So, where were we? We’ve told you about Melies and his films full of tricks. Back then, there was no editing yet – and certainly no way to move the camera around. However, editing would be coming in fashion very soon (soon enough for Melies to use, even). That’s a story for the next week, though, as this week we’d like to tell you some more about the non-moving camera.
It’s 2015 at the moment and mobile devices are used for everything and anything. Together, our video app, is used to take movies and pictures and even edit on the go, using nothing more than just a small and lightweight mobile device. Back when the first cameras were made, though, there was nothing mobile about it. The biggest reason for this was the mass of the filming material. As you may or may not know, movies are shot, generally, at the rate of 24 frames per second; it takes 24 “pictures” to make up one second of film as they are shown quick, one after another. If this is difficult to grasp, just try to make a flipbook, drawing a series of slightly changing pictures and then flipping through it to imitate movement: that’s basically how filming works.
Anyway, celluloid film containing 24 tiny frames per each second and rolled up to fit in the camera, weighs a ton. And not only the material weighed a lot; back at the beginning of the 20th century, there were no lightweight yet durable plastic materials for cameras either. So, the cameras holding weighty celluloid were quite heavy themselves as they were made out of steel mostly. When the first sound films emerged (more on that to follow), moving the cameras became even more difficult. They had to be built inside a box because the cameras themselves made so much noise while pulling the celluloid through the system, that they could be heard on set. So again, there was no way to move the camera around.
It was obvious that having a more mobile camera would benefit cinematic development. Soon, movie pioneers tried out different materials to make cameras easier to handle. The celluloid became smaller and more lightweight (8 and 16 mm film was used for home filming instead of the bigger cinematic 35 mm) and cameras got smaller. Believe it or not, already back in 1910 there was a Polish inventor, Kazimierz Prószyński, who invented a handheld camera, named the Aeroscope.
Home use of film became more regular after WW II, when 8mm and 16mm cameras and projectors entered the regular households. With the introduction of TV, professional cameras became even more flexible as there was much more need to switch frames due to the live nature of a big portion of (early) TV broadcasts. With the need for more camera movement becoming increasingly bigger, filmmakers developed rigging systems to move their camera on and eventually Garret Brown came up with the Steadycam system which allowed a cinematographer to walk around freely with a heavy camera.
The introduction of video was the next big step in developing smaller cameras. The video material was lightweight and partly based on plastic, which became a bigger component of cameras as well. As storage systems evolved from the video tape towards digital, cameras became smaller and more lightweight with every new release. When even the last stabilizing issues were fixed, and picture quality became less dependent on the size of the lens, filming really became a household pastime. Now that most people have access to a mobile device and are able to use cloud services (Together offers it as well), nothing can prevent us from making the most of mobile moviemaking we can!