Film Production

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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 movement focused on portraying the non-fictional
aspects of Italian society for entertainment, in contrast to many of the dream
worlds that were being produced by Hollywood. Future generations of filmmakers
would look to this movement as inspiration for their own films depicting their
home countries in a

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