A Short History of Film

A Short History of Film

A Short History of Film

A Short History of Film


A Short History of Film, Second Edition, provides a concise and accurate overview of the history of world cinema, detailing the major movements, directors, studios, and genres from 1896 through 2012. Accompanied by more than 250 rare color and black-and-white stills--including many from recent films--the new edition is unmatched in its panoramic view, conveying a sense of cinema's sweep in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries as it is practiced in the United States and around the world.

Wheeler Winston Dixon and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster present new and amended coverage of the industry in addition to updating the birth and death dates and final works of notable directors. Their expanded focus on key films brings the book firmly into the digital era and chronicles the death of film as a production medium.

The book takes readers through the invention of the kinetoscope, the introduction of sound and color between the two world wars, and ultimately the computer-generated imagery of the present day. It details significant periods in world cinema, including the early major industries in Europe, the dominance of the Hollywood studio system in the 1930s and 1940s, and the French New Wave of the 1960s. Attention is given to small independent efforts in developing nations and the more personal independent film movement that briefly flourished in the United States, the significant filmmakers of all nations, and the effects of censorship and regulation on production everywhere. In addition, the authors incorporate the stories of women and other minority filmmakers who have often been overlooked in other texts.

Engaging and accessible, this is the best one-stop source for the history of world film available for students, teachers, and general audiences alike.


Motion pictures don’t really move. The illusion of movement on the cinema screen is the result of “persistence of vision,” in which the human eye sees twenty-four images per second, each projected for 1/60th of a second, and merges those images together into fluid motion. But it took thousands of years to put this simple principle into practice, and the motion picture camera as we know it today is the result of experimentation and effort by many different inventors and artists, working in different countries throughout the world. The principle of persistence of vision was known as far back as ancient Egypt, but despite numerous experiments by Athanasius Kircher (whose 1646 text Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae described the use and construction of what we now know as the “magic lantern”), as well as contributions by the Chevalier Patrice D’Arcy and Sir Isaac Newton regarding the mechanics of the human eye, it was not until 1824 that Peter Mark Roget explained what the process entailed.

Roget believed that persistence of vision was caused by the retina’s ability to “remember” an image for a fraction of a second after it has been removed from the screen; later research demonstrated, however, that it was the brain’s inability to separate the rapidly changing individual images from each other that caused the phenomenon. Simply put, persistence of vision works because the brain is receiving too much information too rapidly to process accurately, and instead melds these discrete images into the illusion of motion.

The theory of stringing together still images to create this illusion of movement can also be seen in the early work of Claudius Ptolemy in 150 C.E. Al Hassan Ibn Al Haitham, a famous Muslim scientist and inventor who died in 1038, was one of the first to describe the workings of the camera obscura, in which an image from the world outside is captured through a peephole and “projected” on the wall of a darkened room (albeit upside down) as . . .

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