XIANG LI-History Paper

Thesis paper 02-Present

History of Postproduction


This semester I want to explore the development of post motion picture, and I will put more energy on the field of post production of film and television.


There actually is no motion whatever in a “motion picture.” On a screen, each successive photograph stands still for about 1/24th of a second, but the eye is tricked into believing that the flow of movement is continuous. The effect has been known since ancient times, and was described by Roman poet and philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus in the first century BC.

Until the end of the 1920s most cameras were hand-cranked; the operator turned a handle on the side of the camera to expose the film.  Two turns a second was average, but camera operators could turn the crank more slowly; this speeded up all the actors’ movements when the film was shown. The result is the familiar jerky, frenzied action of the silent comedy. Improved small electric motors made the motion picture camera a more reliable and consistent instrument.

The first projectors were really magic lanterns fitted with a hand-cranked device to advance the film. Many used gaslight as a light source, but as electricity became common, projectionists began to use powerful electric arc lights. Movie film was equipped with sprocket holes almost from the beginning. The holes were devised by Edison’s assistant, William Dickson. A rotating sprocket wheel engaged the holes to advance the film. The sprocket caused a lot of wear, and shows were often interrupted when the sprocket holes tore or film broke. Early films were made of nitrocellulose (Guncotton!) and could catch fire if the projector mechanism stopped turning the sprocket that moved the film or if the sprockets tore and the film motion halted. Non-flammable film made of cellulose acetate was invented in 1912. While it didn’t catch fire easily, it would char and melt quite nicely if the film stopped moving.

To create three-dimensional effects in a projected movie, the camera records two images through lenses several inches apart. The audience wears special glasses allowing the left eye to see the image filmed by the left camera lens, and the right eye to see the image filmed by the right lens. The lenses may use differing colors or differing polarization to produce the separation effect. 3-D movies relied on the shock value of objects seeming to catapult from the screen toward the audience. With little emphasis on plot and character, they were a passing fad, not a lasting success. Some 3-D movies were made as early as 1915, but their greatest popularity was in the early 1950s (27 3-D movies were made in 1953, the height of the craze).The inventor of the 3-D process used for movies such as Bwana Devil made more money as sole distributor of viewing glasses than he did from his percentage of box-office gross. Glasses bought at six cents each sold at the theatres for ten cents!


The documentary film  also rose as a commercial genre for perhaps the first time, with the success of films such as   March of the Penguins and Michael’s Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit. A new genre was created with Martin Kunert and Eric Manes’ Voices of Irap when 150 inexpensive DV cameras were distributed across Iraq, transforming ordinary people into collaborative filmmakers. The success of Gladiator lead to a revival of interest in epic cinema, and Moulin Rouge! renewed interest in musical cinema. Home theatre systems became increasingly sophisticated, as did some of the special edition DVDs designed to be shown on them. The Lord of the Rings was released on DVD in both the theatrical version and in a special extended version intended only for home cinema audiences.

In 2001, the Harry Potter film series began, and by its end in 2011, it had become the highest-grossing film franchise of all time.There is a growing problem of digital distribution to be overcome with regards to expiration of copyrights, content security, and enforcing copyright. There is higher compression for films, and Moore’s law allows for increasingly cheaper technology.

More films were also being released simultaneously to IMAX cinema, the first was in 2002’s Disney animation Treasure Planet; and the first live action was in 2003’s The Matrix Revolutions and a re-release of The Matrix Reloaded. Later in the decade, The Dark Knight was the first major feature film to have been at least partially shot in IMAX technology.There has been an increasing globalization of cinema during this decade, with foreign-language films gaining popularity in English-speaking markets. Examples of such films include CrouchingTiger, HiddenDragon(Mandarin), Amelie(French), Lagaan(Hindi-Urdu), Spirited Away (Japanese),City of God (Portuguese).

Recently there has been a revival in 3D film popularity the first being James Cameron’s Ghosts of the Abyss which was released as the first full-length 3-D IMAX feature filmed with the Reality Camera System. This camera system used the latest HD video cameras, not film, and was built for Cameron by Emmy nominated Director of Photography Vince Pace, to his specifications. The same camera system was used to film Spy Kids 3D: Game over(2003), Aliens of the Deep IMAX (2005), and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D(2005).

After James Cameron’s 3D film Avatar became the highest-grossing film of all time, 3D films have gained increasing popularity with many other films being released in 3D, with the best critical and financial successes being in the field of feature film animation such as DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon and Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar’s Toy Story 3. Avatar is also note-worthy for pioneering highly sophisticated use of motion capture technology and influencing several other films such as Rise of the Planet of the Apes. As of 2010, the largest film industries by number of feature films produced are those of India, the United States and China.

Three-dimensional anything has always looked cheesy, but that wasn’t the case when I recently saw the very gory My Bloody Valentine 3D, which was shot using RealD technology and screened using a single high-res digital projector. There were pickaxes coming at you, blood splattering on your 3D glasses—I was in horror heaven! The 3D glasses handed out for the film were made of a durable plastic with polarized lenses. The polarized lenses allow each eye to see its own picture, even if you tilt your head; older 3D film methods used two projectors, and the anaglyphic (red/blue) glasses caused you to see double imaging if your head was tilted to the side.

Besides 3D movies, manufacturers have been focusing on other 3D-branded products for the home, such as 3D-ready HDTVs, 3D digital cameras, and 360-degree 3D scanners. We guide you through these and other amazing 3D products, from the present to the future

I believe when we get to the year 2020, we will look at our world and one of the biggest changes will be that 3d graphics are everywhere.  Between Augmented Reality and true Virtual Reality this technology will transform the world.

Second Life isn’t state of the art.  It’s about five years behind actually.  If you want to see something closer to state-of-the-art in Virtual Environments, check out Blue Mars. This is based on a video game graphics engine and is very much improved over Second Life.  Naturally, not all computers can run it, but every year the average machine is getting faster.  In fact, the iPhone almost has enough computing power to run it (but not the right software).

If you want to see what 3d graphics will look like in 10 years, look at Hollywood.  Interactive 3d graphics are about five years behind what Hollywood can do as Special Effects today.  Therefore in less than 10 years, we can expect truly photorealistic (meaning lifelike) graphics that we can overlay on top of reality.  This will blur what we consider real.

In order to do true interactive Raytracing, which is the biggest difference between what Hollywood does and what video games can do, you need a processor with 16 cores in it.  You can now buy processors that have 8 cores.  So we are almost there.  We will most likely see this sometime in 2011.  Now that doesn’t automatically get us photorealism, but according to Nvidia’s own timetable, we should probably see graphics that are nearly photorealistic in 2012.


We should expect that the use of 3D technology will continue and expand in to the normal household. Most major electronics manufacturers are planning the release of their 3D television lines. As the technology ages, expect prices to go lower and lower, and as they prices drop, more and more people will purchase 3D television sets.










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