Predicting the Future of Film Narrative

The History of Film

Introduction

What started as a novelty in the 1890s with the innovation of the cinema cameras has become a popular culture in the world. The art of cinema making has experienced tremendous innovation, growth, and development since the first less than a minute-long silent clips were developed. The early films involved little technique and had no camera movement. Today, cinemas are displayed on enormous screens and in color, with cameras panning out dramatically over expansive landscapes of cityscapes that look like they have been decimated (Millard 87). The sound production comes from all sides, leaving the viewer wondering whether they are watching a movie or are part of the film action.

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In this section, the author will speculate on the future development of the film. The objective will be achieved by the history of the film genre. To this end, the author will review the historical background of the film, early moving pictures, and cinematic techniques.

Historical Background

The history of the film started with the invention of the motion picture cameras. The cameras were invented in the 1890s. Cinema production started to emerge gradually. Due to technological limitations, the films produced in the 1890s were short. Most of them were less than a minute long. It was in 1927 that the motion cinemas were produced without any sound (Bordwell and Thompson 12). The growth of the film industry in the first decade of the production of motion picture entailed a transition from a novelty to a large-scale and established entertainment sector. The films progressively moved from minute-long productions to several minutes with the help of various shots.

The first rotating camera to take panning shots was developed in 1898. However, the first production studios were built in 1897 (Jacobs 13). By 1900, special effects had been introduced. In addition, there was the adoption of movie continuity, which involved the movement of an action from one sequence to the next. During the 1900s, the development of the film continued to evolve. The continuity of action developed into several successive shots (Jacobs 5). It was during the same decade that the first close-up shot was attained. It was a development that is associated with the American film producer, D. W. Griffith (Mayer 122).

Early Moving Pictures

During the early days of the film industry, the cinemas were referred to as the ‘moving pictures’ or ‘pictures that moved’. Although film production was first done in the 1890s, photographers had been experimenting with the reproduction of human motion as early as the 1850s (Sokalski 116). Initially, film production focused on the movement. As such, there was no sound, story, or plot. The earliest films were a collection of 15 minute scenarios. They were produced by the Lumiere Brothers from France. The movies showed short scenes of a man watering a garden, a train arriving at a railway station, a street vendor selling his products, or men playing cards (Mayer 12). The novelties delighted the people and drew huge crowds. In the US, Thomas Edison was also producing short films, such as the ones made by the French brothers. He had films showing water falling over the Niagara Falls, two trains colliding, and waves in the ocean (Jacobs 7).

Compared to today’s standards, the early movies can be viewed as extremely primitive. The audience has become used to intricate cinematic effects. Examples include the kind of production seen in Star War and similar films. In spite of this, the people who watched the short movies thought that the films were highly realistic and exciting (Galloway 48).

The first phase emphasized on the reproduction of human motion. It focused on telling a story. The second stage started in early 20th century. The producers shifted from the technical representation of human movement to telling stories. The Great Train Robbery, which was a 1903 production by Edwin Porter, is a classic example of the movies that adopted the storytelling concept (Jacobs 12).

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Cinematic Techniques

During the early 1900s, a grammar of cinema gradually evolved. The film producers started to improvise. Through trial and errors, several practices and techniques were accepted as conventions of expressing ideas, directing the sequence of actions, and developing characters. Griffith was among the first film directors and producers to recognize the effectiveness of the new techniques (Galloway 52).

One of the techniques regarded as a novelty was the use of close-ups. The approach had been used sparingly to allow the audience to view some details that could be seen in long shots. A case in point is the first Edison film, a kinetoscopic recording of a sneeze. The film was released in 1893. It shows a close-up of a person sneezing. The early filmmakers tried to adjust the film frame to make sure that the characters could be seen from head to foot (Jacobs 15). Most of the early films were shown through peep-show devices. The devices were superseded by larger-than-life theatrical presentations, which projected the film image on the screen. Although he viewed the close-up as unnatural distortion of life, Griffith continued to use the technique to highlight the expression on the faces of the actors (Jenkins 78).

The Rise of the Feature Film

The American moviemakers faced formidable competition from foreign producers before the 1st World War. However, it did not take the American film producers and directors long to pick and incorporate what they believed to be impressive into their productions. A classic example is the French movie, Queen Elizabeth, which was produced in 1912. It starred a world famous actress. It was more than an hour long. The movie ‘introduced a new prestige’ to films in the US (Jenkins 82).

