leur ordre chronologique. Mais comme Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince et Étienne-Jules Marey à la même époque, Edison et Dickson ne peuvent pas visionner ce fragile et opaque ruban et restituer le mouvement enregistré52.

Format 19 mm, à défilement horizontal, photogrammes circulaires

A fundamental invention is timely. That of the American John Carbutt who, in 1887 , invented a flexible film, transparent and resistant in nitrate of cellulose , that the industrialist George Eastman puts on the market in 1888 , debited in rolls of 70 mm of width without photosensitive substance and without perforations. For his part, Étienne-Jules Marey immediately adapted his chronophotography to the new medium. For their part, Edison and Dickson, joined by William Heise , create what will become twenty years later the standard format of cinematographic shots.

But first, they sell the film Eastman along its length in three ribbons 19 mm wide. Edison, which in its youth was a skilled operator telegraph electrical was familiar with the presence of perforations on the paper tape of the invention of Samuel Morse , which ensured the progress of the message 53 . He endows the 19- mm ( 1-inch ) band with a single row of rounded rectangular perforations that he takes care of filing. These perforations are located under the photogram, at the rate of 6 perforations per image, because the scrolling of the film is done horizontally. The photograms obtained are circular, the last link of the invention with optical toys , and measure in diameter three-quarters of an inch, or about 12 mm .

Between 1889 and 1890 , several tests with this horizontal kinetograph 19 mm are conclusive, including the immortalization of a handshake between Dickson and his assistant William Heise after their first successful film, a sham boxing fight they laughing, Men Boxing, essays that are all kept at the Library of Congress . Dickson is also filming, greeting the future spectators with a respectful hat. This is what some historians consider to be “the first film of cinema” and others rank in the trials of Precinema  : The Hi Dickson ( Dickson Greeting, 1891 ), an initial duration of about ten seconds of which there are barely two seconds. It is the first time that men film other men and deliver to posterity the recorded and reconstructed movement.

At the same time, Dickson has developed the apparatus necessary to see future films (the English word film , which means “veil, layer, film,” is used for the first time by Edison in his modern sense). This machine is the kinetoscope , and like the kinetograph, it works perfectly. Because it is necessary for any invention that we can publicly and officially see the results (which have never reached either Le Prince or Léon Bouly). The device is a wooden chest on which the viewer looks to individually view a film that runs continuously, driven by an electric motor, in front of a light box. The user observes the film through a peephole and a set of magnifying glasses. The movement is restored by the passage of a circular shutter, synchronized with the film drive through the perforations, which reveals the photograms one after the other, at the rate of 18 units per second. Dickson wrote to have used higher rates (in shooting ), but the historian of American cinema Charles Musser notes that this is an excess of language intended to impress VIPs: 165,600 images the !

Dickson’s Salvation is presented on May 20, 1891, before an assembly of one hundred and fifty activists of the Federation of Women’s Clubs . The success is at the rendezvous, the spectators, individually or two by two, crowd around the kinetoscopes aligned and watch several times each Dickson’s salvation , showing their astonishment and satisfaction 55 . The desired cycle of the recording of the movement and its restitution is finally achieved, the date is certified by this public presentation, the first movie of the cinema, seen by an assembled public, is well The salvation of Dickson , as much as he is applauded by the American press. ” The cinema, as we know it today, with the invention of the Kinetograph and Kinetoscope. These two machines represent the first successful method of cinematographic shooting.  ” 56 The cinema, as we know it today, began with the invention of the kinetograph and the kinetoscope. .

35mm format, vertical scrolling, rectangular photograms

But a problem is bothering the research team: a lack of definition of the film 19 mm to view, especially in wide shots (characters in foot) that are the rule at the time, in imitation of photography . Edison and Dickson decide to increase the width of the ribbon from 19 to 35 mm (the exact half of the Eastman ribbon). This time, they choose to scroll the ribbon vertically and give it 4 rectangular perforations on one side to fully enjoy the sensitive surface. The tests reveal the risk of tearing and a lack of stability already noted with the previous format. By adding a second row of 4 perforations on the other edge of the film,”Edison did accomplish a milestone in cinema, creating the modern film 35 mm , four pairs of perforations per frame 57  ” , the standard format that exists today in the field of silver film, a form that has little evolved 58 .

According to Edison’s sketches, Dickson, seconded by William Heise , is making a new version of the kinetograph , a 35 mm camera , heavy and bulky, which requires an electrical connection to activate its mechanism. But it has the merit of working well and Dickson will improve it for the next two years. The film, in the form of a spool, advances intermittently, thanks to an alternative escape mechanism. This is the ratchet wheel (ratchet exhaust)electrically controlled he has chosen to equip the kinetograph. The film marks a very short stopping time in the optical axis of the lens, then moves one step, while a rotary shutter with blades, closed during the movement of the film, opens during its immobilization, ensuring the snapshot . The impressed film then rewinds 59 .

Edison thinks he can wait again to commercialize his essays, he is still deluded to finally be able to combine the image and sound, which is his dream. But in his experiments, he encounters insurmountable difficulties in his time (the synchronization of sound and image) and decides to make his invention known to the general public, as it stands, so as not to be slowed down by possible competitors. It turns almost seventy films, mainly between 1893 and 1895 60. The film historian Georges Sadoul says in his History of World Cinema that “the bands filmed by Dickson are, strictly speaking, the first films” 13, but in the same work, it delivers an impressive Test of world chronology, five thousand films of fifty countries , that begins in 1892 , with the projections of Émile Reynaud. The historian therefore takes into account both Dickson tests between 1888 and 1891 (including the Hi Dickson , it considers being a test) and bright Pantomimes Reynaud 61 .

Edison opens everywhere in the US territory Kinetoscope Parlors , rooms where are lined several devices loaded with different films that can be viewed for a flat fee of 25 cents . These are the first real recipes of the cinema. Laurie Dickson is responsible for directing film shots ; he is thus the first director of the story. To film dancers, acrobats, mimes, cock fights or cats, etc., Dickson builds the first film studio , the Black Maria(popular nickname of police vans, black and uncomfortable). It is covered with black tarred paper whose effect inside is that of an overheated greenhouse. The small building with an opening roof is placed on a circular rail and can be oriented according to the position of the sun, because daylight is the only lighting used on the plateau . Each shot is a maximum of 60 seconds , the film consists of a single shot, a single shot 62 .

At first, Edison films are more music hall and fairground attractions. The circus Buffalo Bill comes even perform several Indian dances 63 . The American historian Charles Musser notes: “Sex and violence figure prominently in primitive American films (edison-dickson). In fact, these subjects owe a lot to the system of individual viewing of movies with the Kinétoscope (whose commercial name is exactly kinetoscope peep show machine ): they very often show entertainment likely to offend the religious conscience of some Americans. » 64

Sometimes, the reactions are violent, and go as far as the destruction of cameras and films. More often, a banner is required when drawing copies to hide more or less scandalous areas of the subjects. Thus, a belly dance , although hypocritically referred to as “muscle dance” ( Fatima, belly dance ), has two white bands overlaid on the lower abdomen and chest of the artist Fatima. The original, fortunately, has been preserved. Cock fighting, dogs, cats, but also boxing, trials of “showdown” are part of the offer, and some machines are loaded with reels that only men are allowed to watch 65 .

The women will not be forgotten, but later, when the Americans have passed, after the Lumière brothers, to the projection on the big screen. The first feature film, The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight , which lasted 90 minutes (of which there are some quite long and representative extracts), filmed by Veriscope Company in March 1897 to Carson City in Nevada, with three cameras and a special film of the type “panoramic” format, more conducive – it seems, to an overview of the ring, was screened in public three months later, the time to manufacture cameras projection able to function as long. Charles Musser says that in theaters, the female audience, whose presence was prohibited around the actual boxing matches, formed 60% of the spectators. He remarked with humor that women could “get an idea of ​​what excited men when they were among them ,  ” 66 a secret they discovered with some personal excitement.

The kinetoscopes attract many curious, but Edison, in the euphoria of victory, did not think of filing patents of his device internationally, a staggering fault on the part of a man yet fussy and procedural. Counterfeits are multiplying around the world, Edison can do nothing. “At that time, it was of course too late to protect my interests 67  ” , he confesses in his memoirs. Yet, in the summer of 1894 , he organized public demonstrations of the kinetoscope in Paris, attended by Antoine Lumiere , the father of the two brothers, who returned to Lyon and directed his sons to design equivalent machines for the kinetoscope and the kinetograph. TheInstitut Lumière is particularly clear about this:

“It is very difficult to determine precisely the moment from which the Lumière brothers began to work on the projection of animated images, their recollections on this point being contradictory. On the other hand, the Edison Kinetoscope is always cited as a starting point for their reflections aimed at making visible images by a public, and no longer individually, so it was only from September 1894 that they were able to or their father Antoine, see this new attraction in Paris 46 . “

Thus, on December 26, 1894 , the newspaper Le Lyon républicain reads  :

“The Lumière brothers are currently working on the construction of a new kinetograph, no less remarkable than that of Edison, and of which the Lyonnais will soon have, we believe, the primeur 46 , 68  “

. This is the irrefutable proof of the precedence of the machines and films of the three American inventors over its French competitors.

The first film screenings on the big screen

From the xvii th  century – when the public discovers the mystery of the magic lantern  – in the xviii th  century and during the xix th  century, the white projection screen or tulle, still images, drawings and photographs, is already an attraction that strikes the minds of all circles, modest or well-off. So much so that the film historian Charles Musser, in his voluminous book The Emergence of the Cinema , calls the first chapter which deals with projections in the centuries preceding the cinema, «Towards the history of a world of the screen 69 . » The success of fantasmagoriesand appearances of ghosts at the theater and music hall, influence the trade of machines that reproduce movement from drawings (living room toys). Clowns that grimace, bodies that contort monstrously or metamorphose miraculously, are topics that sell well.

In 1877 , Émile Reynaud, professor of science and photographer, created his “salon toy”, the Praxinoscope, which he himself drew the vignettes, funny or poetic. The Praxinoscope immediately meets the public’s favor and the latest model allows even the projection of the drawings on a small screen, because Reynaud thinks that his art can reach its peak by taking again the magic effect of the luminous lanterns. But, like all “living room toys”, his subjects are in loop: the gesture, the pirouette, the transformation, last only one to two seconds. In 1892, one year after Edison’s first films, whose duration is not longer, Reynaud undertakes to build an ambitious project that has been obsessing him for some fifteen years: a machine that would allow to project on a big screen, giving the illusion of movement, drawings that would tell a true story lasting two to three minutes. It’s the Optical Theater and its luminous Pantomimes , as he calls his films. With patience, he draws and paints on celluloid squares several hundreds of vignettes which represent the different attitudes of characters in movement, confronted with each other, which he frames in strong paper (identical to the system of future slides) and that it connects by strips of soft metal covered with fabric, forming a long ribbon 70 mm wide. His technique is the beginning of what will be called the cartoons , and movement restored his show well classifies films, so film 70

“Each of the vignettes is opacified around the characters by a dorsal layer of black paint as in the technique of painting on glass, only the characters are transparent. The colored drawings are projected by retro projection on a screen of transparent tulle, thanks to mirrors turning in front of a kerosene lantern which lights violently through each drawing, as already worked the projection Praxinoscope. The strips have a single central perforation between each drawing. It’s not the perforations that scroll the tape, it’s the reels when you grind them by hand. The perforations have a particular mission, that of driving, to rotate in synchronism with the scrolling of the tape, the mirrors that project the thumbnails one after the other. The projection is not very luminous, but in the dark, its pale light suits the charming subjects of Reynaud’s bands and their pastel tones. The characters are drawn in foot and they evolve in front of a decoration also drawn, projected by a second lantern71 . “The separate decor projection allows Reynaud save his sentence by not reproduce the same decor hundreds of times. This decor-characters separation is always a part of modern cartoons.

From October 28, 1892 , Émile Reynaud presents in Paris, in the Fantastic Cabinet of the Grévin museum , what he calls the Optical Theater, where his luminous pantomimes are projected. Émile Reynaud’s Théâtre Optique innovates considerably compared to Thomas Edison by inaugurating the first screenings of animated films. Unlike the solo viewing of kinetoscopes, the Optical Theater audience is gathered to follow the story projected on the screen. Thus, the Grévin museum can boast of having been the first cinema screening room, three years before the Lumière brothers’ screenings in the Grand Café Indian Salon , but the Leonine contract that he had imposed on Reynaud forbade him to present his spectacle elsewhere than on Grevin.

Success of the Cinematographe Lumière

In the summer of 1894 , during a trip to Paris, Antoine Lumière attends one of animated projections of the optical theater of Emile Reynaud to Grevin Museum, at o  10 Boulevard Montmartre. Then he went to a demonstration of the Kinetoscope, organized a few hundred meters o  20 Boulevard Poissonnière. Edison’s representatives offer him a sample of about thirty centimeters of the perforated 35 mm film of the American industrialist. “Amazed by the Edison 7 Kinetoscope  “, Antoine returns to Lyon, convinced that the market for motion picture recording and performance machines is at hand and that this market is full of commercial promises. The projections of the Optical Theater and the reactions of the audience convinced him that the future is not in the Kinetoscope, seen by only one spectator at a time, but in a process like that of Reynaud, projecting on a screen animated views, in front of an assembled public. In an interview held at the National Audiovisual Institute (INA), Auguste Lumière tells how his brother Louis had in the night the idea of ​​the Cinematograph mechanism. He begins by remembering these years,”It is not without emotion that I return to that distant time when the Edison Kinetoscope was delivered to public curiosity 72  ” . For Auguste, it is obvious, the novelty, the upheaval, it was Edison’s films. The Lumière Institute recounts this event in its own way: “In the fall of 1894 , Antoine Lumière spoke to his two sons Louis and Auguste to ask them to take an interest in these animated images on which Thomas Edison and some other magnificent pioneers then stumbled 46 ” . This official statement is untrue because in the fall of 1894, Thomas Edison has already accumulated seventy films of 40 to 60 seconds each, shot using the Kinetic, which can be seen moving through the Kinetoscope 73 . Edison does not “stumble” about the problem, he did solve it in 1891, and Antoine Lumière witnessed it in 1894 . As for Auguste Lumière, surviving in 1954 of this fertile trio, he is not mistaken: Edison had succeeded before them. This does not detract from the merits of the Lumière brothers to have brought a development that made movies a global entertainment.

The Lumière brothers thought that the cinema was a fire of straw which would be quickly extinguished, as the grandson of Louis Lumière admits: “My grandfather told me that he believed that the Cinématographe would tire the spectators’ vision . It was like an attraction that would have passed. He does not live, it is true, like Leon Gaumont or Charles Pathé, the rise that cinema would take 7  ” . Thomas Edison is convinced that animated photographic images coupled with sound will become “a fundamental pillar of human culture  ” 53. In this respect, his visionary spirit did not go astray, but he underestimated the commercial importance of his invention, not imagining that shorter-sighted industrialists would take the market before him. He continues with passion his research on the coupling of images with sound, because the synchronization of a film taking place in parallel with the rotation of a wax disc of the Phonograph poses problems that seem insoluble at the stage of the kinetophone , the version “Sound” of the Kinetoscope. Georges Sadoul recalls that “Edison refused to have his films screened, judging that they would kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, the public having, according to him, no chance to be interested in silent film 57 . “Edison was not a prophet on this point and his competitors will take advantage of his wait-and-see attitude.

