Part of Lesson Plan: Les Frères Lumière Court-métrage
Activity Overview / Details
Of the many people working to develop motion pictures in the late 1800s, the most successful were the partnerships between Thomas Edison and William Dickson in America and the Brothers Louis and Auguste Lumière in France.
Their experiments, spurred on by motion capture work by other photographers, provided the basis for motion picture photography and presentation, and their techniques can still be seen in the capture and projection of motion pictures today.
Show the clips: First Lumière Films (1895) and The Kiss (1896) when presenting this next section.
Film dates from 1895. When the first motion pictures were created, editing did not exist. The novelty of seeing a moving image was such that not even a screen story was necessary. The earliest films were less than a minute in length. They could be as simple as La Sortie de l’Usine Lumière (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory) (1895) or Arrivée d’un Train en Gare (Arrivalof a Train at the Station) (1895). One of the more popular films in New York was The Kiss (1896). Its success encouraged more films in a similar vein: A Boxing Bout (1896) and Skirt Dance (1896). Although George Méliès began producing more exotic “created” stories in France, such as Cinderella (1899) and A Trip to the Moon (1902), all of the early films shared certain characteristics. Editing was nonexistent or, at best, minimal in the case of Méliès.
What is remarkable about this period is that in 30 short years, the principles of classical editing were developed. In the early years, however, continuity, screen direction, and dramatic emphasis through editing were not even goals. Cameras were placed without thought to compositional or emotional considerations. Lighting was notional (no dramatic intention meant), even for interior scenes. Light, camera placement, and camera movement were not an important part of the filming process. In the earliest Auguste and Louis Lumière and Thomas Edison films, the camera recorded an event, an act, or an incident. Many of these early films were a single shot.
Although Méliès’s films grew to a length of 14 minutes, they remained a series of single shots: tableaus that recorded a performed scene. All of the shots were strung together. The camera was stationary and distant from the action. The physical lengths of the shots were not varied for impact. Performance, not pace, was the prevailing intention. The films were edited to the extent that they consisted of more than one shot, but A Trip to the Moon is no more than a series of amusing shots, each a scene unto itself. The shots tell a story, but not in the manner to which we are accustomed. It was not until the work of Edwin S. Porter that editing became more purposeful.
THE TECHNIQUE OF FILM AND VIDEO EDITING: History, Theory, and Practice by KEN DANCYGER
Have students review: Timeline of the Early Cinema and Mindmap off Auguste and Louis Lumière. Have them identify and report on what are some of the key points in the evolution of film at the end of one century and the beginning of the next.
ASK: What other historical events were occurring during this time that helped to shape the era, other watershed events (the rise of psychotherapy, the industrial revolution, etc.)? What were different film makers doing during that time?