Before 1913, American movies were one or two reels long. In most cases, motion pictures were based on a perspective of variety. It was the norm even after comic and dramatic narratives overtook the multitude of trick films and documentary subjects that dominated the film industry in the first decade. The practice was to release multi-reel films. For instance, movies like The Life of Moses, which was released in 1909, and The Manger to the Cross, which was produced in 1912, would be shown a reel at a time on consecutive nights or weeks (Sokalski 119). During this period, movie attendance was largely from the working class and immigrants who could afford the five-cent admission fee (Jenkins 86). With the introduction of the imported feature films, legitimate theatres were opened in a conscious effort to win over new audience. Many movie theatres started to show multi-reel films as a major attraction as opposed to the short movies only. With these developments, production patterns changed to accommodate the new practice, which came to be referred to as the features or feature films (Kaes 59).

The Coming of Sound

The introduction sound was a catalyst to the development of several genres of cinema. Warner Brothers were among the pioneers in the innovation of sound technology (Kaes 68). Warner partnered with Western Electric in 1925 to develop an innovative sound system. The project involved a reconversion of all the company’s theaters through a massive investment. After two years, the studio released the first talking picture.

The Influence of the Silent Film on Future Cinema Production

The silent cinema years led to the production of a large number of movies that exhibited different styles, techniques, and subjects. In a span of three decades, an art form emerged from the experimental photographic media. As the film genre developed into a form of art, it preserved how settings and actors appeared. It also preserved how directors, writers, and the audience viewed their daily lives and the world around them (Langford 42). In addition, the movies recorded how people viewed and felt about the society and life in general. The silent films reflected life as it was during movie production. Because of the wide reach of the cinema, the art also became a significant part of life. It emerged to be an influencing force in trends (Sokalski 121).

Most movies focused on entertainment. Cinema was a popular form of art and individuals went out of their way to watch it (Millard 34). By 1910, the cinema had achieved maturity to the extent that little of its fundamental properties would change. The changes that would take place from time to time included the acting styles and the subject of the stories. Consequently, the films produced after the silent era still rely on the ability of the silent movie to provide a visual representation of information. The standards of photographic presentation, editing, and the length of the story that were established in those formative years are still used in movies, videos, and other digital productions (Langford 233).

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Predicting the Future of the Film Narrative

Overview

The adoption of digital technologies and applications by enterprises and consumers is a worldwide phenomenon that has affected consumers and every industry in the world. In most sectors, digitization affects the mode of production, marketing, and distribution. The digital phenomenon has revolutionized the way entities interact with their consumers (Westfahl et al. 12). The film industry is no exception. Pundits observe that the industries that are affected the most by innovations in information technology are the ones engaged in the generation of content. The entities include the film, television, book publishing, music, and gaming sectors (Grant 96). It is noted that almost all of these sectors are significantly altered by the emergence and penetration of technology into the everyday lives of individuals. For instance, in the near future, the emergence of the 3D printing will lead to fundamental changes in the delivery of creative services.

The film industry has witnessed the introduction of many digital products. The products include internet protocol television, video-on-demand, and over-the-top streaming. The innovative products are associated with the distribution of the film (Westfahl et al. 129). There are various innovations related to the production and manipulation of the content.

In this section, the author will try to predict the future of the film narrative. The prediction will be based on the analysis of past events and emerging technology. The effects of these elements on cinematography will be used to predict the future of film narrative.

Digital Distribution of Film Content

The emergence of digital distribution has allowed consumers to control and manage their access to content, especially in terms of scheduling. In the emerging digital economy, money is not viewed as the main form of exchange. On the contrary, the sharing of content has been elevated to a new level. Films, music, and pictures are significant commodities in the new sharing economy (Westfahl et al. 20).

The aim of the digital economy is to construct social networks. The digital sharing economy of the future is an economy whose trade is undertaken for no monetary gains. Players in the film industry need to understand the emerging consumption. The producers have to deal with a scenario where individual consumers participate in the exchange of digital content with no monetary expectations (Friedberg 439). However, in spite of this, it is apparent that the sharing of content gives value to the distributed material. In essence, it offers the filmmakers an opportunity to get their productions distributed widely. In addition, it acts as a marketing opportunity, especially through the word of mouth. However, the sharing of content may impact negatively on the industry’s revenue returns.

Computation as the Future of Cinematography

The future of cinematography will be driven by computation. Already, the Lytro Cinema is being viewed as the vision of the future of cinema. Lytro is recognized for bringing the first light-field cameras. The cameras allow the focus of the images, as well as the depth of the field, to be changed on the post. It is important to note that refocusing of the images after the fact is only ‘a tip of the iceberg’ in relation to the potential of the light-field technology (Bordwell and Thompson 422). The technology captures the traditional chroma and illumination information in a scene. It also highlights the angle of light reflected from all the objects. As a result, the technology is able to generate a 3D volumetric map of any given live action.

The Lytro filming technology comprises of a camera, a server, and software that is used in editing the field data. The technology can be viewed as a breakthrough that enables complete visualization of live action while transforming camera controls to computational processes in the post-production manipulation (Friedberg 444). As a result, the producer is able to generate shots that are historically impossible.