Moreover, the Lumière brothers joined the efforts of many researchers, all industrialists or engineers, who, following Edison, studied and built animated photographic machines, which they experienced during the year 1895 . It is the English Robert William Paul and Birt Acres who shoot several tapes with their Kinetic camera on film Edison counterfeit, viewed on pirated copies of Kinetoscope 74 . There is also the American Jean Acme Le Roy with his projector Marvelous cinematograph who would have projected Edison filmed tapes (but it was impossible to verify the reality of these projections), the majorWoodville Latham and his sons, owners of a Kinestocope parlor , with their original continuous-motion projector Panoptikon, which later becomes the intermittent Eidoloscope , provide paid public screenings in New York before those of the Lyonnais brothers. The German Max Skladanowsky and his brother Eugen organize in Berlin , two months before the first session of the Indian Salon, paid public screenings with their Bioskop . Another German, Ottomar Anschütz, sticks to variations on a kind of big lottery wheel whose numbers are replaced by photographs that we look through a window, and many other researchers and other inventions that appear from 1894 to 1896 . The Frenchman Georges Demenÿ , financed by the industrialist Léon Gaumont , chooses the format 60 mm with his Chronophotographe which becomes the Biographer in 1896 , a camera which turns into a projector with the addition of a light box. Demenÿ adopts, like the Lumière brothers at the beginning of their research, an alternative drive of the non-perforated film by means of pliers actuated by a swinging cama technical process widely used in industry to produce the intermittent movement of various materials (fabric and metal, in particular). However, with the clamps, the vertical stability of the image is mediocre, because of the inevitable micro-slides of the film during the projection, which make “dance” the images. Instead of the clamps, the Cinematograph is then equipped with a claw , also actuated by an eccentric cam , and the film is provided with lateral perforations for receiving these moving claws 46 75 .

The flexible film is manufactured by Eastman who collects industrial rights included in the price of each footage of the medium it sells. This smooth film must be transformed on its borders so that the claws can engage in perforations and ensure the precise passage of an already impressed photogram to another photogram to impress. But the Lumière brothers know that rectangular Edison-type perforations have been the subject of several international patents, and that they are an inevitable industrial reality. Their duplication would be a case of industrial counterfeiting on the part of the Light that Edison would not hesitate to sue. To avoid paying fees to the American, the Lumière brothers endow their film with round perforations, arranged laterally at the rate of a single perforation on each side of each photogram 46 . Subsequently, they will be forced to adopt the Edison standard, because the unique set of perforations for each image is a fragile process, the rupture of a perforation immediately causes the tearing of the celluloid ribbon, which is not the case of multiple Edison perforations, which give the support a certain durability, any exploded perforation that can be incised at the edges, the remaining three ensuring their function of transporting the film. The perforated film Edison is also chosen worldwide by the manufacturers of film as standard projection format since 1903 .

In Paris, 22 March 1895 , before a small audience of scholars of the Society of encouragement for the National Industry at o  44 of the Rue de Rennes, Louis Lumière organized the first public presentation of the movie recorded by the cinematograph. The same device allows the projection on a screen, thanks to the addition of a powerful light box 46 . That day, the only film screened is The Exit of the Lumière factory in Lyon . The assembly of scientists is keenly interested, but the Lumières are skilful traders, they do not stick to this success of salon.

September 28, 1895 , it is in La Ciotat , where the Lumière family owns a villa, that the two brothers invite in private projection friends and notables of the seaside city. Ten films (which Louis Lumière calls “views”) constitute the show, The output of the Lumière factory in Lyon , The Place des Cordeliers in Lyon , The landing of the Congress of photography in Lyon , Swimming at sea , children diving in the waves, The Blacksmiths, like Edison, but with real blacksmiths and a real forge because Dickson, for the purpose of filming, had simply reconstructed the forge with simple unconvincing extras. Follow two family scenes with a baby, the son of Auguste Lumière , The Baby Meal and The Fish Fishing . Then two “comic views”, in fact military antics, The Aerobatics and Jump to the cover , in the tradition of comic troopers. The session ends with the famous The Sprinkler Watered (The Gardener), which is in truth the first fiction of the history of cinema, played by actors (the first fictions of the cinema being the luminous pantomimes drawn by Émile Reynaud).

The Lumière brothers then ascend a series of paid screenings in Paris, in the Salon Indien du Grand Café Hotel Scribe, at o  14 Boulevard des Capucines 76 . On December 28, 1895, the first day, only thirty-three spectators (including two journalists) come to appreciate the various “animated photographic views” 77 . Word of mouth helping, in a week the line reaches the street Caumartin. The screenings are sold out and the sessions are doubled, the impact of this success, which over the months, does not fade, is global.

The revolution of the Light

Before the success of the Grand Café screenings, the press sometimes referred to the apparatus of the Lyon inventors as “kinetoscope Lumière” or “Cinémographe Lumière”. If Edison had earlier attempted to solve the problem of showing films on the big screen, we can assume that the word Cinematograph would probably not have been adopted to designate the show, and everyone would have been to see a movie at kinetoscope, which would not have missed to be called familiarly “physio” and “kinoche”! After all, in the countries of Eastern Europe, the word for cinema has remained close to its Greek roots, movement: we go to kino . The American equivalent keeps the idea of ​​movement to designate the show composed of movies: movies .

But the reality is there: Thomas Edison understands that the cinematograph’s projection technique on the big screen has just sounded the death knell of his kinetoscope. His engineer Laurie Dickson enters the competition.

“Pressed by time, Edison acquires the inventor Francis Jenkins his projection device released in October 1895 under the name of Phantascope, he adapts with the help of the engineer Thomas Armat , and he renamed in Vitascope . Edison can then project on the big screen the many films he has already recorded since 1893 with the Kinetic. But unlike the Lumière brothers, he maintains the principle of two machines, one dedicated to shooting and the other to projection. A wise choice that is taken by all the other manufacturers of the time, now numerous. This technical dichotomy camera / projection device has continued to this day 78 . “

The precedents of the Light

In 1894 , dissatisfied with his mere status as an employee of Thomas Edison, Laurie Dickson secretly puts his skills to the service of a new competitor: Woodville Latham , who creates with his two sons the Lambda Company. Dickson is promoted to associate with a quarter of the stock and eventually leaves the Edison Manufacturing Company, bringing with him the best engineer on his team, the Frenchman Eugène Lauste. Latham’s first project was to adapt Edison’s Kinetoscope to a projection apparatus, but soon he plans to develop a complete original system, including a camera and a projection apparatus. He calls this last machine “projection Kinetoscope”, as the word kinetoscope has become a common word (at the same time, the project of the Lumière brothers is also described by the French press as “kinetoscope Lumière”). Later, this machine is called the Eidoloscope , which will focus for several months the attention of the American press 79 .

Latham, and more precisely Dickson and Lauste, experiment two systems: one with a continuous scrolling of the film, like the Kinetoscope, the other with intermittent scrolling. They note that the intermittent training of the film, both in a camera and in a projection apparatus, tires the film and even causes it to be accidentally broken, and limits the usable footage to 20 meters, a minute and a half. Beyond that, breaks are inevitable. Dickson and Lauste then have the idea to add two “toothed debtors”, before and after the passage in the corridor of shooting or projection (where the film advances and stops, to advance again, photogram after frame). These debtors ensure a continuous, smooth traction. So that the two exercises, contradictory, can coexist, Dickson and Lauste imagine an idea as simple as the thread to cut the butter: to create a transition loop in the course of the film, before and after the passage in the corridor, to amortize jolts of intermittent training. Woodville Latham, who is like Edison, anxious to bring his name to the front of the stage, immediately baptizes their idea: the Latham loop( Latham Loop ) 80 . The Eidoloscope, the first experimental projections are slightly later than those of the Lumière Cinematograph, will not have the same success, the qualities of the Cinematograph revealing much higher 81 .

For his part, Émile Reynaud maintains his projections at the Musée Grévin . It drains half a million spectators, between 1892 and 1900 , which represents a great success. However, competition very close to the Grand Café reaches him directly and he reacts by trying to adapt to his machine photographic strips. But Eastman films are black and white, and their coloring with varnish goes against the pastel shades of Reynaud’s delicate designs.

“His Optical Theater will never compete with the Lumière process. At the dawn of the xx th  century, Émile Reynaud bankrupt. In desperation, he destroys his machines, sold by the weight of the material. As for the celluloid strips drawn, he throws them into the Seine. An irreparable loss … Only two wonders will escape, Around a cabin , and Poor Pierrot . Unhappy end of a great work, unjustly forgotten, yet which marks the invention of animation and organization of first projections on big screen images in motion 82 . “

The Cinematographe Lumière’s camera is then used by many operators of all countries, and it is even found, among its competitors, on the plateaux of the American studios, until after the War of 1914-1918 , as a camera of booster , before being supplanted by more advanced American appliances, with intermittent pressing and counter-claws , equipped with independent film stores (Bell & Howell model 2709 of 1909 , Mitchell standard model of 1919). But if the system of training claws has persisted in the equipment of the cameras, both for professionals and for amateurs, as well as for a large part of amateur projection devices, the mechanism of the claws has been replaced on the projectors for professionals with a Maltese cross (or Geneva cross ), 4, 6 or 8 branches, resulting in intermittent movement a toothed debtor, more robust solution for a machine to make thousands of sessions 83

Birth of an industry

It is a revolution in the sense that cinema is the first art born of the industrial revolution. It has no equivalent in the past, photography can still be considered as a substitute for painting. For the first time, the representation of the movement was freed from spatial and temporal constraints (theater, dance) and the narration valued, offering great perspectives with the movement of the camera, illusions of special effects and editing. The early filmmakers were probably not interested in the arts as avant-garde but they contributed to their defending body to the triumph of avant-garde modernity. Broadcasted in the fairs and music-halls of Paris, Berlin, London, Brussels and New York around 1895, the cinema was a great success: around 1905,nickelodeons ), Italy, though economically backward, had 500 rooms including 40 in Milan. In 1912, Carl Laemmle inaugurated the star system to showcase the actress Mary Pickford and the cinema became a real industry, setting up her center in Los Angeles. In the Belle Epoque , it is mostly a popular and uneducated public that is targeted, filmmakers are usually immigrants wanting to make a fortune by attracting many visitors to distract, so that the European Social Democracy, which aspires to spiritually elevate the masses, accuses the cinema of diverting lumpenproletariatreal problems. Still silent and sometimes endowed with a musical accompaniment, the cinema also had the advantage of being easily exportable and understood by all. At the beginning of the 1910s, however, the cinema pursued its ambition to address a more educated public, which would no longer reproduce on screen the skits that could once be found on stage. In order to attract this new audience, including women (previously, spectators were 75% male) and European (where theatrical culture was predominant), the cinema is moving towards large productions, adapting scenes from the Bible or literature,). Historian Eric Hobsbawm notes that at that time only, cinema becomes “a major, original and autonomous art” 84 .

The school of Laurie Dickson

The slow motion is a discovery of Edison’s team in 1894 , and not as it is often said, of the Austrian August Musger in 1904 . Indeed, if Louis Lumière has provided in his camera a possible setting of the closing area of ​​the shutter, that is to say a setting of the shutter speed and therefore also a setting of the duration of the shutter exposure of the film to light, the kinetograph does not have this convenience. The diaphragm built into the lens has not been invented yet. When the sun is particularly violent, Dickson and his assistant William Heiseincrease the speed of rotation of the Kinetograph motor, from 18 frames per second to 30 or even 40 frames per second, which shortens the exposure time of each frame of the film, and thus produces the same effect as a diaphragm that would close. But another effect is induced by this increase in the rate of shooting. At projection, the Kinetoscope delivers 18 frames per second and this speed can not be changed since the device is driven by an electric motor. For example, if one second of filmed life is spread over 36 photograms at the output of the kinetograph, this scene, projected half-way by the Kinetoscope (18 frames per second), will therefore be slowed down twice in rendering sound. movement. The acrobats filmed by Dickson so activate in a graceful slow motion that only the cinema knows how to render. Shooting shot at a rate lower than that of the projection, and which causes an acceleration, is called in Englishundercranking , the opposite, the shooting performed at a rate higher than that of the projection, and which causes a slow motion, is called in English overcranking .

After modifying the kinetograph and especially having made it autonomous by adopting the crank, Edison makes subjects shoot outdoors, and his operators report “films” (it’s Dickson who baptizes each bobbin containing a single subject) to compete with the others. “Views” of the Lumière brothers. Throughout the world, the various companies that exploit the production and projection of films copy each other, shamelessly. Each one turns his train passage, his exit of firemen, his rowers on the river, his diver (whose reverse is a real aesthetic shock), his babies eating their porridge, etc. The main thing is to sell more and more reels that can recover a hundred times the initial investment.

The school Louis Lumière

To vary the programs, and especially sell their films and Cinematograph (the device itself) rich individuals and fairgrounds, the Lumière brothers feed their funds by “animated photographic views” they rotate by operators sent in the whole world. The most famous of them, Gabriel Veyre , Alexandre Promio , Francis Doublier , Felix Mesguich record reels that have only one shot, one shot. Exceptionally, they stop “grind” (called the “crank-turners” 85), in order to save the precious Eastman film during a scene they consider longuette, and they resume a little later, creating two shots in the same reel which is then cut and re-glued by eliminating the overexposed photograms which correspond when the camera is stopped and restarted. Premisses of the assembly? Arguably not, since it is a simple repair 86 .

The team is always the same, composed of two operators. The reels are developed immediately to stop the chemical action started by their exposure to light from the lens. The team leaves with film and product bottles. System D: Developed by placing the reel in the developer poured into a hygienic bucket enamelled sheet, rinsed with clear water, fixed and finally we manage to suspend the celluloid snake so that it dries. To check the quality of his work, the Light operator draws a copy since the device allows it cleverly, by loading the original negative and a virgin film against each other, the two sides coated with photosensitive emulsion being in contact,87 .

The bad surprises are sometimes at the rendezvous. A team is threatened with death in Russia, the spectators believe that their machine is sent by the devil to resurrect the dead. They set fire to the projection room, destroying a Cinematograph 88 . In New York, Felix Mesguich is arrested by a policeman while filming in Central Park a snowball fight he provoked, on the pretext that he has no authorization, but mainly because he organized this illicit gathering. His assistant scoffed at the official of the order and recommended himself as a Frenchman. The two men are dragged to the district station and locked in a cell. We need the intervention of the French diplomatic mission to shoot away 85 .

There are also the joys of discovery. On October 25, 1896 , filming in Venice aboard a gondola sailing on the Grand Canal , Alexandre Promio discovers the principle of traveling , which Louis Lumière calls “Panorama Lumière”. “The success of the process was great; we took views of trains, funiculars, balloons, the elevator of the Eiffel Tower, etc. But the application of tracking shots among light operators is limited to documentary 89  ” .

