The History of Cameras

         You could very easily make do without costumes, lighting for dramatic purpose, man-made settings, or even sound, but without the camera, you will never have a film. It has been the advances made in the manufacturing of cameras for cinematic purposes that have possibly had the greatest effect in how films were produced over a period of time. The size and weight of the camera, the quality of images captured, and the cost have all had bearing upon a director.

         Originally awkward and even delicate contraption cameras were often times kept in one place while actors moved about, performing as though on a stage. Not too unusual were the play speeds that had gotten out of sync resulting in characters appearing a bit on the fast side. For instance, you may recall the sped up motions of actors in D. W. Griffith's 1915 Birth of a Nation (1915). Often, the camera remained fastened in one corner of a room, or any other place for that matter. The only time I can recall of the camera itself moving was when it was being towed in front of clan members dressed in their usual garb and riding horses.

         Then came along cameras that kept getting smaller and lighter and more durable, cameras that could also provide a wide range of effects. Of course, there were still cameras that could be considered behemoths; but at least these had more delicately controlled platforms on which to reside. We now can afford more cameras to alternate points of views, for example the slaughter of Bonnie and Clyde Barrow in Arthur Penn's film Bonnie and Clyde (1967), in which multiple cameras were set to record at varied speeds. In our modern world, we have the possibility of people obtaining cameras from Wal-Mart to produce their own low-budget films, such was a similar case with The Blair Witch Project, directed in 1999 by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez.

John Couris

Table of Contents