The Cinema Experiences of the Future

It is predicted that cinema will progressively evolve into large-scale attractions. Such attractions are similar to urban theme parks where the cinema theatres will only be a part of the larger experience. The ‘immersive’ forms of cinema experience will be at an individual level outside the theatres (Westfahl et al. 129). It is possible for movies and games to come together in the future. The technology that is emerging today, such as flexible screens, smart glasses, motion controls, as well as virtual and augmented reality, is already an indicator of the future of the cinema (Westfahl et al. 130). The coming together of the anticipated cinema and reality worlds will improve the experience of the audience. The viewers will be able to experience the illusion in the productions. In such a world, reality may become secondary.

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Already, virtual reality is finding a number of practical applications in the modern world. The cinema of the future will be characterized by new cinematic narratives. Given that cinema is only a century old, it can be argued that it is still young. People are only beginning to learn how to manipulate it and share aural and visual perceptions (Mayer 300). There are vast possibilities in the future, such as a cinema that is not based on text and music that does not rely on words.

Hijacking Perception in the Future of Film Narrative

As soon as scientists discover a way to manipulate senses, the cinema phenomenon will start to merge with and replace the real world. In the emerging reality, it will be possible for individuals to visit outer space. They will also be able to travel in time. As a result, robots and software will be used to explore the unreachable parts of the world to gather real-time data to feed human senses (Westfahl et al. 60).

The border between fiction and reality in film narrative will cease to exist and individuals will find it possible to spend most of their waking hours in a heavily manipulated world. People’s experiences, thoughts, and behaviors will be controlled by those in charge of the software (Langford 31). However, there are various consequences associated with such a world. For example, identity challenges will emerge. In spite of this, the advantages of being part of the evolution will outweigh the costs. It is apparent that these will be exciting times for the film narrative (Westfahl et al. 89).

Altering the Past

Alteration of the past will be made possible in the cinema of the future. To achieve this, the audience will control their memory by expanding it to meet their desires. With the help of the new cinematic experience, viewers will create a past that suits their needs and aspirations in life. The possibility has already been made apparent in studies conducted on mice. The study showed that it is possible to generate false memory (Westfahl et al. 100). As such, knowledge and skills, such as learning a language or a technical subject, will be just a fast add-on and a memory manipulation. As much as this sounds exciting, technology will, however, remain just a tool. Irrespective of the method of production, great stories, such as those narrated by Shakespeare and Homer, will remain as relevant in the future as they are today (Kaes 4). World events and conflicts will still be the drivers of cinema in the future. Their relevance to the film narraitve will remain.

Conclusion

A cinema or film is defined as a recording of an event through the medium of a camera. The recording is presented as a construction of moving images projected in a cinema or television. Cinema can also be regarded as a medium. To this end, it is viewed as the art of stimulating human experiences. It conveys stories, ideas, and feelings through the programming of moving images and other forms of sensory stimulation. Film narratives have changed significantly since the invention of the technology. A number of factors are associated with this evolution. They include, among others, the desire to capture events in a realistic manner. During the infancy years of the sector, filmmakers concentrated on the production of short clips. However, this has changed over time. A critical analysis of this industry reveals more changes in the future. Technological innovations will have a significant impact on film narratives. The possible changes can be predicted using the development of the industry in the past.

Works Cited

Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction. 9th ed., McGraw Hill Higher Education, 2010.

Friedberg, Anne. “The End of Cinema: Multi-Media and Technological Change.” Reinventing Film Studies, edited by Christine Gledhill and Linda Williams, Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 438-452.

Galloway, Alexander. “Gaming: Origins of the First-Person Shooter.” Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture, edited by Alexander Galloway, University of Minnesota Press, 2006, pp. 39-69.

Grant, Keith. Film Genre: From Iconography to Ideology. Wallflower Press, 2007.

Jacobs, Christopher. “Development of the Cinema: From Scientific Novelty to a New Art and Entertainment Industry.” Guide to the Silent Years of American Cinema, edited by Christopher Jacobs and Donald McCaffrey, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999, pp. 1-15.

Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York University Press, 2008.

Kaes, Anton. Shell Shock Cinema: Weimar Culture and the Wounds of War. Princeton University Press, 2011.

Langford, Barry. Film Genre: Hollywood and Beyond. Edinburgh University Press, 2005.

Mayer, David. Stagestruck Filmmaker: D. W. Griffith and the American Theatre. University of Iowa Press, 2009.

Millard, Andre. America on Record: A History of Recorded Sound. 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Sokalski, Joseph. “From Screen to Stage: A Case Study of the Paper Print Collection.” Nineteenth Century Theatre, vol. 25, no. 2, 1997, pp. 115-136.

Westfahl, Gary, et al. Science Fiction and the Prediction of the Future: Essays on Foresight and Fallacy. McFarland, 2011.

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