Where we come from

As we watch the films of today, it is great to take a moment and think about where this medium has evolved from.

In the 1890s, the Lumiere brothers were hard at work to make a motion picture camera. Their father was a photographer and working for him, the men were introduced to the medium and the materials. These are the guys who invented the sprocket hole – the holes on the side of the filmstrip that is used by the camera to advance the film across the lens.

The motion picture camera (cinematographe) was patented on 13 February 1895. On the 19th of March, 1895, the Lumiere brothers shot the first film – people coming out of the Lumiere factory. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but all they were trying to do is capture motion on film and it was this first step that helped establish the medium.

They went on to shoot lots of little clips – the first home movie called “Baby’s Tea Time” was a short segment which featured August Lumiere and his wife, Marguerite, feeding their baby son. Again, a very simple idea, but used to demonstrate the medium. When it was shown, the audience was most impressed the camera actually captured the detail of the wind blowing through the leaves several feet away.

They also made the first comedy of a person watering plants while someone comes up behind him and stands on the pipe, cutting off the water. When the gardener looks at the hose, the comic removes his foot, spraying the gardener on the face.

And they made the famous L’Arrive d’un train la Ciotat. This is a very well framed shot of a train pulling into a station. The train emerges onto the screen at the top right corner and exists the frame at the bottom left corner, providing a great angle. Urban legend has it that the audience was freaked out at the train coming at them and ran out of the theater screaming, although no documentation backs up this claim.

These little movies were the first innovations in the field. Just imagine watching all of these on Dec 28, 1895, (almost a 111 years ago to the day) when the brothers screened 10 little movies publicly for the first time!