Early Silent Cinema
Films made in this era are currently referred to as primitive cinema made when all filmmakers began to explore a distinctive potential of moving pictures. Their appeal lays in the primary impression of movement. In this period, the aspect of moving pictures attracted great crowds primarily because they actually moved, but not as a subject of interest. Audiences began to become tired of the routine, and therefore, producers were forced to provide new impressions. This resulted in two categories of films, namely, topical and dramatic (comic) films. These dramatic films drew film designers timidly into pictures.
The most crucial thing that had occurred was the establishment of narrative films pushed by dramatic films. For instance, “The Birth of a Nation” produced by David Griffith in 1905 filled the scheme of narrative films with the idea of telling a story within a film. It was the longest film ever produced that lasted for over two hours. It was hard to keep the attention of an audience. To overcome this problem, such complicated cinematic techniques as suspenseful editing, continuous development, parallel editing and crosscutting were used. Although it was great ideological cinema, it contained racist tendencies. Further, narrative films were performed alongside painted backcloths. This brought about a three-dimensional aspect in films. For instance, “The Kiss in the Tunnel” produced by Albert Smith in 1899 had improvised seats of train and bits of luggage. A three-dimensional aspect was brought about by a painted backcloth. However, such sets did not resemble the real world.
Turning to the twentieth century, a clear distinction was made between the above-named categories. The topical films became newsreel forerunners that were presented audaciously as real documentaries of authentic proceedings. However, it appeared that no one anticipated the comic film to become such resembling a real thing. Instead, the audience got ready to hang a disbelief in settings that were really dramatic. These films were made to create more determined films that had a real appearance. They confirmed themselves that the audience did not bother about atmosphere, similar things and details because their designs were ignored in that era. However, the effort to make up stories within a film meant that a design idea should be developed.
Techniques during that period
During the primitive era, that is, the period spanning around 1895 to 1927, films were produced and directed using different techniques. Those techniques included classic narrative, suspense editing, nonlinear narrative/crosscutting, recurring motif/continuous editing, and social surrealism among others.
The classic narrative technique employed motifs, themes and expressionistic lighting to capture rustic images via a composition. This technique eliminated complexities and brought about clarity ideal in addressing events in the film. It was switching events during the entire film, engaging the audience through the grip of recurring images and themes. The suspense editing technique involved the use of metaphoric and simile writing and storyboarding. This technique created and directed craft for a psychological thriller. Another technique used was nonlinear narrative also known as crosscutting. In this technique, innovative lighting, focus depth, extreme camera angles and long takes were deployed. It brought discontinuity perfectly in storytelling through a film and allowed the micromanagement of films. It also reflected a creative vision of the director despite films being developed as a part of an industrial process.
A recurring motif or continuous editing is another technique that was used to establish a narrative in the film. It employed continuity editing, widescreen rations, multiple cameras and angles, themes and motifs and on-location settings. With this technique, the narrative moved the plot’s theme and conveyed an idea, place, object or statement clearly and perfectly. Lastly, social surrealism was used to remake a film from the start, develop characters within a film, dictate strong points in the plot’s theme as expressed by actions of a character and vice versa. It employed such aspects as confusion, social dislocation, social commentary, societal over-mechanization and expressionism.
Major changes in film convections and techniques
Major changes have occurred in film convections and techniques. In fact, a majority of changes that have occurred in film convections remain heavily indebted to other forms and artistic techniques. Major changes in film convections and techniques include changes in narrative convections of a character, setting and plot that have occurred in literature and storytelling, changes in visual convections of color and composition that have occurred in photography and painting, and changes in staging convections that have occurred in the comic and dramatic theatre. In addition, there have been other changes in rhythmic and tonal convections, which have occurred in instrumental and vocal music. All these and many others have been adopted and implemented in the film. The use of these convections will probably inform future generations of experiences of different art forms.