To standardize the rate of shooting, the operators obey a Louis Lumière instruction: the Crank Cinematograph must be firmly operated to the rhythm of the military march Sambre et Meuse 90 . Disregarding this obligation, Francis Doublier made the first acceleratedof cinema in Spain, during a bullfight, when he realizes he will run out of film. It reduces the rate of shooting in half (9 frames per second) to double the duration of use of his reels. In projection, at the normal speed of shooting and projection (16 to 18 images per second), the movement is accelerated twice and it is necessary to slow down the rotation of the crank to obtain a roughly normal speed (at the risk to ignite the fragile celluloid that remains longer in the presence of the overheated light box) 91 . There is a slight acceleration that makes the toreador passes faster, which the filmmakers will later use in the action scenes.

It is during one of the many projections of the Grand Café that the operator who manipulates the Cinematograph, arrived at the end of the reel, has the idea of ​​rewinding the film without unloading the camera and without turning off the box. light; he mills the machine in the opposite direction of his usual rotation. The public is dumbfounded: on the screen, pedestrians walk backwards, vehicles roll backwards. This is the reverse , that we already got with the toys of precinema, and that Emile Reynaud was already using with her Optical Theater. A trick that will become a hallmark of cinema. The effect pleases the audience so much that Louis Lumière makes specific “views” turn, for the sole purpose of presenting them, first to the place, then backwards, in front of an astonished public. For example, Demolition of a wall , done in 1896 89 .

The school of Georges Méliès

For his part, Louis Lumière is not only the main designer of the Cinematograph, but in addition he trains all home operators because he himself is an outstanding photographer. Félix Mesguich tells in his memoirs that when he was hired, the Lyon industrialist warned him against any excesses of enthusiasm: “I do not offer you a job of the future, but rather a work of fairground. It will last a year or two, maybe more, maybe less. Cinema has no commercial future ” 85 . But in 1964 , in the book that Georges Sadoul devotes to the memory of Louis Lumière, the film historian reports that his interlocutor strongly contests the paternity of a prediction so unclear, and lends it to his father Antoine, who has since died long 92.

However, Georges Méliès , famous illusionist, attends one of the first screenings of the Grand Café. He imagines immediately how the projection of films could enrich his show at the Robert Houdin theater that he bought in 1888. He proposes at the end of the session to buy back for an astronomical sum (he is then fortunate) the patents that protect the Cinematograph. Antoine Lumière refuses with good nature and told him: “Young man, I do not want to ruin you, this device has only scientific value, it has no future in the show”. Who does one believe? Who pronounced this unfortunate word first? Antoine, Louis, Auguste? Did Antoine Lumière simply want to discourage a future competitor? Or were they all three convinced that cinema was just a straw? One thing is certain, in 1902, as soon as the problems of narrative construction and staging have to be addressed, Louis Lumière abandons the making of new films, whether documentary or fictional. Much later, in the evening of his life, Louis confided to the film historian Georges Sadoul: “To make films, as fashion had come then, it was not our business any more. I do not see myself in the current studios ” 92 .

After the polite refusal of Antoine Lumière, Georges Méliès does not admit defeat, this is not his genre. He turns to his English friends, Birt Acres and Robert William Paul, inventors of the Kinetic camera they have developed about the same dates as the Cinematographe Lumière. Robert William Paul has made a name for himself by making the counterfeits of Edison’s Kinetoscope in England. This time, he provides Méliès, in addition to one of his projection devices, the Animatograph, a single model camera, which Méliès calls the … Kinetograph (like the Edison-Dickson camera) 93 . It remains for the Frenchman to feed his camera with film. He managed to get to England a film stock Eastman 70 mmvirgin and embarks on two perilous technical operations that he leads himself, prestidigitation oblige! He tinkers a machine to cut the precious film in two 35 mmribbons . Then, with another machine of its manufacture, it creates a row of rectangular perforations on each edge of the film. His film is ready to be impressed.

But Georges Méliès, who is above all a music hall artist, does not realize that he has just committed a counterfeit perforation which Edison has filed international patents. It does not have, like the Light, prudent and experienced industrialists, adopted a film drive system by round perforations. He should have imagined a variant, different from both Edison perforations and those of the Light. There is no thought, especially since the pirate kinescope ( 35 mm filmsEdison perforators) have already invaded the French and European market, and that he wants his future films to be seen, since it is unthinkable that the Lumière brothers project competing films, let alone films in the format protected by Edison. The American industrialist learns that this unknown, this little Frenchman, Georges Méliès, has infringed the laws on the intellectual property of industrial copyright. But France is far from America, Edison can only give Méliès a fierce hatred.

When the French filmmaker, encouraged by the international success of his feature films, sends his brother to New York to open an office and distribute in the US the productions of his company Star Film , he finds himself facing Edison. And Thomas Edison will not miss this opportunity to recover the shortfall that the counterfeits of the Kinétoscope caused him and tax the counterfeiting of his perforations by Méliès. On the basis of the legislation for the protection of intellectual and industrial property, he had some of the copies of the Star Film, which had arrived on American soil, seized by the courts, thus paying himself “on the beast” because he could make project these copies legally for his benefit, unscrupulously adding them to his catalog.”It felt good resume: the Méliès film employed perforation he had invented 94 . ” The confiscation of law contributes to the failure of the Star Film in the United States, and greatly weakens society by Georges Méliès. But when Méliès went bankrupt, in 1923 , twenty years later, and was forced to sell his negatives by weight, the silver salts were recovered and celluloid melted for the manufacture of heels of godillots for the army (which is an irony of fate for the son of a footwear manufacturer), paradoxically it is the seized copies left in the United States that save from nothing the essence of the work of the French filmmaker.

Movie avatars, and new hope

May 4, 1897 , a catastrophe occurs in Paris, when the cinema loses a large part of its public gracious, because it is tragically struck by the fire of the Bazaar of Charity . More than one hundred and twenty victims, mostly women and children of the world, are burned alive in wooden decorations, fabrics and tarpaulins, trained to sell trinkets for the benefit of the poor. The fire takes from the movie projection booth, whose lantern runs on the ether. The flames spread to the crinoline long dresses of ladies and girls. Most of the men present escape shamefully, making their way with their canes and shoving women and children.

In France and abroad, the emotion is lively, projections are temporarily forbidden, but resume soon. However, in France, the public of the beautiful neighborhoods boycotts the cinema, invented since less than six years, in public projection for less than two years. Louis Lumiere (or Antoine, or Augustus) would he be right? In truth, the cinema conquers the fairs and continues to win followers among the jugglers, and the public in the popular classes. The industrialists provide the showmen with films and projection equipment under concession, then with the purchase, thus relieving all responsibility in case of disaster.

Leon Gaumont , a Belgian industrialist who sells equipment and supplies for photography, and who believed for a time in 60 mm format Georges Demen, soon offers a catalog of thriving film reels 35 mm 95 . He entrusts his secretary, Alice Guy , to direct the production of these films. Alice Guy is the first woman filmmaker in the world, she herself realizes hundreds of reels, including a Passion (of Jesus) that marks the arrival of religion on the market halls, and which has a scenario famous and tried: the way of the cross .

A newcomer arrives in the race for success: Charles Pathé , a French forain enriched by his film screenings, who decides to send operators around the world, following the example of Louis Lumière, to film typical scenes, always in the form of reels containing a single shot 95 . In a short time, with the help of his brother, his company, Pathé-Cinéma , became as powerful as the most important American production companies, be it Edison Studios or Vitagraph Company . Its triumphal emblem is the Gallic rooster , and is still today.

Birth of a language: the division into plans

From 1891 to 1900 , and even a few years later, the films always present themselves in the same light: a film reel 35 mm to 20 meters at most ( 65 feet ), on which is impressed a single shot having a single framing (a shot), which, in projection, lasts less than a minute.

Exceptionally, a second shot follows, usually with the same frame, a continuation of the “view” main. After the revelation of the “Latham loop” and the adaptation of the process to all the machines, the showmen who project the reels take the habit of sticking several of them to one end of the other, with a little bit of ‘ acetone , to avoid multiple stops for recharging their machine. This wild butt does not go unnoticed by the creators, who see an opportunity to increase the length of their films and lead a longer story.

This is how Georges Méliès understands that he can build his shows of animated photographic views into several “tableaux” (that’s the name he gives them, coming straight from the music hall) pasted end to end. a single bobbin. The duration of the film then changes from less than a minute to several minutes.

But it would be wrong to see in this end to end of paintings or scenes, the birth of editing, because its users design this end to end as a simple succession of reels. Moreover, Méliès does not miss, in the shooting, to begin systematically each “painting” by a fade of opening and to finish it by a closing fade. A process imitated on that of projections with two magic lanterns working alternately, which prefigure the current slide shows. This is what Méliès calls a “change in view”, as if the fades surround each issue of a show, which invisible machinists would change the scenery in a split second.

The Brighton School and Its Followers

Main article: Brighton School .

It is the English filmmakers who first discover the virtues of cutting into shots and its corollary, editing. The historian George Sadoul groups them under the name of “the school of Brighton  “, and reserves to the most inventive of them a hat trick deserved:

“In 1900, George Albert Smith was still with James Williamson at the forefront of film art 96 . “

In their Grammar of the cinema , Marie-France Briselance and Jean-Claude Morin do not hesitate to declare: “While William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, William Heise, Louis Lumière, Alexander Promio, Alice Guy, George Méliès, in short, the inventors of the primitive cinema, do not depart from the habit, both photographic and scenic, shooting a single shot to film a single action in one place, George Albert Smith, he describes a single action taking place in one same location, using several shots that are linked together by visual logic alone. What will be called later the technical division, the division into planes of the space and the time to be filmed 97 . ”

Directed by George Albert Smith in 1900 , Grandma’s Magnifying Glass is one of those works that shook up cinema (as Dollie’s Adventures , or Citizen Kane , or Breathless , will do later). Mulholland Drive ). This twenty-minute film about very thin, as is customary to conceive them at the time: a child uses the magnifying glass of his grandmother to observe around him, George Albert Smith takes again what he has already tried in What we see in a telescope ( As Seen Through a Telescope): it alternates two kinds of shots. A main and wide framing shows the boy in the company of his grandmother, busy darning. The boy takes the magnifying glass and directs it first to a watch, which is then seen in close-upthrough a round cut in the shape of a magnifying glass. The young boy searches around him, and points his magnifying glass at a bird in a cage. Close up of the bird through the cutout. The child then directs the magnifying glass to his grandma. A very close-up rather funny picture shows the right eye of the grandmother, who turns in all directions, always seen through a round cut. The grandson sees his grandmother’s kitten hidden in his sewing basket. Closeup of the kitten through the magnifying glass. The kitten leaps out of the basket, the grandmother stop there the game of her grandson. This succession of shots, linked by the same story, inaugurates the division into shots of a movie film, what is today called technical cutting, or more simply cutting. And its logical continuation, which is the montage of these elements filmed separately,98 . The discovery is important, fundamental. Georges Sadoul recalls with finesse that George Albert Smith knew the images of Épinal and their equivalents, for having projected them on glass with a magic lantern, namely The Facies of the Sapper Camember ( 1890 – 1896 ), the comic strip of Georges Colomb, aka ”  Christophe  “, where the “vignettes” drawn present changes of axis of vision. As a bonus, this film invents the subjective plan , since each close-up seen through the magnifying glass, is a subjective plan that borrows the gaze of the boy. In our time, this division into plans seems easy and obvious, almost banal. But in 1900it’s a revolution! Georges Sadoul, who speaks of “revolutionary style” , insists: “This type of account, typically film, seems to have been unknown in 1900, out of England 96 . ” In 1903 , George Albert Smith added cutting and subjectively another discovery: the temporal ellipse with The Misadventures of Mary Jane .

We must return to the various close-ups of Grandma’s Magnifier , prefigured by the close-up of Vu with the help of a telescope . At the time, no filmmaker uses this kind of framing. Dickson has already shot some of his films in Close-up (Chest Plan), and in the American Plan, but he has never tightened his framing as tightly. A watch, a bird, a kitten, and especially the eye of the grandmother, as filmed George Albert Smith, are part of the most tight frames of primitive cinema. In turn, in 1901 , James Williamson has fun with a range of all framings, unexpected and once again funny , in The Extraordinary Mouthpiece ( The Big Swallowwhere he does not hesitate to show us the operator and his camera. The character he films looks straight into the lens of the camera and gets closer to her talking aggressively, obviously refusing to be filmed. It exceeds the limit of closeup and soon we see, huge, only his mouth that pretends to swallow the camera. In the gaping hole that opens, an operator and his camera, seen from behind, tilt over the precipice of the throat. The character of the ogre seems to spit the lens then and we see his face again close up. He chews fiercely and finally bursts into laughter insane 99 . This English-style joke is a foot-to-nose with a single-footed framing still used by filmmakers all over the world, with the exception of Brighton!

George Albert Smith ( What we see in a telescope ), James Williamson ( Attack on a mission in China , Fire! ), William Haggar ( Fighting two poachers ), Frank Mottershaw ( Bold burglary in broad daylight ), Lewin Fitzhamon ( Saved by Rover ) systematically use this way of filming which differentiates them for a time from their European or American competitors 100 , 101 . English filmmakers launch  Chase Films Outdoor pursuit films, which are so successful that most filmmakers around the world are gradually going to adopt the filmed action plan division, and the use of alternate editing, which provide quick action, at the same time. nervous succession that pleases the public. Ferdinand Zecca in France ( A romance under a tunnel , Through the keyhole ), and especially Edwin Stanton Porter in the United States ( The Great Train Robbery , The Life of an American firefighter ), compete with the English on their own ground .

George Méliès, he does not understand the essential contribution to the cinema of his good friends of Brighton, and The Voyage in the Moon that he realizes in 1902 is there again, in spite of his numerous humorous inventions, a succession of paintings in the manner music hall for almost 13 minutes. Georges Sadoul, citing Méliès’ latest great production, Conquers the Pole , recalls that “the film is almost contemporary with the Italian Cabiria , the best Max Linder , Chaplin’sdebut , the first big DW Griffith , which he seems separated by entire centuries 102 . “This reserve makes it possible to affirm that Georges Méliès is not, contrary to what is often said, the inventor of the fiction, whereas his technical contribution, as illusionist, is considerable, in particular with the stop of camera, a a process that he repeated to William Heise and Alfred Clark of the Edison team who shot The Execution of Mary, Queen of the Scots in 1895 .

“The actress who plays Mary Stuart kneels in front of the executioner and puts her head on the block. The executioner raises his ax. At this moment, William Heise orders everyone to stop, the extras who attend the execution, the executioner, the queen are frozen in their current position. The operator then stops the Kinetic and avoids accidentally moving the device. The actress is replaced by a model wearing the same dress and equipped with a removable headpiece. The operator puts his machine in motion. The ax falls down, the false head rolls on the ground, the executioner picks it up and shows it to the public. Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, died 103 . “

But while William Heise only once used this “thing” elementary (still had to find out!), Georges Méliès, him, after a first successful attempt in 1896 ( Escamotage of a lady at the Robert Theater- Houdin), declines the camera stop on dozens of films. The exception, as they say, always confirming the rule, it would be unfair not to report the fiction that gives in 1899 Georges Méliès on The Dreyfus Affair , a serious film (Méliès is a dreyfusard), where the filmmaker constructs several of his shots in a very modern way, in the manner of the Brighton school (moving comedians diagonally, or deep close to the camera), which is a happy exception in the work of the French master, who uses this mode of film narrative only once. In this, The Dreyfus Affair can be considered his masterpiece 104 .

