If it wasn’t for the invention of cine film and the development of film–making our hobby would most likely not exist. 150 years ago, before cinema was ever dreamed of, people met in Church Halls and their living rooms to enjoy “Magic Lantern Shows’.
Who would have ever thought that from these small beginnings a vast film industry would have sprung up and the Magic Lantern would lead to making movies on Smartphones.
The Magic Lantern’s main drawback was that the pictures did not move. However many children at the time were playing with toys that showed moving pictures.
One of these was a Zoetrope, but this could only be viewed by a few people at a time. The search was on to try and combine the Magic Lantern and a Zoetrope to show a projected moving image to a large audience.
Without going in to a detailed history of the development of projected moving images, because there are many threads that came together to get where we are today, briefly…………..
The first flexible transparent film base was made by George Eastman in 1889, founder of Eastman Kodak. This was 35mm wide and by 1909 it was the industry standard. The early acceptance of 35mm meant that cinema spread world-wide as Films could be shown in every country in the world. Early 35mm film stock used Silver Compounds in the emulsion, which made it expensive to use, so the spread for amateur use was restricted to a few who could afford it. An attempt at making a cheaper format was made by slitting the 35mm stock in half to 17.5mm. This was first used in 1898 in places like India where the 35mm stock would have been too expensive. This was used until the end of World War 2 when 16mm and 8mm film made by Kodak took over in popularity for amateur use. By the early 1920s there were several formats for home movie makers.
35mm (1889) early wealthy amateurs only, 17.5mm (1898), 28mm (1912), 9.5mm (1922),
16mm (1923) Eastman Kodak’s format which won the amateur market over. Kodak chose this size to prevent third-party slitting,
8mm (1932), Super 8mm (1965), 70mm (1955) and IMAX (1970).
35mm film has been used in cinemas until very recently because its size allowed for a good trade off between the cost of film stock and quality of image. The advent of digital projection in cinemas means that Kodak is the only remaining manufacturer of motion picture film.
Why 24 frames per second?
Early films were, of course, silent and hand cranked with speeds varying between 14 and 26 frames per second depending on the operator. You can imagine a film cranked by one hand with photographed and then cranked by a different hand when shown. To overcome this problem, often films were delivered with instructions as to how fast, or slow each scene should be shown. Everything changed with the coming of sound. Synchronizing sound with picture was attempted as early as 1900, but the technology was too unreliable.
Silent film speed was an average of 16 frames per second and it was found that it wasn’t possible to produce a quality sound track at that speed. By the late 1920s it became possible to sync sound using a Phonograph (record player) and by 1927 the first real “Talkie”, with the sound track on the edge of the film, was “The Jazz Singer”
Film was expensive and it was in Hollywood’s best interest to consume as little film as possible during production. The major studios decided on 24 fps as the slowest possible for producing intelligible sound and using less film stock.
So 24fps was only an Economical and Technical decision