- For other uses see film (disambiguation)
Film is a term that encompasses motion pictures as individual projects, as well as the field in general. The origin of the name comes from the fact that photographic film (also called filmstock) has historically been the primary medium for recording and displaying motion pictures. Many other terms exist — "the cinema", "the silver screen", "photoplays", "picture shows", "flicks" — and especially "movies". But academics and the international community prefer to use "film", due to the colloquial origins of the other terms.
Films are produced by recording actual people and objects with cameras, or by creating them using animation techniques and/or special effects. They are comprised of a series of individual frames, but when these images are shown rapidly in succession, the illusion of motion is given to the viewer. Flickering between frames is not seen due to an effect known as persistence of vision — whereby the eye retains a visual image for a fraction of a second after the source has been removed. Perhaps of more relevance is what causes the perception of motion — a psychological effect identified as the Phi phenomenon.
The visual elements of cinema need no translation, giving the motion picture a universal power of communication. Popular movies can become worldwide attractions, especially with the addition of dubbing or subtitles that translate the dialogue. Though film allows viewers to escape their realities and is the largest industry in entertainment, it is considered by many to be a very important art form. Films are also artifacts created by specific cultures, that reflect those cultures and, in turn, affects them.
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History of cinema
Main article: History of cinema
Mechanisms for displaying moving pictures were demonstrated as early as the 1860's, and include the projection zoetrope and the projection praxinoscope. These machines were outgrowths of simple optical devices (such as magic lanterns), and would display rapid sequences of still pictures. By using pictures that were largely similar, but with slight differences, the presenter could communicate the effect of motion to the viewer. Naturally, the images needed to be carefully designed to achieve the desired effect — and the underlying principle remains the basis for the cinematic genre known as animation.
With the development of photography, and particularly of celluloid film, it became possible to directly capture motion from the real world. Early versions of the technology sometimes required individuals to look into a special device to see the pictures. Yet by the late 1880's, translucent film had made it feasible to use a projector to shine light through the processed and printed film. These "moving picture shows" — were displayed on a screen for an entire audience, and came to be known as movies.
The cinema was a purely visual art in the early 20th century, and innovative silent films had gained a hold on the public imagination. Presenters often provided a commentator to narrate the action, but this became unnecessary with the advent of subtitles which printed the actors' dialogue. Rather than leave the audience in silence, theater owners would hire a pianist or organist to play music fitting the mood of the film at any given moment. Later technology allowed filmmakers to provide recorded soundtracks of music and speech synchronized with the action on the screen, and these sound films were initially distinguished by calling them "talking pictures", or talkies.
The final major step in the development of cinema was the introduction of color. While the addition of sound and film scores quickly drove out silent movies and theater musicians, color was adopted more gradually. As color processes improved and became as affordable as black-and-white, more and more movies were filmed in color, and there is little reason not to use color in movies today. In rare exceptions the choice is motivated by artistic reasons.
The motion picture industry
The making and showing of motion pictures became a source of profit within a few years after the process was invented. The Oberammergau Passion play of 1898 was the first commercial motion picture ever produced. Other pictures soon followed, and motion pictures became a separate industry that overshadowed the vaudeville world. Dedicated theaters and companies formed specifically to produce and distribute films, while motion picture actors became major celebrities and commanded huge fees for their performances. Already by 1917, Charlie Chaplin had a contract that called for an annual salary of 1 million dollars.
In the United States today, much of the film industry is centered around Hollywood. Other regional centers exist in many parts of the world, and the Indian fim industry (primarily centered around "Bollywood") annually produces the largest number of films in the world. Though the expense involved in making movies has led cinema production to concentrate under the auspices of movie studios, recent advances in affordable film making equipment have allowed independent film productions to flourish.
Profit is a key motive in the industry, yet many movie makers strive to create works of lasting social significance. The Academy Awards (also known as The Oscars) are the most prominent film awards in the United States, and they provide recognition each year to films based on their artistic merits. Also, film is being used increasingly in education in lieu of or in addition to text and or spoken narrative.
When it is initially produced, a film is normally shown to audiences in a movie theater. The first theater designed exclusively for cinema opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1905. Thousands of such theaters were built or converted from existing facilities within a few years. In the United States, these theaters came to be known as nickelodeons, because admission typically cost a nickel (5 cents).
Typically, one film is the featured presentation. A feature film is sometimes defined as any film more than 60 minutes in length (90–120 minutes is typical, and a few films run up to 4 hours or more). Before showing this film, the theater may have shorter presentations. In Europe there has been advertising since before WWII; it has appeared in American cinemas in the late twentieth century. Historically, the feature presentation was often preceded by newsreels and short films, especially animation. There were "double features"; typically, a high-quality "A picture" rented by an independent theater for a lump sum, and a "B picture" of lower quality rented for a percentage of the gross receipts. Today, the bulk of the material shown before the feature film (those in theaters) consists of previews for upcoming movies (also known as trailers).