The decisive contribution of Griffith

In 1908 , David Wark Griffith , an American autodidact who began his film career starring in the film Sauvé from the Eagle’s Nest (duration: 7 minutes), directed by Edwin Stanton Porter , for which he agreed to improviser stuntman , is then entrusted with the making of a 13-minute film, The Adventures of Dollie . The discoveries of George Albert Smith, and more generally the English school of Brighton, have opened to filmmakers a huge creative space, hence the duration of films cut into shots is between 10 and 13 minutes, that is to say a film reel 35 mm of 300 meters. We then say of a movie that it makes 1 reel or 2. Dollie’s Adventuresis a movie of a reel. The subject is simple: the girl of a well-off couple is kidnapped by a couple of “Travelers”, who wants revenge for their haughty behavior. The father sets off in pursuit of the kidnappers and catches them, but does not find in their trailer any trace of his child. The kidnappers locked Dollie in a wooden barrel. By passing a ford, the caravan lets out the barrel that floats on the water. The providential current brings back the barrel, and the little girl, in front of the parents’ house. DW Griffith accepts this subject, which seems difficult to realize, because of the different places and the simultaneity of the actions, because he understands – and this without any previous experience, he saw only a lot of films and knows the films of the ‘ English school in Brighton – how to deal with this kind of parallel action. Which is not obvious in1908 .

In 1903 , his master, Edwin Stanton Porter, trying to solve the same problem in the film produced by the Edison Company, The Life of an American Fireman ( Life of an American Fireman ) show how, during a fire, the anguished waiting of the victims trapped inside the building in flames, and the departure and the race of the firemen, the barracks at the place of the disaster, followed by the installation of the scales and the lances with water, and the intervention on fire, finally the rescue. Porter did not know how to solve this problem. At the time, nobody knows how to build this figure of the filmic language, which today has become the abc of cinema.

No one except James Williamson from the Brighton School , who in 1901 made a Fire , inspired by Edwin Stanton Porter. But James Williamson understands how he can alternately show what’s going on in the burning apartment, and what’s going on outside, with the firefighters leaving and arriving, then their intervention at the place of the fire, and he uses for this what he discovered a year ago with his Attack on a Chinese Mission  : the field / backscreen .

Edwin Stanton Porter first filmed a firefighter who was dozing and awoke with a start. A round vignette shows next to him the premonitory dream he had: a mother and her little girl who is praying. This is the first flashforward of the cinema 105. The fact that this dream does not show a beginning of fire, but a prayer, is supposed to make the spectator think that a danger is waiting for the characters. The fireman gives the alarm, then follow several plans: firefighters come out of their bedstead, let themselves slide on their emergency tube to the garage, the horses are hitched to cars, in the streets several shots teams hit the gallop . Next, Porter films in a single seamless shot, inside the building, in the room where the mother and her daughter are, who are desperate, intoxicated by the fumes, unable to go out because the flames have invaded the corridor. The mother faints. Always in the same plane, a firefighter appears behind the window that he breaks with an ax, carries the mother on the ladder, returns,

Then, and only then, Porter films the outside of the building in a single plane that takes exactly the same action, repeating it: the fumes come out, the firemen arrive, draw up the ladder while they put the water lances in action . A fireman climbs the ladder, breaks the window, enters the room, and comes out, carrying the young woman on the shoulders. He goes down the ladder, places the young woman on the ground, who then cries out in despair, gesturing at the broken window. The fireman goes up again immediately, disappears into the room, returns with the girl in his arms, goes down the ladder, gives the child to his mother. All in a single shot, without cut, so without daring to mix by an alternating montage the two shots, the inside and the outside 106. In the beginnings of cinema, in 1903 , this mixture of interior (studio decor) and exterior (real building) is still unthinkable, except for the English at the School of Brighton.

In 1905, in his 24-minute film, Journey Through the Impossible , Georges Méliès gives us the same configuration of two paintings: the arrival of a train station and the descent of travelers. st  table inside the car, the landscape – saw through the window – stops scrolling, travelers open the doors and down on the platform. e  table “outside” on the platform, the train stops (from the side, as if Méliès did not understand the benefits of the frame diagonally used by Louis Lumière for The Arrival of a train station in La Ciotat ), the doors open, and we see down passengers 107. This repetition of action seems absurd today, but at the time it was the alternating arrangements of the Brighton school that seemed surprising, even illogical …

Yet that’s what DW Griffith tries and succeeds in his first film, The Adventures of Dollie. He mixes the shots that show the reunited family, playing badminton, with the gypsy couple’s shots in their encampment, the man coming back from his humiliating confrontation with the husband who hit him and swearing at his campaign that he’s going get revenge. Then the man goes back to the family’s house, takes advantage of the fact that the girl is alone, seizes her by preventing her from screaming and carries her away. He arrives at the camp and shows the girl to her companion who is upset, and who, for this reason, receives punishment from his companion. In front of the house, the family notices the disappearance of the girl and the husband goes out looking for it with neighbors. At the camp, the man hides Dollie in a barrel he closes. The father and the neighbors tumble, furious, and jostling the couple, looking everywhere without thinking of opening the barrel. They can only withdraw empty-handed, leaving free the couple of kidnappers who leave the camp immediately. The trailer goes off at a gallop and crosses a river, the barrel is detached, it is driven by the current. In their garden, the well-off couple are despairing because their research has not yielded anything. Several shots then show the barrel moving on the course of the river, crossing a small waterfall. In front of the house, a big fishing boy, who sees the barrel stop in the grass bordering the river. He calls the father, who suddenly strains his ear to the barrel, which makes him think he hears cries. He opens the barrel and releases the little Dollie. The family is finally reunited in joy. The trailer goes off at a gallop and crosses a river, the barrel is detached, it is driven by the current. In their garden, the well-off couple are despairing because their research has not yielded anything. Several shots then show the barrel moving on the course of the river, crossing a small waterfall. In front of the house, a big fishing boy, who sees the barrel stop in the grass bordering the river. He calls the father, who suddenly strains his ear to the barrel, which makes him think he hears cries. He opens the barrel and releases the little Dollie. The family is finally reunited in joy. The trailer goes off at a gallop and crosses a river, the barrel is detached, it is driven by the current. In their garden, the well-off couple are despairing because their research has not yielded anything. Several shots then show the barrel moving on the course of the river, crossing a small waterfall. In front of the house, a big fishing boy, who sees the barrel stop in the grass bordering the river. He calls the father, who suddenly strains his ear to the barrel, which makes him think he hears cries. He opens the barrel and releases the little Dollie. The family is finally reunited in joy. Several shots then show the barrel moving on the course of the river, crossing a small waterfall. In front of the house, a big fishing boy, who sees the barrel stop in the grass bordering the river. He calls the father, who suddenly strains his ear to the barrel, which makes him think he hears cries. He opens the barrel and releases the little Dollie. The family is finally reunited in joy. Several shots then show the barrel moving on the course of the river, crossing a small waterfall. In front of the house, a big fishing boy, who sees the barrel stop in the grass bordering the river. He calls the father, who suddenly strains his ear to the barrel, which makes him think he hears cries. He opens the barrel and releases the little Dollie. The family is finally reunited in joy.

This cutting is actually inspired by the novelistic technique. Although never having attended university, Griffith is cultivated. Among the trades that made him live, there is that of bookseller; like Edison, he read a lot. He knows that the novelist constantly uses his gift of ubiquity to parallel two or more actions that take place at the same time. Griffith thinks that cutting into shots allows the same way to move from an action in a set, to another simultaneous action taking place in a different setting but part of the same story, with the possibility of going and to go back to one or the other decor, to go from one action to another, what one will call the parallel assembly, which is not an effect found in editing since this dichotomy is already provided in writing in the technical breakdown that follows the writing of the scenario, so before shooting. It is this possibility of cutting into sequences , and no longer into views, into tables or scenes, which henceforth allows the filmmakers to deal with increasingly lengthy and complex narratives, setting in motion many characters in various situations, related by the same story 108 .

This is not without difficulty or opposition from the leaders of the Biograph Company, who complain about the daring of the filmmaker, as told by his wife, Linda Arvidson, the actress who played the role of Dollie’s mother … They protest: “How can one expose a subject by making such leaps? Nobody understands anything! “. And Griffith explains: “Does not Dickens write this way? “. The producers laugh out loud, “Yes, but it’s Dickens, he’s writing novels, he’s quite different! “. And Griffith affirms: “The difference is not so great, I make novels in films” 109 . Moreover, the leaders of the Biograph Company are convinced that The Adventures of Dollieis going to be a failure at its release. In fact, the audience “walks” and enthusiastically welcomes this film which is an unexpected success. And fortunately, as Billy Bitzer writes in his memoirs , “because, thanks to Griffith, the films were better, and since his new techniques drove up sales of the Biograph, in the end our friends bureaucrats stopped griping ” 110 .

Casually, this “little film” Griffith has opened the way for feature films. The cinema is engulfed there and the long films (4 to 6 reels, and more) multiply, bringing a new breath to the cinematographic spectacle whose attendance increases considerably before the war of 1914-1918 , and resumes of more beautiful after the armistice.

Advent of the sound cinema

Music and noises in silent cinema

In 1892 , Reynaud accompanied the projections of his Optical Theater by a pianist, Gaston Paulin, who composed, for each band, an original music. One can say that these are the first BO ( soundtracks ) film. Reynaud understands that his luminous Pantomimes see their evocative strength boosted by their marriage to music, which also ensures a sound continuum covering the sound of scrolling band images. Today, the composer of the soundtrack of a film is considered, in terms of copyrightrelating to the projection and diffusion by domestic support of the films, as one of the authors of the film, with the director (who is most often credited as the only author), the scriptwriter, and possibly the dialogist. Reynaud is thus a precursor, not only for screenings on the big screen but also for the musical and sound environment of projections, before Edison and Dickson, and well before the Lumière brothers. Of course, the composer Gaston Paulin is present in the hall to play each time his written score (the Optical Theater will never leave the Musée Grévin). A sounder attends the sessions. Music and sound effects do not appear on the media, but none the less exist. Same for the film screenings 35 mmon a photographic support, an instrumentalist (a pianist is the basic accompaniment) or several instrumentalists, or even a small formation of chamber music in the cinemas of the beautiful neighborhoods, improvise during the first screenings then resume the effects achieved during the other sessions . Sheet music is sold or rented with the films, so that the showmen can accompany the sessions effectively, including a list of the necessary accessories for the sound effects.

Thus, the silent cinema never took place in silence. Not only is the music present, the noises are there at the right time, but in addition the showmen improvise an explanatory support of the story, read aloud by a huckster who does not fail to add funny remarks or coarse, to so much so that large corporations choose to provide, in addition to the musical proposal, a written proposal for commentary to be read during screenings. As early as 1894, encouraged by Edison whose idea it is, Laurie Dickson succeeds the first test of sound film. Once again, he is the star, he is filmed interpreting – badly – a little tune on the violin. The microphone does not exist yet, Dickson plays in front of a huge funnel that leads the sound to a Phonograph engraving a wax disc. Then, it is another Phonograph, hidden in the flanks of the Kinetoscope, which starts reading the wax slab engraved as soon as the image begins to move. Unfortunately, with such a device, the offsets of sound and image are inevitable.

The same goes for Leon Gaumont’s Chronophone , engraved wax and projection on the big screen, essays that do not go beyond the stage of curiosity and do not raise at any moment the enthusiasm of the public, but which allowed many songs of us to reach today with the voice and the image of their interpreters: Felix Mayol , Dranem , Polin . These bands, called phonoscenes, were initiated by director and producer Alice Guy .

But producers quickly understand the benefits they can derive from a sound accompaniment commissioned from a famous composer, whose name would be just as attractive as that of a great comedian. Camille Saint-Saëns wrote a score (now listed under the title Opus 128 for strings, piano and harmonium ) to accompany the film The Assassination of the Duke of Guise in 1908 . For his part, Igor Stravinsky , approached, is neglectful film music as just “wallpaper” 111 . On the other hand, Arthur Honegger agrees to compose for the film The Wheel made byAbel Gance in 1923 , a book he named after the star locomotive of the film: Pacific 231 , which is now part of the classical symphonic repertoire.

The Vitaphone, Synchronous Film and Disk

“It was not until 1924 that the Western Electric Company , in collaboration with Bell Telephone Laboratories, developed in the United States a sound synchronization system, the Vitaphone , which uses this process of the engraved disc. Western Electric engineers equipped the projection apparatus and phonograph with synchronous electric motors that drive the two machines at the same speed 112 . “

This time, the synchronization of the sound with the image is perfect from the beginning to the end. But the reluctance of the showmen are great, their experience of the discs coupled with the movies left them bad memories, interrupted projections, laughter or boos of the public, the passive is heavy. Western Electric is thinking of giving up, but an unexpected opportunity arises in 1926 . Four brothers, former showmen who have for several years organized traveling screenings, buy a theater in Manhattan and equip it with the process Vitaphone, committing their last dollars in a bet that seems, in the eyes of their contemporaries, lost of advanced. The Warner brothers produce a three-hour film, Don Juan, with the star of the time, John Barrymore , whom they still have under contract. The film includes some rare recorded dialogues, but above all, a whole bunch of known classical music, arranged to give them an air of continuity. We can say that this film is the first successful experience of sound cinema (recorded images and sounds). The drive torque etched film 35 mm works without incident. The audience of the screen-haves who are in the film reserve an excellent reception, but Don Juan does not pay for it, the places being too expensive to drain the popular public who besides, at the time, search for other musics .

According to a good business principle, the Warner brothers believe that it is a necessary investment, which aims to demonstrate the reliability of the Vitaphone system, and they persevere. They then have the idea to film a singer of the most popular cabaret, Al Jolson , a White Grim in Black. They shoot A scene in the plantation , a movie of a single reel. The popular audience is enthusiastic, not only does Al Jolson sing the blues 113 , but in addition he speaks looking at the lens of the camera, he addresses the delighted audience, as in a live show. We are lined up to attend the sessions. The Warners are eager to redouble their coup, this time by producing in 1927a feature film of one hour and a half, the famous film The Jazz Singerwhich is a huge success. This is the first talking movie.

”  The Jazz Singer was a silent film in which were inserted some talking or singing numbers. The first film “One hundred percent speaking” (to use the language of the time): Lights of New York , was produced in 1929 only 114 . “

Indeed, none of the many dialogues of the film The Jazz Singer is recorded, the replicas between the actors are all written on cartons of intertitles, according to the tradition of silent cinema. Only Al Jolson’s songs and the sentences he utters between two verses are actually recorded. This film should be considered rather as one of the first singing movies (after Don Juan and A scene in the plantation ). One thing is certain: it is a triumph that ultimately condemns silent film (which is not yet called), and immediately makes Warner Bros. Pictures one of the pillars of the Hollywood industry.

