From Sprockets to Terabytes
The digital age has made a great impact on the way motion pictures are made, a fact that is especially evident when it comes to camera work. Filmmaking is currently in the midst of a growing and inevitable shift away from shooting onto film. One of the fading arguments for using traditional film cameras is that film has a look or feel that can't be duplicated digitally. While this is most certainly still the case when the imagery of large-format film is compared to consumer-grade and entry-level digital camera equipment, experienced cinematographers and camera operators who use high-end professional digital equipment are quickly eliminating the distinction.
Evolution of the Camera
The light bulb and phonograph may be Thomas Edison's most famous inventions, but he can also be credited with the creation of the world's first commercially successful motion picture camera, which he patented in 1891. Several earlier devices had been created that enabled the illusion of motion to be captured on film. The tongue-twisting Phenakistiscope and Zoo-praxiscope were capable of projecting images that produced the appearance of movement, but they relied on a series of still cameras to create their images.
During this same time, the Eastman Kodak company had designed and marketed consumer-oriented single-shot cameras that utilized rolls of film that could be hand-wound through relatively simple mechanisms. Edison's team of creative geniuses realized that the same concept could be applied to a motorized camera that would automatically wind and shoot multiple frames of film in rapid succession.
The result of Edison's effort was a motion picture camera that utilized rolls of film thirty-five millimeters (35mm) wide. The camera was given its own home in the world's first motion picture studio, unofficially dubbed the
The camera Edison's team developed was called the
The Kinetograph gradually gave way to projection systems that displayed films onto screens that dozens of patrons could view at the same time. From these humble (and very profitable) beginnings, the technology of filmmaking and film cameras has grown in sophistication, speed, and image capacity.