The Birth of Cinema

In this weeks BCM115 class, we explored the basics of cinema and photography. The lecture this week focused on five main points: framing space, framing movement, continuity editing, the Soviet Montage Theory and diegetic space.

Framing Space

Framing space refers to the techniques used to frame space pictorially. During the time of the Lumiere brothers cinematograph, photographs were almost always taken with a tripod due to the cameras weight. Because the camera was mounted on a tripod, it was only able to capture what occurred directly in front of the camera. Photographer Stephen Shores says,

“A photograph has edges; the world does not. The edges separate what is in the picture from what is not.”

In photography, despite the cameras framing space, there is always an outside of the frame that we can’t see.

Framing Movement

Motion-picture film is superior as it can frame movement in a way that still photography can’t. Still images can capture movement in a blur or overlapping stills but can’t produce movement in real time as motion picture can. The Lumiere brothers captured motion picture movement in Serpentine Dance in 1896.

Serpentine Dance

This dance was choreographed and performed by Loie Fuller who incorporated creative lighting to present a magical experience.

Continuity Editing

Editing was originally invented to help tell a story in correct time and spacing. the first form of editing to arise was continuity editing. Still used today, it is strings scenes together to create a film that tells a story. One of the first films to use continuity editing was Edwin Porter’s Life of an American Fireman.

Life of an American Fireman

As this was one of the first attempts at continuity editing, it is a bit choppy however it was still extremely impressive given their lack in knowledge of editing.

The Soviet Montage Theory

The Soviet Montage Theory was birthed in the 1910s and 1920s when Soviet filmmakers began to experiment with editing techniques beyond continuity. Lev Kuleshov, Sergei Eisenstein, and Dziga Vertov were some key figures who chose to begin editing films in a less narrative way. Eisenstein created a film, October which perfectly demonstrated the soviet montage theory of editing.

October

Eisenstein edited October with more of a poetic hand, rather than plonking each scene in the right order in the hopes to portray a clear story. You can see this in the way he jumps between close and far shots and different angles to capture the event unfolding.

Diegetic space

Diegetic space refers to how the location of a set is portrayed through frame and editing. In order to create continuity when portraying different shots of a single location three things should be considered:

  • The 180-degree rule
  • Matching eye line
  • Shot-reverse-shot

Here is an example we looked at in the lecture:

As you can see, the continuity of the location is reserved by the use of the above three rules.

Tutorial

In the tutorial this week we learnt how to adjust different setting like the white balance and iso on cameras to capture different things around the campus. I haven’t used cameras much before so I learned a lot during the class.

Here is what I learned from watching my footage back:

  • I need to use a tripod for all the shots.
  • My canon g7x is probably not the best camera to use for this exercise.
  • Take note of all elements I am capturing in my frame

I am hoping to improve my photography skills over the coming weeks as I have a lot to learn before I am confident with a camera.

References

Law, J 2021, ‘Birth of Cinema, online lecture, BCM115, University of Wollongong, viewed 10 March 2021

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