For instance, a convective character in movies and storytelling has changed. Developing a character in the story requires the character to freely devise an omniscience convection to inform the audience what the character feels, how he or she responds to occurrences or thinking. The film must similarly adopt the omniscience narration convection either through a voice-over or graphical commentary to show the response, thoughts or feelings of the character. This is exactly what can happen in a real theatre, although stage and film performance convections are necessarily diverse since the film has the capability of bringing the audience closer to actors. The film can also change and control viewing angles. What should be noted at this point is that convections have no static or self-contained meaning, since simultaneous availability of different convections affects the entire meaning conveyed.
Changes in techniques have not been left behind, especially in the film narrative. In the primitive era, film narration was done by the first person, who had created a flow of consciousness using a voice-over. However, this technique has been replaced by cameras that eliminate ambiguity and enhance the reality in a film. Instead of using the first person with the voice-over technique to deliver implications linked with a certain cinematic event, hand-held cameras have become useful tools that bring creativity rather than impersonality. Unlike a still camera used during those older days and lacking spontaneity and closeness, modern cameras imitate the process of developing a flow of consciousness and vary in respect to the tone and mood of a particular event. This changes cinematic stage convection from controlled and static to a changeable stage.
Another major change in convections and techniques is evident in the geometrical framing of films. In the primitive era, films were bounded under the geometrical framing of black and white, as well as silent settings in two-dimensional screens. These naturalistic techniques that most people refer to as immature, crude, unrealistic and old-fashioned create unrealistic convections, particularly a superimposition convection. However, as technology advances, geometrical framing takes a new dimension. It has brought about a great difference between actual and screen perception without altering the realism of the image. Generally, technology has not created new types of convections, but it has instead perfected the whole realism of the image that cannot be perfected by primitive techniques.
Changes in staging convections have occurred as seen in the dramatic and comic theater. This change has made films be styled in such a manner that they appear to the audience as coming from the original setting rather than acquiring originality from cinematic interpretations and reworks done during the primitive era. They have changed the purpose of films as a genre that retains its originality making it shine throughout as purely as possible.
Finally, there has been a change in horror convections that flow from the production desire to viewing the activity as creative and the film as inventive and aesthetically viable. The visual convection becomes gradually enhanced with creative cinematic elements, and thus, modern films are increasingly becoming realistic and openly gruesome as compared to the films of the primitive era.
Impacts of these changes on the audience’s attitude to depicted actions
These changes have brought several implications on the audience’s attitude to depicted actions. Firstly, crucial aesthetical features of the film have been projected by the audience in response to the depicted action. This projection by the audience ensures that repetition, unity, variations, action representations, time, space, and meaning of the film relates to the depicted action. This results in the interaction between audience’s mental operations and formal structures of the film. Therefore, the literal meaning of the depicted action is constructed thorough comprehension and a deeper abstract meaning of the action through interpretation.
Secondly, during the primitive era, films widened audience’s perception of events and locations beyond temporal and physical bounds virtually. However, these changes have brought about transformations that stimulate the audience to experience time, event and space more closely. Although implications of this can be celebrated and felt more in regard with modernization, audiences have been offered new and powerful ways, through which they see beyond actions performed. In the process, a backdrop and a group of analogues is offered that draws the audience closer to the depicted event, attesting well-established cinematic practices that meet expectations of the audience.
Thirdly, these changes have contributed to the fantasy of the event by introducing willing suspension of doubt to the audience. This contribution has brought about the implication of the audience developing the subtext of the depicted event in a film, thus drawing an effective meaning from actions of the event. This makes both the audience and a character perceive and respond to the depicted event with ease unlike in the primitive era.
Lastly, it is evident that during the silent era, filmmakers and directors cataloged their libraries by dramatic implications. As convections have evolved over the years, implications of the image also evolved with both narrative and liner animation elements. As a result, the audience developed the subtext, comprehended the emotional value and elicited the emotional response. This is guided by image implications. As the audience becomes more and more emotionally attached to the event, their relationship with the depicted event becomes stronger.