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Film is a visual medium involving the recording and display of images in motion over time, generally by photographic means. The word "film" was derived from the shorthand for photographic film, a particular medium of image recording which uses a photosensitive coating atop a flexible substrate.

Film is a generic term that may describe different media: film as an academic field, an art form, popular motion pictures, whether live-action or cartoon, educational and industrial films, and propaganda tools. An entire industry has grown around the making of films.

Film as a creative art form has several popular names. The most common of these are cinema (most often used in Commonwealth English) or movies (the American term, which is popular around the globe thanks to the far-reaching influence of Hollywood).

Film is a relatively young art form, originating in the late 19th century. From its beginnings as a public curiosity for showing several seconds of black and white silent footage of "actualities", film gradually evolved technically and creatively over the succeeding decades into a major financial enterprise. Longer narrative films and experimentation with new techniques fed into increasingly imaginative works, a larger viewing public, and an influx in workers eager to be employed on both sides of the camera. All of these factors made films a lucrative market, and thus drove increased investment and the birth of the “studio system”. Subsequently, the demand for new audience experiences - both for creative and marketing reasons - led to the use of sound, color, widescreen, 3-D, and even smells or sensations with the film; these were each met with varying degrees of success. More recent developments include integration with video formats, such as HD for origination, and DVD for distribution.


Until the 1950s, film contained cellulose nitrate, which would catch fire if the projection lamp was too hot. It was eventually replaced with a cellulose acetate formula that would not ignite. All motion pictures were filmed on 35mm film until the late 1960s; this medium is still used today. 16mm film has also been in use for filmmaking since the 1960s. Video did not dominate the scene until the late 1990's. all motion pictures were shot on plastic celluloid film until the turn of the millennium.


35 mm film has been the standard format for motion pictures. In early cinema, various media had been used to create moving images, including light sensitive paper. in the 1900's Eastman Kodak invented flexible film.

16mm & Super 16

16 mm film was Introduced in the 1920s, and was originally used for home movies. From the advent of television the 1950s, it was used to film stories that were not live broadcast, and from the 1960s onward, it was used by independent filmmakers and television studios. Later 16mm film began to be used by the movie industry as a way of cutting costs associated with 35mm. 16mm film is half of the width of 35mm film and has an aspect ratio of 1.33.

Super 16 was created and developed by Rune Ericson and Jean-Pierre Beauviala, the latter the founder of first Eclaire then Aaton, the French manufacturer of motion picture cameras. It was designed to fit the theatrical aspect ratio (1.66 Europe; 1.85 North America) when projected. Super 16mm extends the frame of the image into the area originally used for optical soundtracks.

8mm & Super 8

Super 8 was introduced in the 1960s as a home movie format. like 16mm, it too has been used for feature film. Unlike 16mm, it remained as a minor form of movie making prior to the advent of the VCR in 1979.


Motion pictures are considered to be a modern art medium, as they require technological advances; these are improving rapidly over time.

Silent era

See Silent film

From the late 1800s to the late 1920s, film was chiefly a silent medium. Classic and method acting were translated directly from the stage, vaudeville and pantomime, often with exaggerated facial expressions and body language for the camera. Early stars included Clara Bow, Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford.

A Trip to the Moon (1902), by early filmmaker Georges Méliès, was a notable silent film which suggested film’s wide potential for experimental art and capturing the scope of human imagination. It was an exaggerated fantasy using experimental film techniques and was probably the first film to suggest and portray space travel.

Styles differed from continent to continent, with film being treated alternately as a serious art form, a form of entertainment and a profit-making business. Countries that developed their own native cinema from the early silent period onward, include Russia, India, Brazil and Japan.

Experiments in improving the technology and techniques of filmmaking continued throughout the silent era. Besides improvements to the actual media, among the most significant of these were improvements to the camera and especially to its mobility, allowing increasingly daring and flexible filming, the invention and rapid development of “boom” microphone techniques and continual experiments in sound.

Sound era

Early sound film was difficult to produce. Until the invention of the microphone arm (or "microphone boom"), microphones were placed at certain points around the set to record dialogue. The tracks were then mixed together and recorded on special vinyl records that were played on cue with the film with a little mark placed on the record track. Often would these go out of sync and some records broke.

By the late 1920s, advances in the nascent radio industry, including the first commercial broadcasts purely for entertainment, were posing a competitive threat to the film industry. This may well have spurred the push for sound in film. technology developed rapidly; with the creation of the microphone boom and the use of visual sound waves on the section of the film as sound, using light to both record and play sound. The release of The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson (1927 ) usually marks the advent of sound. Films with sound sequences had already been released, but The Jazz Singer was the first full length film with audible singing and dialogue.

The Jazz Singer was highly successful and film producers, even those resistant to the new sound technology, could no longer ignore it. From then onward, nearly all motion pictures had sound. Silent film has since become rare, and today is usually found only in the art film world.

Over time sound began to help shape the films being made, notable examples include Alfred Hitchcock's 1929 remake of his earlier silent film Blackmail, and the French film Le Million.


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