Originally, all films were made to be shown in movie theaters. The development of television has allowed films to be broadcast to larger audiences, usually after the film is no longer being shown in theaters. Recording technology has also enabled consumers to rent or buy copies of films on video tape or DVD (and the older formats of laserdisc, VCD and SelectaVision—see also videodisc), and Internet downloads may be available and have started to become revenue sources for the film companies. Some films are now made specifically for these other venues, being released as made-for-TV movies or direct-to-video movies. These are often considered to be of inferior quality compared to theatrical releases. And indeed, some films that are rejected by their own studios upon completion are dumped into these markets.
The movie theater pays an average of about 55% of its ticket sales to the movie studio as film rental fees. The actual percentage starts with a number higher than that, and decreases as the duration of a film's showing continues, as an incentive to theaters to keep movies in the theater longer. However, today's barrage of highly marketed movies ensures that most movies are shown in first-run theaters for under 8 weeks. There are a few movies every year that defy this rule, often limited-release movies that start in only a few theaters and actually grow their theater count through good word-of-mouth and reviews. According to a 2000 study by ABN AMRO, about 26% of Hollywood movie studios' worldwide income came from box office ticket sales; 46% came from VHS and DVD sales to consumers; and 28% came from television (broadcast, cable, and pay-per-view).
Development of film technology
Filmstock consists of a transparent celluloid, polyester, or other plastic base coated with an emulsion containing light-sensitive chemicals. Cellulose nitrate was the first type of film base used to record motion pictures, but due to its flammability was eventually replaced by safer formats.
Originally moving picture film was shot at various speeds using hand-cranked cameras; then the speed for mechanized cameras and projectors was standardized at 16 frames per second, which was faster than much existing hand-cranked footage. A new standard speed, 24 frames per second, came with the introduction of sound. Improvements since the late 1800s include the mechanization of cameras, allowing them to record at a consistent speed, the invention of more sophisticated filmstocks and lenses, allowing directors to film in increasingly dim conditions, and the development of synchronized sound, allowing sound to be recorded at exactly the same speed as its corresponding action. The soundtrack can be recorded separately from shooting the film, but for live-action pictures many parts of the soundtrack are usually recorded simultaneously.
As a medium, film is not limited to motion pictures, since the technology developed as the basis for photography. It can be used to present a progressive sequence of still images in the form of a slideshow. Film has also been incorporated into multimedia presentations, and often has importance as primary historical documentation. However, historic films have problems in terms of preservation and storage, and the motion picture industry is exploring many alternatives. Most movies on cellulose nitrate base have been copied onto modern safety films. Some studios save three B&W negatives exposed through red, green, and blue filters. Digital methods have also been used to restore and preserve films. Film preservation of decaying film stock is a matter of concern to both film historians and archivists, and to companies interested in preserving their existing products in order to make them available to future generations (and thereby increase revenue).
Some films in recent decades have been recorded using analog video technology similar to that used in television production. Modern digital video cameras and digital projectors are gaining ground as well. These approaches are extremely beneficial to movie makers, especially because footage can be evaluated and edited without waiting for the film stock to be processed. Yet the migration is gradual, and as of 2005 most major motion pictures are still recorded on film.
- Movie making manual
- Movie making directory
Basic Types of Film
- List of motion picture-related topics (extensive alphabetical listing)
- List of movies
- Lists of movie source material
- List of Cult Films
- List of film festivals
- List of cinematic genres
- List of movies with plot twists
- List of fantasy films
- List of lesbian & gay films
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- List of disaster movies
- List of horror films
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- List of movies that have been considered the greatest ever
- List of movies that have been considered the worst ever
- List of films by gory death scene
- Digital cinema
- Film criticism
- Film journals and magazines
- Film festival
- Film theory
- History of cinema
- Internet Movie Database
- Sound stage
- Cinema of Taiwan
- The Oxford history of world cinema, Oxford University Press 1999, ISBN 0198742428
- Malte Hagener, Michael Töteberg: Film – an international bibliography Stuttgart et al. : Metzler, 2002, ISBN 3–476–01523–8
- Amos Vogel, Film as a subversive art, Weidenfeld & Nichols 1974
- Wikicities has a wiki about Film: FilmWiki
- The Director's Chair Film Reviews with accurate marking system and recommendations page
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- dTheatre.com Movie community, rumors, reviews and news about film.
- Film Academy – UK's most popular website for independent filmmaking
- Film Site'Greatest Films' Lists
- GroupLens Research at the University of Minnesota
- The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) Information on current and historical films and cast listings
- Leonard Maltin Movie Crazy Website Information about movies past and present, for the movie enthusiest
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- Movie Forums News, reviews, and an active community of cinephiles.
- The Movie Insider Tracks upcoming movies.
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- Movie Today Examples of independently made student short films by movie buffs.
- The Numbers Box office figures by movie and actor, including box office records
- Open Directory Project: Movies
- The Open Movie Database An effort at open sourcing the information on IMDb
- Rasp New Movie Database Information about released, new, and upcoming films, listed by title, year, or person
- Romanticmovies.about.com Celebrity interviews, casting news, photo galleries, and movie reviews
- Rose Lantern – Film student resources Movie reviews, film software reviews, and other film student resources.
- Rotten Tomatoes Film reviews
- webisodes.org A wiki webisode directory
- Yahoo! Movies Information on specific movies, including upcoming movies by title, date, and actor