Invention of the optical track

With these successes, the Vitaphone system, disc and film, is spreading in all movie theaters and in the fairgrounds. But already, the technique is making a leap forward: the Fox Film Corporation inaugurates a photographic process, the Movietone sound , where a conductive wire stretched between the two branches of a magnet, deviates when the current passes from a microphone (a very recent invention). A thin brush of light is directed on the wire, distorted by the electrical impulses of the microphone. The light pipe and concentrated by a microscope objective type impresses the edge of a photosensitive film 35 mm, drawing a sound called “variable density” (white, black and gray scale), whose quality fades unfortunately through projections. What is now called the “optical track” is interposed between one of the rows of perforations and the edge of the photograms, trimming part of the image. Radio Corporation of America (RCA) launches a technique with the best sound output, called “fixed density” (white and black only), where the wire is replaced by the oscillating mirror of a galvanometer, which returns, always via of an objective, the bursts of light in the direction of the photosensitive film.

At once, films with the Vitaphone system are transcribed on sound track film. The photograms of the silent films are 18 mm high and 24 mm wide, in a 3 x 4 aesthetic ratio , ie 1 x 1.3333 . The new sound film, with its optical path of 2.5 mm provides an image of 18 mm high and 21.2 mm wide, giving it a new height / width ratio of 1 x 1.1777 , close enough to the square image ( 1 x 1 ), farther from the famous golden number , “the divine proportion” of theRenaissance , that is: 1 x 1,6180 , an ideal proportion determined since Greek antiquity for the graphic and architectural arts.

Obligations of sound, oppositions and curses

In May 1928, Paramount, MGM, Universal, United Artists studios and some smaller as Hal Roach sign the agreement that paves the way for the spread of talking on her optic 115 . Two years later, in 1930 , sound cinema is everywhere, but it meets with two kinds of opposition. The most important in the United States is the fear of losing non-English markets, including the British market, for which the American accent is a subject of mockery. Several solutions are imagined, such as shooting the same film, with the same sets, but with different actors depending on the language. Solution, we understand, difficult to implement. Laurel and Hardychoose a shortcut and turn themselves French and German versions of their films 116 . The other reason is aesthetic. “One hundred percent talking” movies are nicknamed the ” talkies  ” in the United States,  a word with a pejorative connotation, as the door seems wide open to gossip for chatter, a return to theater aesthetics in that she is less original. More importantly, some of the big names in world cinema, Chaplin , René Clair , Murnau , Eisenstein, and many others whose films have the favor of the public, do not hesitate to make incendiary statements that condemn the film without appeal. For them, the silent film, equipped with its intertitles cartons, has reached a degree of perfection in the aesthetics of the story, that the success of talkies may negate rejecting the language of the image in the background 117 . So when he turns in 1936 Modern TimesChaplin sulks at the speaker, while using the music and sounds in this sound movie. A few rare words are here and there, but the film is not speaking. And when the character still has to make his voice heard (he has to sing a song in a cabaret to make a living), he providentially loses his antiseches where the words are written (the headlines of his shirt), and he has to improvise – and invent – an unknown language, that only the mimics of the character make understandable. It’s a funny sneaky walkie talkie .

The demand for talking films is profoundly changing the film industry. To achieve good sound, studios are now governed by the obligation of silence. Silence is turned ! Outdoor shooting poses the problem of ambient noise (trains, factories, cars, and planes). Filmmakers seek places far from cities, or reconstruct nature in the studio. When the cinema was silent, the sets were profitable by the possibility of shooting several films at the same time. The tumultuous mixture of dialogues played on each set , the orders and technical instructions issued between members of the same team, the hubbub of visits from the curious, all this is no longer possible from now on. Studios reserved for talkiessee their walls and their roof soundproofed. Each tray can only receive one shoot, which increases production costs. In the beginning, the cameras, whose rattling is not welcome for the followers of a new profession, the sound engineer , are first locked up in glazed and soundproofed cells, where are also cloistered the operators who film through a window. In order for them to regain some of their mobility, the cameras are soon equipped with a heavy felt-lined aluminum casing inside which they are installed (called a ”  blimp  “, the camera is said to be “blimped” “).

The advent of the talking cinema interrupts the career of comedians, stars, with the unpleasant voice. This is the case of John Gilbert , a partner of Greta Garbo , whose high-pitched voice irresistibly leads to decline in his first speaking roles 118 . His life inspired the film The Artist by Michel Hazanavicius , in 2011 and uses the technical means available to the cinema before the arrival of talking. Conversely, other stars of the dumb know how to rebound, such Ramón Novarro who is long in the poster thanks to a beautiful tone of voice and his talents as a singer. The movie Let’s sing in the rain illustrates in 1952, with a lot of talent and humor, the pangs of the arrival of the speaking.

Over the decades of cinema’s existence, the recording and reproduction of sound will go through several stages of technical improvements:

  • Stereophonic sound;
  • Magnetic sound;
  • Noise reducers;
  • Digital sound.

The improved standard format

In 2004, the latest versions of the standard 35mm film before its scheduled demise in favor of digital hard drives, made it a complex support. Beyond the perforations , on both sides of the film in light blue, are the two sound tracks SDDS , digital optical tracks. The Dolby Digitalis grouped in separate gray squares (numerical blocks) between the perforations (a “double D”, the Dolby logo, can be detected in the center of each space between two perforations), which are read by a digital system installed on the device projection, which reads each block one after the other. On the inside left side of the perforations is the two-channel optical sound track, coded according to the Dolby SR noise reduction method , which can be divided into four Dolby Pro Logic channels . The frame illustration anamorphic visited projection through a désanamorphoseur goal in a ratio of2.39: 1.

Contribution of color

First colorful experiments

Émile Reynaud is the first to use color for his luminous Pantomimes, shown at the Musée Grévin in 1892 . Image by image, he draws by hand and applies his aniline hues directly onto squares of gelatin 70 mm wide placed end to end, protected by a layer of shellac , which makes him the inventor the cartoon . In 1906 , the American James Stuart Blacktonregisters on silver film 35 mm , like a camera, frame after frame, thanks to what is called “crank”, a”Process (which) was called in France” American movement “. It was still unknown in Europe 119 . ” , A film for the Vitagraph Company , which is the first animated film-based cartoon of the history of cinema, Humorous Phases of Funny Faces , where we see, drawn in white with chalk on a black background, a young couple with soft eyes, then aging, ugly, the husband smokes a big cigar and suffocating his grimacing wife who disappears in a cloud of smoke, the hand of the host then erases everything. The credits themselves are animated. It’s funny, but the color is still missing.

In 1908 , the Frenchman Emile Cohl , inspired by the work of Blackton, film, image by image, his drawings drawn in Indian ink on sheets of white paper, which represent characters or forms in the different phases of their movements. trips. He then establishes a counter-type of the negative film , which reverses the values ​​and is then used to make the copies: the white background becomes black, and the black drawing becomes white (without recourse to chalkboard or chalk). It is Fantasmagorie which inaugurates Émile Cohl’s prolific career of animator. But by adopting this technique, Emile Cohl must give up the color at the same time, since the film is still in black and white.

The use of drawing directly applied to the medium, in the manner of Émile Reynaud, returns several times in the subsequent research of filmmakers, some of whom make it an almost specialty. This is the case of Quebecois Norman McLaren who, from 1933 to the 1980s, experiences various techniques, including the drawings obtained by direct scratching of the photosensitive layer of the film, and the use of paints deposited directly on the film support. These colored bands are then copied continuously (without a shutter bar) onto a normal color film. Norman Mc Laren also innovates by drawing soundtracks which take up the characteristic ripples of optical sound tracks, directly drawn on the film support in all its width. The sound obtained by reducing the drawing to the scale of a standard optical sound track accompanies its own image. We see and hear the sound.

In 1894 , one of the strips produced by Thomas Edison, filmed by Laurie Dickson, is then hand-colored (aniline dye), image by image, by Antonia Dickson, the sister of the first film director. This is Serpentine Dance (French Butterfly Dance  !), A very short 20-second band, where the dancer Annabelle twirls with lacy effects in the manner of Loïe Fuller . The effect is still very successful today. This is the first appearance of color applied to animated photographic shooting.

The contribution of the color passes in the first decades of the cinema by two solutions:

  • The first is cheap, and its appeal limited but recognized. It is the dyeing in the mass of each copy of projection, by immersion in a transparent dye bath which gives each one a particular light. A reel showing a swim in the sea is tinted green. A forge or fire scene is similarly tinted in red. The blue is used for regattas on the water, the yellow accompanies the views of the desert … Georges Méliès uses this economic process to tint each of the reels which he does an end to end, highlighting the different “tables” of his comedies.
  • The second is the coloring by hand of each of the photograms, using a stencil coated with ink. This technique, which requires the reinforcement of many “little hands”, is much more expensive, but the spectacular effect is guaranteed. Georges Méliès is not the only one to use it. The Pathé, Gaumont, and of course Edison productions, set up workshops in which dozens of women dare to color themselves with a brush, with a manual stencil, then with a mechanical model system that draws, via a parallelogram or cams, one or more stencils.

The colorization process is a line work where each color is applied by a post that is exclusively allocated to it. This technique is used nowadays for the colorization of Black and White films, which allows them a second life, either indoors or on television, or in domestic formats, cassettes, DVDs, Blu-Ray, but small hands are now replaced by artificial intelligence.

After discovering the cut-up in shots and many other fundamental innovations of the cinema, the British George Albert Smith is not interested in the realization. In 1904 , he acquired a taste for pure research by developing with the financial support of the American Charles Urban a film process giving the illusion of color on black and white film, Kinemacolor whose first film, A dream in color , date 1911. This process requires a specific camera and projection apparatus. The rotating shutter that masks the movement of the film is provided with a red-orange filter in one of the open areas that allow the printing or projection of photograms, and a blue-green filter in the second sector open. The colorization affects the shooting (always in black and white) by changing the gray values ​​by a phenomenon close to the iridescence, the changes taking place for each of the filters, one image out of two. In projection, the same filters color the gray values ​​by the same phenomenon. The films look good in color, but the disadvantages of Kinemacolor are many: blue and white are poorly or poorly rendered, the colors are a little pasty. And especially, the process requires the investment of equipment that works exclusively for Kinemacolor. In addition, so that the alternating passage, from a blue-green filtered image to the next image filtered in orange-red, does not cause an unpleasant blinking to the eye, the speed of shooting and projection is increased to 32 frames per second and is greedy film. After some two hundred and fifty films, the Kinemacolor is abandoned for economic reasons, just before the war. the speed of shooting and projection is increased to 32 images per second and is greedy film. After some two hundred and fifty films, the Kinemacolor is abandoned for economic reasons, just before the war. the speed of shooting and projection is increased to 32 images per second and is greedy film. After some two hundred and fifty films, the Kinemacolor is abandoned for economic reasons, just before the war.1914-1918 .

The appearance of Technicolor

  • The first film of Technicolor company dates from 1917 , The Gulf Between 120 . This film is shot using a single-film process (alternating different filters every other image, 32 frames per second speed) that looks like George Albert Smith’s Kinemacolor , to say the least. is a counterfeit. The Gulf Between is considered lost, except for a few frames. The process used is abandoned.
  • Immediately after, in 1922 , Technicolor released a new process with two superimposed films, rotating at the normal speed of the time, 16 frames per second. The Toll of the Sea is the first film shot with this process. Others will follow, among them The Ten Commandments , the first version of Cecil B. DeMille , The King of Kings of the same Cecil B. DeMille, but also the first version of The Phantom of the Opera , that also of Ben Hur ( with Ramón Novarro in the title role), and The Black Pirate (with Douglas Fairbanks ), all very popular hits that will later be remakes.
  • Finally, in 1928 , the three-film process was developed and gave the first film of the process Technicolor trichrome: The Viking , directed by Roy William Neill.

The trichromatic process also uses the only available film, the black and white film. The shooting is done with a heavy camera with impressive dimensions (especially when it is equipped with its soundproof blimp ), which scrolls at the same time three synchronized black and white film. Behind the lens, a double prism lets pass in a straight line the filtered green image that impresses one of the dandruff. By a first filtering, the same double prism deviates the beam of red and blue on a packtwo films that run against each other. The first is devoid of the anti-halo layer that usually “closes” the back of the film, the image can cross but the way impresses the blue, while it impresses below the other film filtered red. The shooting thus provides three negatives in black and white, which represent the matrices of each fundamental color by their complement (the yellow given by the blue monochrome, the magenta red given by the green monochrome, the blue-green given by the monochrome red). The printing of the copies functions according to the principle and the technique of the trichromie of the printing, with the same possibilities to regulate the intensity of each color. The impression is made by contact with the reliefs of the gelatin of each matrix, previously hardened,121 .

Very quickly, it appears the need to add a fourth impression, a neutral gray whose matrix is ​​obtained by the photographic superposition of the three matrices of the shooting, in order to emphasize the outline of the forms which thus take more body. But the direct process of shooting is particularly expensive because of the simultaneous running of three films used at each take of each plane. However, duplicates are intended in principle, for the best: the conservation of a security in case of deterioration of the original, for others: recycling. This recycling appears as a useless waste of money. A solution is found by the development of Eastmancolor , a “monopack” film whose creation process must be specified.

In the 1930s , Germany , under the boot of the National Socialist Party , developed a propaganda cinema endowed with enormous financial means. The search for a color film process, using a single lightweight medium that would promote documentary shooting (for political purposes), is conducted hastily. The Agfacolor process , originally invented for the photography on glass plates, is then declined on flexible film, first in reversible film(the film undergoes two successive treatments – development, and then veiling – which make it pass from the negative stage to the positive stage), then in negative (then requiring separate positive copies). The process comprises on the same support three superimposed sensitive layers, the first sensitive to blue, the second sensitive to green – separated from the first by a yellow filter layer – and the third sensitive to red. In the years 1935 to 1943 , Nazi documentaries were shot for many of them in color. After the war, these colored films will be considered lost, but will be found in the 1990s , after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet bloc. They had been confiscated as war catches.

In 1945 , after the defeat of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis , the Allies and Soviets seized German technological discoveries, and brought back behind their borders, among other processes and techniques, those of the colored film. In the United States, the subtractive process of Agfacolor becomes Eastmancolor, in the USSR it gives Sovcolor, in Belgium Gevacolor, and in Japan, under American control, Fujicolor is born.

Compared to the Technicolor, the Eastmancolor process offers an economical alternative to the shooting stage. In the 1950s , Technicolor films were now shot in Eastmancolor. After filming, once the editing is completed, the four matrices that are used to print copies of the Technichor trichrome film, with the advantage over the Eastmancolor negative, are drawn from the Eastmancolor monopack negative, so that they can be calibrated effectively. at the chromatic level, for each of the primary colors.

An even more economical process, discovered in photography in the 1920s , is adapted to cinema in Italy in the 1950s: the Ferraniacolor. It will serve mainly costume films, especially the peplums that revive the Italian production. The films made in Ferraniacolor (in Italy but also in all of Western Europe) had a few decades later their life turned upside down by a relatively fast phenomenon of discoloration, going up to the monochrome. Fortunately, the most important films were reproduced in time on Eastmancolor, and later, the less fundamental films were nevertheless saved from nothing, and marketed on television and on domestic media ( cassettes ,DVD , Blu-ray ) by recognizing the last traces of the colored layers and upgrading them thanks to computers specializing in digital effects.

