film Production



In the period previous to the 1930\'s, the predominant form of filmmaking was that of the crank camera. This is not to say that motor-driven cameras were not possible. However, the motors to advance the film were so large that they were simply too cumbersome to be effective. Thus, it was the cameraman himself who would crank the film at a steady rate to expose the frames. When it came to showing the film, on the other hand, motor driven projectors were quite convenient, and by the 1920\'s a standard 24 frames per second was established for projecting films. Filming, however, remained unstandardized due to the inherent variation in recording speeds, since it depended directly on the cameraman. An experienced cameraman was capable of filming an entire film at approximately the same speed, yet often variations were made in the recording speed for dramatic effect. Decreasing the number of cranks, for example, exposed fewer frames and thus when projected at the standard 24 frames created the frenzied action that characterized much of the Vaudeville cinema.
The French filmmaker Georges Melies was among the first to employ changing backdrops and costumes to tell his story. Up until that point many film were only a few minutes long taking place on a single set. Changing sets and costumes opened a vast range of new possibilities and spurred further growth in the fledgling industry. As the film industry expanded in America, filmmakers found and increasing need for to establish a single location at which they could build sets and film undisturbed. The bright sunlight, relative stability of climate, and varied terrain found in California made it an ideal place to film, much of the reason for the industry\'s concentration there.
During this time, films were shot on a single reel, resulting in filmstrips that were only 15-20 minutes. Independent producers pioneered the use of double reel filmmaking during the years before the First World War. This allowed much longer films and opening the door for further opportunity, both financially and creatively, as well as bringing into being the double reel camera that became such an icon of movie production.
The major advance of the 1930\'s was the introduction of synchronous sound and dialogue in the late 1930\'s. First invented and shown in the 1920\'s, it became the standard by the early 1930\'s, partly due to the invention of a device based on the radio that could effectively amplify sound in the theater. Initially there were two available systems with which to record sound. The first was similar to a phonograph, and recorded the sound to a separate disc. The second, more popular, system recorded the sound directly onto the celluloid strip. Initially sound hindered the filmmaking process, since the cameras had to be encased to muffle the noise of their motors and actors could not stray far from the stationary microphones. However, technological advances soon made up for this and the sound became an integral part of filmmaking.
The incorporation of sound into film and the resulting movie theater draw triggered a number of mergers in Hollywood as companies tried to consolidate their power (and their wealth). The result of these unions was the creation of the first major studios that dominated the industry for decades, Fox Studios (later 20th Century Fox), Leow\'s Incorporated (later Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer), Paramount, RKO, and Warner Bros. These studios monopolized the industry through vertical consolidation, meaning they controlled every part of the production process. They owned the writers, the directors and producers, the actors, the equipment and crew, even the theaters. They controlled every step and dominated Hollywood until 1948 when the U.S. Government found them to be an illegal monopoly.
It was also during this time that color in movies became possible through the use of the Technicolor system. Technicolor was created using a special camera that ran three strips of film, one in red, one in blue, and one in yellow. When the three strips were consolidated, the resulting image was in full color, though the colors were frequently very exaggerated as can be seen in two such films that were filmed in this manner, Gone With The Wind (1939) and The Wizard of Oz (1939).
The 1940\'s also marked the beginning of the Italian movement known as "neorealism." This