Debates on the contribution of color

The Technicolor trichrome pleases the audience, its shades a little unreal make it an ideal support of the dream. It’s the glamor of Technicolor Direct, its inimitable charm. The Wizard of Oz , the musicals , are shot in Technicolor. Is the contribution of color to the cinema an advance or a superfluous mess? Is it a good, is it a bad thing? This is the debate that has already taken place about the talking film, which resumes between the supporters of the old and those of the new. In 1954 , Henri Agel , who conducts at the Lycée Voltaire the preparatory course at the Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques 122, writes a revealing statement of the discomfort that color can provide at the time when it is displayed without complex: “The cartoons of Tex Avery , Walter Lantz and some others bet on the paroxysm in the unleashing of ferocity, in editing and also in color. The frenzied images spur in the eyes and we know that the traumas they provide are very little suitable for children ” 123. Color is equated with an evil weapon that would be manipulated by “ferocious” filmmakers seeking to traumatize, to hurt the spectators’ eyes with “frenetic images”. In truth, color has long been considered an inappropriate and disgraceful addition to the images of cinema, which only black and white was supposed to bring to the level of the major arts. As soon as it appears, the critical minds judge it by the yardstick of the masters of painting, be it primitive, classical or contemporary. In the same book, Henri Agel marvels, at the sight of the Franco-Italian film The Golden Coach , made in 1952 by Jean Renoir , son of the painter Auguste Renoir “We are seduced by the harmony and softness of these agreements recall certain paintings by Chagall , or the Harlequins of Picasso  .” At no time was the black and white film compared to other graphic arts, if not to photography using the same panchromatic film medium.

Reluctance to use color film is also a problem for the filmmakers themselves. The Indian director Satyajit Ray recalls, during the filming of Far Tonners , “that with the passage of time, rules were established: films including dances and songs, historical or extraordinary, fantastic or for children, comedies light tinged with humor or, finally, movies about nature, were in color, and besides the serious movies, the intense thrillers, the police were ideal when they were shot in black and white. Hollywood rules! » 124The director means that the films that count, those that expose the problems that society faces in its changes, intergenerational conflicts, the confrontation of women with the patriarchal order, the deadly struggle between the mobsters and the police, corruption policies, etc., all these subjects do not tolerate the distraction that is supposed to represent the rainbow of the color film, reserved for entertainment films or intended for children. Turning Empress Sissi , or Tous en scène in color, is one of the accepted things, not just in Hollywood , but in the cooing and harmonious world of Bollywood . It must be remembered that Far Tonnerstakes place during the Second World War , at the beginning of a great famine that will cause death in Bengali country and Satyajit Ray wants to justify his choice of color, despite the gravity of the subject. But at the time of this film, in 1973 , the public has already admitted that tragedy can be told with colors. In 1958 , Raoul Walsh realized The Naked and the Dead , based on the novel The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer , a bitter and movie complex on the Pacific War. The colors are summed up in this film to the ranges of uniform green that dress all the characters, and to the green and deadly trap of the jungle, with the exception of very colorful flashbacks that evoke their love life in the country. In fact, the film resembles by its chromatic treatment of war scenes to a film in black and white, one could say in green and white. In the same way, the films around the character of Inspector Harry are in the colors of concrete and scrap of places of perdition where the stories unfold. Since then, all filmmakers have accepted color, throughout its palette, as an element as powerful as black and white in dealing with violence or terror. The Freedmen , by Martin Scorsese, is a colorful film, but not an entertainment for children …

Technological supplements

“Wide” vs. “small screen”

In the 1950s , in the United States, and in the 1960s , in Europe, the cinema audience was threatened by a competitor who was going to be formidable, television . In 5 years , from 1947 to 1952 , the number of television receivers multiplies a hundredfold the US 125. The main asset of the television is that it is diffused by a domestic object, soon familiar despite its exorbitant cost, a piece of furniture which sits in the living room as a sign of the good financial health of the owners, and as proof of their opening to the world. Because the attraction of his black and white images is the illusion of bringing information, games, shows, sports, directly to your home, a way of emphasizing the importance of the host. The presenters, as well as the presenters, invite themselves to the viewer and address to him the eyes in the eyes, commenting for him the events of the day before, or better, of the day, or, even more extraordinary, in direct, simultaneous with the event, sometimes close. Very quickly, the television offer will cover a field that leaves far behind the cinema.years 1910 – 1920 . The slots of the television thus become customary meetings at home. The cinemas are victims of a haemorrhage that, in a few years, will make them partly turn into garages or supermarkets.

Filmmakers find the answer to this crisis by developing what seems to be the main asset of cinema: the “big screen”, which opposes the cathode screen, small and almost round, black and white images pale. The gigantism of the projections is a reasonable answer to the massive attack of the “small screen”. In 1927 , for a film-river 3 hours 30, Napoleon , the French filmmaker Abel Gance trying to get out of the narrow confines of the silent film, so, he thinks, to give free rein to the lyricism of its anthem the French Revolution. In the third part of his book, he has the idea of ​​simultaneously projecting, side by side, three films on a giant screen covering the surface of three traditional screens, a triptych process he calls “Polyvision”. But the exploitation of his film in the cinema is normally done on one screen. Only a few prestigious screenings, the first of which, at the Opéra Garnier , accompanied by the original composition of Arthur Honegger , respect the planned Polyvision. But the experience, although praised by everyone, remains unfulfilled.


In 1952 , the first reply to the irresistible advance of television is called Cinerama , and resumed somehow the idea of ​​Abel Gance. The essential difference is that the triptych part of Napoleon presents three independent images. For example, the comedian Albert Dieudonné (Napoleon Bonaparte) appears alone on the central screen, his soldiers sweep left and right (sometimes in the same left-right inverted image, usually in two different planes).

The Cinérama 126 uses a 146 ° curved screen that replaces the flat screen of the normal film, each third of which is covered by the projection of three films taking place thanks to three synchronized projectors. The three projections reconstitute a single, gigantic image, which gives the illusion of surrounding the viewer, and the devices project according to the radius of curvature of the screen. The projector o  1, located to the left in the projection booth, projects the right third of the screen, the o  2, centrally located, projecting the central third, the o 3, located to the right of the cabin, projects the left third of the image. The beams of the projectors 1 and 3 intersect, and the two devices converge so as to be as much as possible in front of their curved portion of the screen, in order to avoid deformations of the image. Two inevitable zones of separation reveal the meeting of the central image with the two others. The rate of shots, and of course that of projection, is increased to 26 frames per second, to eliminate parasitic flutter.

In the shooting, three mechanically synchronized cameras are fixed to each other, according to the same principle of convergence: the camera on the left films the right part of the image, the central camera films the central part, the Right camera films the left side of the image. The three cameras each record the same shot of the film while rotating at the same time on a standard 35 mm film whose photograms are higher than wide, impressing on the height of 6 perforations instead of 4 for the normal film. The passage in the foreground of a character or object does not respect the desired continuity of the image and gives an impression of jumping into space (impression related to the curvature of the objectives of each of the three cameras).

During projections, the sound is provided in stereo by a fourth band, magnetic, which requires a fourth machine. Seven sound tracks distribute the sound around the circumference of the giant screen curved.

We understand that the many and expensive adaptations of the rooms, necessary for the use of Cinérama, repel most of the owners of rooms. In Paris, the Gaumont Palace , Place Clichy, devotes itself exclusively to the new process that its direction assumes to be the future and the preservation of the cinema. Yet Cinérama will kill the room, whose attendance drops sharply. The process seems good, but film production in Cinérama does not follow, despite The Conquest of the West , signed by Henry Hathaway , George Marshall and John Ford . A second film, also released in 1962 , The Enchanted Loves , directed by Henry Levin, which tells the life of the Brothers Grimm from their tales, is far from filling the rooms. From 1952 to 1962 , only ten films were released in Cinérama, eight of which are documentaries, in fact, they are promotions of the process. The process is then abandoned, and the name Cinérama is sometimes used abusively for films shot and projected according to other processes.


In 1953 , 20th Century Fox launched the CinemaScope 126 , a process taken from an invention of 1926 , the French researcher Henri Chrétien , fallen since industrial dhérence. The Hypergonar Professor Christian is a complement of the main objective, and, unlike traditional optical which the lenses are spherical, it is composed of cylindrical lenses, able to flatten the image, to reduce width, to compress it, at its optical focus whose virtual image, which has undergone this anamorphosis, is taken up by the main objective and recorded on the 35 mm standard film. The same type of lens restores the true width of the filmed field, redeploying it into space. The aspect ratio of the filmed image is 2.55: 1, which makes it a very elongated image, but compressed by the Hypergonar to fit the height of 4 perforations. At the projection, the sound is stereophonic, arranged on several magnetic tracks on the left and right of the photograms. To recover the necessary space for the coating of these tracks, the perforations of the copies are reduced in width: instead of being rectangular, they are square, requiring for their projection to provide the device of specific debtors, in addition to a window Projection sized in CinémaScope format. To satisfy room owners who are reluctant to spend special interchangeable debtors, because it adds to the expensive price of the two cylindrical lens lenses to equip each of the two projection stations, 20th Century Fox also distributes copies to track standard single, or dual (to get a minimal stereo: sound to the right or left, or central), whose ratio increases from 2.55: 1 to 2.39: 1 to make room for the track still located at left of the photograms. The image, however, retains its great-space appeal, offering the audience a spectacle more in line with the breadth of human vision than the narrow window of the standard ratio of 1.37: 1. because it adds to the expensive price of the two cylindrical lenses to equip each of the two projection stations, 20th Century Fox also distributes copies with single or double standard optical track (to obtain a minimum stereo: sound on the right or left, or central), whose ratio goes from 2.55: 1 to 2.39: 1 to make room for the track always to the left of the photograms. The image, however, retains its great-space appeal, offering the audience a spectacle more in line with the breadth of human vision than the narrow window of the standard ratio of 1.37: 1. because it adds to the expensive price of the two cylindrical lenses to equip each of the two projection stations, 20th Century Fox also distributes copies with single or double standard optical track (to obtain a minimum stereo: sound on the right or left, or central), whose ratio goes from 2.55: 1 to 2.39: 1 to make room for the track always to the left of the photograms. The image, however, retains its great-space appeal, offering the audience a spectacle more in line with the breadth of human vision than the narrow window of the standard ratio of 1.37: 1. 1 to make room for the track still to the left of the frames. The image, however, retains its great-space appeal, offering the audience a spectacle more in line with the breadth of human vision than the narrow window of the standard ratio of 1.37: 1. 1 to make room for the track still to the left of the frames. The image, however, retains its great-space appeal, offering the audience a spectacle more in line with the breadth of human vision than the narrow window of the standard ratio of 1.37: 1.

This is how 20th Century Fox presents the same year his first film shot and screened in CinemaScope (2.55: 1), The Tunic , a peplum, with Richard Burton , Victor Mature and Jean Simmons. The film suffers from new difficulties revealed by the experimentation of the process. More particularly, a staggering stance and an unbearable length of wide shots. Hypergonar requires a special setting, coupled with a setting of the main lens. Any change in focus, by moving either actors or the camera, requires a delicate operation at two levels. In addition, the frontal arrangement of the Hypergonar requires, in order not to vignette the image, to use primary objectives of long focal length, able by their narrow angle to avoid filming the interior of the optical complement. Director Henry Kosteris responsible as we say, to wipe the plasters. But the spectators are delighted and the movie The Tunic is a huge success. So much so that 20th Century Fox arrogantly offers its competitors to buy the license to use its patent for the production of films in CinemaScope. Almost all of them comply with the requirements of the winner. With the exception of Paramountand RKO (Radio Keith Orpheum).


In 1954 , RKO replies to CinémaScope by a homemade process, the Superscope 126 , which an enlightened amateur of the history of cinema techniques describes as “CinemaScope of the poor” 126 . Superscope, not SuperScope, because CinemaScope’s capital S is a trademark of 20th Century Fox, and SuperScope would be a counterfeit that would immediately be dragged and sentenced. The Superscope process foreshadows the Super 35 mm used today. The image, with a 2: 1 ratio, is impressed on the negative without anamorphosis, so without the use of a complement optics, that is to say without the disadvantages of Hypergonar, using the whole width of the movie35 mm , eliminating the reserve provided for the optical track. The shooting window is cut directly to the ratio 2: 1. As a result, the shutter bar is considerably thickened and one can say that the available surface area of the negative is used at 50%, a considerable material loss, and a loss of definition damaging since the resulting film is intended in principle for projection on a giant screen. To save space for the optical track on the copies, the company Technicolor slightly compresses the image with a system developed by it. The projection of Superscope films is ensured in theaters equipped with CinemaScope, all the more easily as RKO, for reasons of economy, has given up stereophonic sound. The movie Vera Cruz , directed byRobert Aldrich , with Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster , was shot in Superscope.


Paramount, having refused the proposals of 20th Century Fox, must also innovate to make room for CinémaScope and Superscope. It chose in 1955 an original and powerful process, the VistaVision 126 , which delivers at choice a ratio of 1.66: 1, close to the golden ratio, or 2: 1, identical to the Superscope. But VistaVision is not the poor man’s Superscope. On the contrary, its adoption by Paramount assumes a higher cost of films shot with this method. The film remains the standard 35 mm , but it scrolls horizontally across the width of eight perforations, impressing a photogram of 36 mm wide by 18.3 mmfrom above. The quality, in terms of definition, is superb. For the operation of copies, two solutions are available: either the film is optically reduced on a film 35 mm standard vertical scrolling, and the projection device is equipped with a window to VistaVision dimensions or copies are identical the negative projection and requires special devices that cause the film horizontally in front of the projection window on the width of 8 perforations per frame, and meet the high quality of the filmed image.

The camera adapted to the horizontal unfolding of the film is first a mechanically transformed camera to train the film on eight perforations, which the American filmmakers, in their pictorial language, call the “Butterfly” (”  Butterfly  “), because the two stores are lying horizontally, like two butterfly wings. Later, the two stores are arranged vertically, one next to the other, and the film, it takes place horizontally and therefore crosses the mechanism, passing from left to right. This camera is called “Slacker 8″ (”  Lazy 8  “). “Slacker”, because the film takes place in supine position, and “8” because the film advances, with each photogram print, a step of eight perforations.

Alfred Hitchcock, contracted by Paramount, turns all his films in color from Mais who killed Harry? up to Death on the go in VistaVision at a ratio of 1.85: 1. Cecil B. DeMille turns The Ten Commandments with the same process.


Since the invention of cinema, the formats that tried to dethrone the 35 mm and its origin, the 70 mm , have been numerous, and most have failed. Even 20th Century Fox, which in 1955, with its CinemaScope that brings the audience back to theaters, tries to impose the format 55.625 mm impressing its photograms on a height of 8 perforations (it is not a question of a horizontal scroll similar to VistaVision), with an anamorphosis of the cylindrical lens type, bearing the name of CinemaScope55 126 . The copies are either in 55.625 mmwith high photograms of 6 or 8 perforations (copies in six perforations are less expensive), or reduced optically in 35 mm copies CinémaScope standard. The King and I , along with Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr , are filmed in CinemaScope55. But this format, which wanted to impose the hegemony of 20th Century Fox, destabilizing the RKO’s response with the Superscope and Paramount with VistaVision, also fails.


In 1955 , Mike Todd , one of the promoters of Cinérama whose commercial limits he quickly perceived, decided to take out of the dungeons of the cinema of the 1930s a format of film which, at the time, had an ephemeral existence: the 65 mm . Less gourmet than the Cinerama, this luxurious format seems a good replica of the triumphant CinemaScope of 20th Century Fox. The first shots are also performed on cameras of a quarter of a century, motorized for the occasion. To resume this format, Mike Todd partners with the company American Optical , hence the name of the process: the Todd-AO 126 .

The 65 mm format prints photograms across the entire width of the film, from one row of perforations to the other. In height, the photograms are driven by 5 perforations on both sides, instead of 4 for the 35 mm . The proportions are 2.2: 1 The film meter costs about twice the 35 mm , but the image surface is three times larger, the definition is in the same proportion, which allows a three projection times more “stung” on a giant screen.

The projection Todd-AO uses copies 70 mm , which allow to add on both sides of the film, on twice 2.5 mm , two magnetic tracks, in all four tracks. To complete the stereophonic panoply, the photogram is slightly trimmed on each side to leave room for two other magnetic tracks, located between the image and the perforations. Which makes a total of six sound tracks. The photogram of the 70 mm Todd-AO prints is 22 mm high by 48.6 mmwide. To facilitate the loading of the projection apparatus and possible repairs of the film, the passage from one photogram to the other is indicated by a minute round perforation between the rectangular perforations. To ensure the flatness of the film as it passes in front of the projection window, a compressed air emission system is set up in the scrolling corridor of the devices.

Oklahoma! , Adapted from a musical of Broadway , old ten years, is the first film released in 70 mm Todd-AO. Mike Todd is aware that the international park of movie theaters is overwhelmingly equipped in 35 mm format . To produce this expensive film with RKO, he signs an agreement with 20th Century Fox, which provides for a massive deferred output of 35 mm prints in CinemaScope, in order to reach the widest audience. 20th Century Fox requires that the film be shot in two simultaneous versions, with two cameras placed side by side, one loaded in 65 mm , the other in 35 mm, equipped not with a lens equipped with a Christian Hypergonar, but with a cylindrical lens manufactured by Bausch & Lomb Optical , which offers by construction the anamorphosis of CinemaScope, eliminating the disadvantages of a dual purpose. 20th Century Fox inherits a negative in its exclusive format, and ensures during the second release, most of the proceeds of which it retroced by contract the legitimate shares to the initiators of the film. Both versions of Oklahoma! are slightly different, the two cameras not filming exactly the same shots from the same angle.


Unlike other processes, the Technirama 126 , which wants to play Todd-AO, is not initiated by a production company. It is the company Technicolor which commercializes it from 1957 , in collaboration with the Dutch company Old Delft (Oude Delft) which brings its project of compression of the image by a double prism for the shooting, and by a double mirror for projection. The first company to rent this process is the Italian Titanus , for an Italian-American film, A History of Monte Carlo , with Marlene Dietrich and Vittorio De Sica .

The Technirama uses the film 35 mmclassic, but in horizontal scrolling on a width of 8 perforations, which already provides an elongated ratio. Since the Delrama lens is an anamorphic lens that compresses the image by 1 ½ times, the final aspect ratio is increased to 2.35: 1, which brings it closer to CinemaScope (2.39: 1), with several advantages : the first is the lower compression (1.5 instead of 2) which avoids the bending deformations of the 20th Century Fox process; the second is to obtain a further definition of the image whose printing surface is larger; the third is the brightness of the dual prism system which absorbs less light than the cylindrical lenses of the Hypergonar. For reasons of economy, the projection copies of Technirama are most often in the form of 35mm with normal scrolling, the photograms being purely and simply anamorphosed.

The first 100% American film shot in Technirama is the one directed by Richard Fleischer , The Vikings , with Kirk Douglas , Tony Curtis , Ernest Borgnine and Janet Leigh ( 1958 ).

MGM Camera 65 & Ultra-Panavision 70, Super Panavision 70

The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer , which accepts the diktat of 20th Century Fox in 1953 and turns with the CinemaScope process, decides to emancipate itself from the tutelage of its competitor. It asks the company Panavision 126 , which manufactures lenses, to study a process that it alone would exploit. Panavision is already working on projection objectives that will ensure its prominent reputation. Its Super-Panatar, which allows movie theater operators to adapt their projection devices to any compression ratio, whether CinemaScope or any other source, is so successful that 20th Century Fox decides to abandon the production of its own projection objectives.

And, in 1957 , the MGM is proud to present its first film in “MGM Camera 65”, The Tree of Life , directed by Edward Dmytryk , with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift . In fact new MGM cameras, this is classic Mitchell BNC format 65 mm. On the other hand, they are equipped with a revolutionary objective, whose anamorphosis is not brought about by an optical complement, but by construction, inside the lens system itself. It is no longer necessary to adjust two lenses, even coupled, only one adjustment is sufficient, and no bending deformation no longer disturb the optical rendering. In the credits, under the indication “Filmed in MGM Camera 65”, is specified: “Panavision objectives”. Apart from the objectives, which are the real novelty, the principle of shooting is identical to that of Todd-AO . The 65 mm filmtakes place vertically, in a ratio of 1.33: 1, and undergoes optical compression that leads to the ratio 2.55: 1, more elongated than CinemaScope. The first film in “MGM Camera 65” is actually only exploited as single copies in 35 mm , because at the time of its release, the 70 mm equipped rooms are monopolized in the United States by a huge success Todd-AO , Around the world in 80 days , and do not want to let go of the prey for the shadow! It was not until 1959 that the first film “MGM Camera 65”, projected in 70 mm , proves the exceptional quality of Panavision optics, the spectacular Ben Hur , withCharlton Heston and Stephen Boyd , another big hit. The MGM then launches into an ambitious program of six big-budget films in “MGM Camera 65”, the last of which, The Bounty Revolts , imprudently entrusted to the realization of Marlon BrandoNot only does it exceed its budget considerably, but it also unjustly confronts criticism and the absence of the public. In order to replenish its coffers, even before the release of the film, the MGM is obliged to surrender to Panavision the paternity of the process in which this company has worked almost in the shadows. Panavision immediately recovers its invention that it markets under the name of Ultra-Panavision 70, process offered to who wants to rent it. Later, completely released from MGM productions, the process is renamed Super Panavision 70 127 . For example, in 1961 , Exodus was shot by Otto Preminger in Super Panavision 70, as well as Lawrence of Arabia , made in 1962by David Lean . In 1968 , 2001, the Space Odyssey , is filmed with the same method by Stanley Kubrick . The Super Panavision still dominates the movie market.


In 1960 , the Technicolor subsidiary in Italy launched a new format to make the scope cheaper, without special film or lens: the Techniscope 126 . One might think that this is the result of Technicolor’s reflection on the surface mess that the Superscope process offers, and the economy it offers to low-budget films. Instead of increasing the thickness of the bar that separates the photograms, to obtain as in the Superscope a flattened image, Technicolor chooses to remove this bar by impressing the photograms on the height of 2 perforations instead of 4 for the format 35 mmstandard and for the Superscope. The image is recorded at a ratio of 2.40: 1 (2.33 at the beginning), as wide as the CinémaScope, but it has the same drawback as the Superscope: a medium definition during projections on giant screens. On the other hand, the process recording on the height of 2 instead of 4 perforations per photogram, the expenditure of negative film is half as much as with the two other processes. The operating copies are standard 4 perforations, and the elongated image is then compressed by an optical system developed by Technicolor. Since most cinemas have their own set of objectives for CinemaScope, the Techniscope can be projected thanks to the competitor.

The first film shot in Techniscope was released in December 1960  : The Princess of the Nile , with Linda Cristal . Sergio Leone uses it for his films For a Handful of Dollars (1964), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), and Once upon a Time in the West (1968), and later George Lucas will use it for economic and style reasons for American Graffiti (1973). James Cameron uses the process in 1997 to realize the underwater views of the Titanic, the Techniscope doubling the shooting time of a camera store, it is ideal for shooting under difficult access conditions.


Housed in the entertainment centers of the general public and the family, a last film format was born in 1970 and spread all over the world. This is the IMAX , which presents on screens even larger than previous giant screens, short or medium-length films, only documentary type. Shooting and the operating room are made on a film of 70 mm wide, which runs horizontally on 15 perforations, where the label 15 / 70 mmIMAX. The screen is spherical and the “chrono” of the projection apparatus (its mechanism itself) is hoisted to the exact center of the sphere, from which it projects with the aid of a very wide angle lens with deformations. optics canceled by the sphericity of the screen. The huge pellets of film are located lower, and the film goes up to the device (like the cable of a cable car) and goes down to join the unrollers flat or the vertical reels. Stereophonic sound is complex, recorded separately from the image on a perforated multi-track magnetic tape 35 mm wide. Each room is equipped in a particular way, often with effects of vibrations and shocks of the so-called “dynamic” seats, for the sole purpose of making the illusion of participation in the stage greater.

The IMAX process benefits from the use of IMAX format feature films in certain special release theaters, which complement the range of commercial exploitation of these works. Episodes of Batman , Harry Potter , Star Wars , have their version IMAX.

But the process 15 / 70 mm IMAX is going to end, to switch to a general revival of the show cinema films: IMAX digital (filmless) is already a reality.

End of the film debut of digital cinema

“The film industry is now on the threshold of the biggest change in its history: the transition from film to digital,” writes Eric Roy 128 . “Economic and political considerations confined electronic screening rooms to isolated experiences 129  ” is the pessimistic assessment that draws the journal Screen total in September 1999 about the cinema of abandonment projects dandruff 16 mm, 35 mm and 70 mm . Nearly fifteen years later, the barometer published by the CNC on a quarterly basis counts as of March 29, 2013″5 077 digital screens in the global park of cinemas in France, ie 93.6% of the park. At the end of March 2013, 86% of the establishments (multiplexes) have at least one digital room (screen and projector without film) and 1,149 rooms, ie a little less than a quarter of the park, are entirely digitized ” 130 .

What seemed unlikely, if not impossible, it was twenty years ago, is now a reality 131 . Nobody can deny that the 100% are for tomorrow and that soon, no film in the form of film will circulate either in France, in Europe or around the world, where financial support allow the transition to all digital.

The selection that had taken place at the beginning of the cinema, when the great inventors, doubled with powerful industrial and financial means, Thomas Edison, the Lumière brothers, were the only ones able to make study their project by teams of manufacturers, paid and paid for by the year, endowed with considerable resources (William Kennedy Laurie Dickson and his successive assistants, at the expense of Edison Co, and Charles Moisson and his workers, at the expense of the Lumière company), had eliminated by KO the researchers loners, like Émile Reynaud, or Georges Demenÿ, and many others.

Yesterday, when the cinema, following the audiovisual in general, is about to cross the digital age, it is still industrialists of international stature who take the risk of investing colossal sums, without any equivalent so far in the research of various silver formats. In 1999 , Texas Instruments , experienced in the manufacture of integrated circuits, launched its technology, the DLP Cinema 132 . The first public screenings in digital cinema are made 133  : 18 June 1999 in the United States (Los Angeles and New York) 134 and 2 February 2000 in Europe (Paris) 135 by Philippe Binant 136. The resolution was 1280 pixels per line and 1024 pixels per column (the 1.3K ) 137 . In 2001, precisely on October 29, Andrés Wood’s abrade fever ( La fiebre del loco ) was selected by the Higher Technical Commission on Image and Sound (CST) to constitute the content of the preparation and the presentation at Paris 138 , 139 , 140 of the first digital satellite film transmission in Europe of a cinematographic feature film by Bernard Pauchon 141 and Philippe Binant 142 .

“For some purists, the 1080 guidelines of the American HD are far from being able to compete with analytical fineness of the image 35 mm , which would be the equivalent of 4000 lines resolution 129 . ” The magazine Total Screengives voice to supporters of the silver film, but warns ” it is not for us to end this debate ” a necessary editorial caution.

Today, in 2013 , the DLP Cinema has a resolution of 2,048 pixels per line and 1,080 pixels per column ( 2K ) or resolution of 4,096 pixels per line and 2,016 pixels per column ( 4K ) .

By 2004 , Sony had introduced its digital standard, the SXRD, whose so-called 4K resolution is 4,096 pixels per line and 2160 pixels per column, identical to the traditional filmstrip 35 mm and 70 mm .

As did in 1903 all hardware manufacturers, film, and film producers, who ended the format war and had agreed to recognize the 35 mm to Edison perforations, as the only film internationally, the main Hollywood productions have come together around a common charter, the DCI ( Digital Cinema Initiatives), followed by the European and international regulatory authorities for the audiovisual sector. The DCI recognizes both projection technologies, DLP Cinema and SXRD. But in 2010, the DCI pushes the Texas Instruments technology back into 2K, and this company then transforms existing systems into 4K at its expense. The reason is that the 4K, besides its quality equal to the 35 mm and 70 mm photosensitive formats, allows a more secure against malicious interventions, because the main concern of major Hollywood productions, joined by the European productions, is the piracy of static memories that contain film files, by computer means to the public. However, the 4K is able to detect unauthorized manipulations and block the system. The opening of the reading means is padlocked at several levels by keys (called KDM, Key Delivery Message) that the distributor provides to its official clients, the operators of the projection rooms. The keys include the projection program that the operator intends to organize each day, which also allows the distributor to control the actual number of paid sessions based on the days provided by contract. “Ghost” projections – not reported to the distributor – are therefore impossible. This is why the DCI, which is not intended for charity, however allocates help worldwide to access the digital projections, provided that the equipment complies with anti-counterfeiting safety standards. Only this compliance enables KDM 143 keys .

A third project, that of the historical supplier of flexible film, Kodak , that is to say Estman, released in 2013 its Laser Projection Technology (LPT), a different system that seeks a better brightness of the digital image, with less cost.

Digital cameras have spread, editing systems have already existed for a quarter of a century thanks to television, the digital cinema park follows massively. Would silver film be experiencing its last moments? For now, it would be wrong to say so, because the various decision makers are not yet aware of the conditions in which the digital medium (static memories) is preserved. It is too early, in their opinion, to abandon the silver negative, even from digital filming and finishing, as the ideal means of preserving the work produced, because we know perfectly well the survival problems of a film. film, and ways to deal with its eventual degradation over time. Currently,

In France, the legal deposit of films, received by the CNC is still mandatory as a copy 35 mm traditional photochemical.

The camera in motion

Early Traveling (“Panoramic Light”)

In 1896 , when the first cinema films were not yet five years old, François-Constant Girel , sent to Germany by Louis Lumière, embarked on a skiff to visit the banks of the Rhine. Rather indolent, the operator believes that it is easier to stay comfortably on the deck than to walk carrying the precious camera and tripod. Since it is impossible to do to anchor the boat to take “views”, he decided to operate despite the continual navigation 144 . The Republican Lyon , the newspaper that sold the skin of the bear in 1894 , announcing before its development the “Kinematographe Lumière”, is ecstatic by discovering the projected views:”It is a view of an entirely new fact, taken on a boat in motion traveling to Cologne, and where we see scroll form a wonderful panorama, the so famous Rhine River 145 . ” But Girel is far from being a good operator, and not also remain long in the service of the Lumière brothers, this” absolutely new effect “is probably due more to his mind at ease talent.

Un autre opérateur, Alexandre Promio, a l’idée de faire se déplacer la caméra, alors qu’il est à Venise. « Arrivé à Venise et me rendant en bateau de la gare à mon hôtel, sur le Grand Canal, je regardais les rives fuirent devant l’esquif, et je pensais alors que si le cinéma immobile permet de reproduire des objets mobiles, on pourrait peut-être retourner la proposition et essayer de reproduire à l’aide du cinéma mobile des objets immobiles. Je fis de suite une bande que j’envoyai à Lyon avec prière de me dire ce que Monsieur Louis Lumière pensait de cet essai. La réponse fut favorable146 ». Filmée le 25 octobre 1896, la bande est présentée au même journaliste enthousiaste : « le Cinématographe, dans une élégante gondole, nous conduit jusqu’à Venise où défilent successivement pendant ce trajet en bateau les plus beaux points de vue de la cité vénitienne et tout cela au milieu d’un va et vient de gondoles du plus gracieux effet147. »

Cet effet d’impression de déplacement par rapport au décor, Louis Lumière l’intitule « Vue panoramique Lumière », et le succès est tel que tout opérateur un peu imaginatif inscrit à son tableau de chasse une ou plusieurs vues en mouvement, la caméra étant installée sur tout ce qui peut la transporter avec son opérateur : voiture, train, ascenseur, traîneau, téléphérique, trottoir roulant, Grande roue, ballon dirigeable, puis avion, etc.

Il faut imaginer à quelles difficultés doivent faire face les opérateurs pour ramener de telles images. Dans les douze premières années du cinéma, soit les caméras ne possèdent pas de viseur, ou celui-ci est un simple tube optique, placé au-dessus ou sur le côté de l’appareil, mais que l’on consulte difficilement pendant la prise de vues, l’opérateur devant tourner la manivelle du mécanisme et assurer une bonne stabilité de l’appareil. Pour cadrer avec précision, on a recours au procédé utilisé en photographie : on règle l’appareil en observant directement la fenêtre de prise de vues. Pour cela, l’opérateur emporte toujours avec lui un morceau de pellicule voilée qu’il charge dans le couloir de prise de vues. Il voit ainsi l’image telle qu’elle sera impressionnée (donc, tête en bas, et inversée gauche-droite). Son cadrage fait, il bloque alors les vis de réglage du trépied, et charge la caméra avec un bobineau vierge. À partir de ce moment, il ne lui reste plus qu’à filmer « à l’aveuglette », son principal souci étant d’entraîner le mécanisme à la bonne vitesse, et à garder le bon rythme. Le plus souvent, les opérateurs du cinéma des débuts ont pratiqué la prise de vue photographique, et possèdent un « œil aiguisé » (« sharp eye »), ils connaissent l’étendue du champ filmé par leur caméra. Dès qu’un sujet très mobile sort de « l’entonnoir de l’objectif », ils corrigent le cadrage en déplaçant très rapidement l’appareil, à l’estime (un coup de pied habile dans le trépied suffit !). Les mouvements brusques, constatés dans certains bobineaux de films primitifs, sont parfois baptisés « panoramiques » par des historiens du cinéma, abusés par ces rattrapages de cadre accidentels148.


Ce que nous appelons aujourd’hui un panoramique, ce mouvement de caméra voulu par l’opérateur, agissant sur les deux axes : horizontal et vertical, apparaît, comme le travelling, dès 1896. Laurie Dickson, le premier, inaugure le panoramique horizontal (suivant l’horizon), appelé « pan » en anglais. C’est James White qui ose en 1900, après ses panoramiques de droite à gauche sur le pont Alexandre-III, un panoramique évident et tentant sur la Tour Eiffel, un panoramique de bas en haut, puis de haut en bas, un panoramique vertical, appelé tilt en anglais149.

In 1900 , the English school Brighton used in their chase films ( movies chase ), to better track the movements of their comedians, a resumption of the “views” of Louis Lumière, the diagonal of the field 150 . The idea of ​​the panoramic comes to them spontaneously from the trajectories of the cat and the mouse, basic element of the chase films . The Englishman Alfred Collins, who is not from Brighton but works for the British subsidiary of Gaumont, is the first to perform panoramic shots for a dramatic purpose, notably to follow in 1903 the movement of an automobile in Mariage en auto ( The Runaway Match151 . In this fast paced film, Alfred Collins uses the tracking shot several times while loading his camera on the bonnet of the cars that are going on. Indeed, the bride flees her parents, hence one of the somewhat Francophile English titles: Elopement à la mode ( Fugue à la mode ). But for the public not to be disoriented when moving from one vehicle to another, an alternate montage figure that, at the time, was never used before, Collins introduces subtitles before each shot : “Vehicle of the pursuers”, “Vehicle of the pursued”. Thus, the spectators are there 151 !

In 1901 , for Edison, at the Pan American Exposition, Edwin Stanton Porter paned in two stages, starting in broad daylight and halfway through, continuing through the night. “This seemingly simple plan is actually a technical performance. The second part of the panorama, at night, was recorded at a much lower frame rate, in order to reduce the shutter speed, which made it possible to impress the film in a relative darkness 152 ! » This low-speed shot ( undercranking) accelerates the apparent movement to the projection. To give the illusion of the same speed in this two-part panorama, Porter had to counteract this apparent acceleration by slowing the performance of the panning motion.

The horizontal panning is the easiest to perform and makes the best result, the vertical pan having the disadvantage of raising the objective to the sky that a self-respecting operator must avoid at this time because the available emulsions do not reproduce only partially the visible spectrum, the red is rendered by a neutral gray (this is why the actors make up the lips in black, in order to draw them from their transparency on film), the blue, it is reproduced catastrophically in white (The bluest skies seem washed out, a white from which obviously no clouds emerge).

This is why camera operators tend to consider the horizon as a limit beyond which the rendered image is unattractive (white, nothing but white). It was not until 1920, and the arrival on the market of a film panchromatic type , correctly rendering in black and white all the colors of the spectrum visible to the naked eye 152 .

On the other hand, to facilitate the maneuvering of the horizontal panning, and because the cameras are soon loaded with slabs of 60, 120 and 300 meters of film, able to record several shots, and requiring to determine as many different frames, the camera is equipped with a more elaborate sighting tube, attached first to the top of the camera, then to the side (to clear the upper part, reserved for the couple of film shops, blank and recorded). The tripod head on which the camera is attached is equipped with cranks actuating the horizontal and vertical adjustments, and making it possible to conveniently execute pans whose trajectory can be controlled by means of the aiming tube. But the operation remains acrobatic, because the mechanism of the cameras is still driven by a crank. Which makes 3 cranks to activate for one person.

DW Griffith’s favorite operator, Billy Bitzer, tells in his memoirs about the shooting of Intolérance ( 1916 ) that his teammate Karl Brown “turned the crank [drive mechanism of the camera] with a flexible cable while I commanded the levers that made pan 153  ” . To control the framing, Billy Bitzer has implanted inside the camera a viewing tube that allows him to look “directly at the image impressed on the film, by the back of the camera, and this , with a packed eye with a rubber eyepiece that adjusted exactly to my eye so that light does not veil the film 154  “. The improvement and lightening of the batteries made it possible during the 1920s to see the mechanism being driven by an electric motor that finally released the operator’s right arm, which was available to maneuver only the cranks of the tripod.


Main article: Traveling .
Related Articles: Steadicam and Glossary of Cinema .

In the 1910s , American films are peopled by lawsuits where the director sends the camera on trains or cars. Speed ​​is a new ingredient in adventure movies, flattering an audience that can not afford a fast car or those on an express train. The continuation-pursuing passage no longer needs to be indicated because, since the first film of DW Griffith ( The Adventures of Dollie ), the filmmakers know how one tells of the simultaneous actions by the division in planes and by the parallel assembly, and the public is now familiar with this type of story.

In 1912 , a director of Thomas Edison, Oscar Apfel , announces the various flashbacks of the film The Passant ( The Pass-By ) by a tracking shot on the main character, a way “to enter his head” then “d ‘out of it’ by a back tracking, after the flashback 155 . This particular use of tracking shot will be in the spotlight in the 1950s, on the occasion of the many melodramas of the time, and it is a systematic occurrence in today’s movies, anxious for “everything in motion.”

In the 1920s , a young French filmmaker dreamed of a total cinema. Under his artist name, Abel Gance , he tries all the possibilities of tracking shots on different vehicles. For his monumental Napoleon(1927), he tries to make the movement of the battles by demanding from his operators that they turn some shots without tripod, it looks like nowadays: “camera with the shoulder”. But it is still too early for this expression, because the operator shakes the camera with one hand against his abs and the other operates the crank, as would a portable barbarian organ player. Camera tripe, impossible to aim! Abel Gance thus obtains well-known plans that were previously unfeasible, very dynamic and spectacular. He even propel cameras through the air, using a sort of catapult, for Subjectively a cannonball or a snowball 156, an inconclusive experience, the subjectivity of an object having to be supported, confirmed, by plans of the object in motion, as we see it in today’s digital cinema, with, for example, subjective shots of arrows in flight ( Robin Hood, prince of Ken Reynolds thieves ).

In 1922 , the Swedish filmmaker Mauritz Stiller shows in Gösta Berling’s La Saga the nocturnal race of a sled on a frozen lake, with shots filmed in a side track from another sled. “Filming outdoors the race that takes place at dusk would have required enormous and brutal means of lighting that would not have given such close-up shots of actors. These shots were made in the studio, and the night ice landscape that runs behind them was painted on a huge cylinder that was spinning in the background, as Méliès had done before in La Conquest du Pôle.in 1912 for its funds of starry skies. This chase sequence on the ice and extreme close-ups Greta Garbo beauty of upsetting face made her an international star known as the “Divine” 157 . ” That’s when the golden age of silent film, and already all camera movements are experienced and propagated. The manufacture of tubular tracking rails, light and yet rigid, appeared in the 1920s, permitted by the marketing of duralumin , aluminum alloy, copper and magnesium, which also equips the truck in the form of four bogies two wheels.

In 1956 , the French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse develops a helicopter anti-vibration system, which he calls Hélivision . He begins by accumulating a quantity of  stock-shots  on different regions of France, then superb shots of the city of Paris, for which he obtains from Andre Malraux an exceptional authorization to fly over low altitude. Then, it’s the movie The Balloon Travel , which makes known internationally its anti-vibration system. The first James Bond use aerial photography from Helivision helicopter. Note that Albert Lamorisse was killed in 1970 in the crash of his helicopter, during shooting in Iran .

Airships, airplanes, helicopters are commonly used, associated with various anti-vibration systems (Hélivision, Wescam) for low or high speed air tracking at variable altitude. Also popular are cable cars on a cable stretched between two pylons (Aerocam or Skycam) which allow very low-level overflights and high speed (up to 60 km / h ) tracking scenes (as well as views aerial sports), or four cables stretched between four pylons, the four cables being synchronized to retract or lengthen with so many winches, as the Cablecam which allows a complex movement within the quadrilateral formed by the four pylons (in ET the alienor in The Lord of the Rings ). But the great novelty ( 1976 ) is undoubtedly the Steadicam system which allows the camera, carried by a specialized operator, to move on the ground as if it floated on a cushion of air, with the added bonus of the possibility of a short movement in height. This system is also used to allow a quick installation of the camera compared to the actors, in a plan that does not necessarily involve traveling.

Crane movements

In his memoirs, Billy Bitzer gives details of the device that allowed him to film Balthazar’s orgasmic feast in the Babylonian part of Intolerance  : a rail- mounted elevator that allowed the camera, after diving the entire gigantic decor of the palace, to approach the five thousand extras while lowering its trajectory to the ground.

Giant 45 meters high, with a useful surface at the top of 4 2 and a width of about twenty square meters, the tower contained an elevator, a platform supporting the camera, which could go up or down while that the whole thing was put on railroad rails. To maneuver, it took 25 machinists 158 … “More modestly, but just as ingenious, hydraulic piston lifts have long equipped the major studios, in America as in Europe. They allowed for example to film a character going up or down a winding staircase, the staircase was built around the elevator of the studio 159 . ”

The device of Intolerance , which reveals Griffith’s megalomania as well as the ingenuity of the cinema technicians, has evolved to give the cinema crane, a balanced system with two arrows , one to carry at least the camera and its operator, but often also the first assistant operator (in charge of “making the point”), and sometimes the director, the other, so-called counter-arrow, to carry the counterweight heavier than the counter-arrow is more short. The two arrows form a parallelogramarticulated that allows camera support and staff seating to always be upright. The two arrows are sometimes equipped with side stays to ensure a perfect geometry of the whole. Cranes always require a large number of machinists to put them in working order and control their movement (see photo).

In The Cameraman , Buster Keaton winks at this giant and expensive machinery machine, but still used widely in all Hollywood productions ( 1928 ). The apprentice cameraman attends a bloody battle in Chinatown , from the top of a scaffolding that the fighters manage to detach from the wall with unintentional blades. The scaffolding, now an articulated parallelogram, then behaves like a movie crane, and collapses, driving Buster – who continues to crank the crank of his camera – in a graceful rounding down movement, with a beautiful cloud of dust on arrival: the crane of the poor!

In 1930 , René Clair opens and closes his film Sous les Toits de Paris “by a crane movement that starts from chimneys spewing their smoke, goes down the street where a traveling singer sells his scores and interprets them in chorus with the inhabitants of the neighborhood. . At the end of the film, it is the reverse crane movement that keeps our eyes away from the mountebank and takes us to the top of the roofs of Paris 160 . ”

A system is very popular in Hollywood blockbusters of the 1930s . Thus, in Gone with the Wind , an impressive plan describes the innumerable wounded of the Southern troops, lying on the floor of the station during the defense of Atlanta . A wooden construction, an inclined planefrom the ground and culminating at several tens of meters, allowed a truck to climb the climb on rails, carrying with its horizontal support the camera and the operators whose weight was compensated by a vertical displacement counterweight. Nowadays, this traveling shot would be obtained thanks to a big model of Louma, or other mark, avoiding the risk of taking technicians in the air. The musicals of the 1950s use the crane movements to fly over the dance troupes and give the musical sequences beautiful flights.

In 1937 , in Young and Innocent , Alfred Hitchcock concocted one of the most famous movie crane movements. Accused of a crime he did not commit, a young man goes in search of the murderer of whom we know only one thing: he suffers from a sick blinking of the left eye. “In a crane movement of sixty seconds, which leads us from the entrance hall of a cabaret to the room where many couples move, the camera flies over the track, it goes down gradually, goes to the orchestra, white musicians made up as black, she isolates the drummer, approaches him, more and more closely, eventually a big very tight shot of his face, and suddenly … the man blinked nervously left eye 160. ”

Nowadays, movie cranes have followed the technological advances of their mothers from construction sites. Thanks to the video sighting and the remote controls, they are equipped with a telescopic arm which allows a large deflection in the space. The only weight to compensate is that of the camera, balancing the system is easier to obtain and less colossal. A crane that can elevate a camera two or three meters high can be turned on and operated by a single operator. The most efficient cranes raise their load to about thirty meters.

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