The Evolution of Video Production
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Since the inception of the very first motion picture in the late 19th century, people have been captivated by the beauty and capability of video production. It is a unique form of human expression that has been continuously evolving, accompanied by the gradual progress in technological capability for over 100 years now. The ability to visually convey messages, ideas, stories, artwork, and virtually anything else that somebody wants to depict has inspired creativity throughout the entire world. It all started with the human desire to capture moving images to show to the world. This desire has led to a modern era in which billions of people possess the powers of video production in the palm of their hand. How exactly did this modern era of video production come to be? We are here to provide a detailed explanation of how the origins of video production eventually led to the current state of the industry, including the milestone developments that have occurred in the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and today.
Origins of Video
Everything has to start with a dream. People sought for a way to share aspects of life with one another through moving images that could be captured in one moment and then replayed so that people who were not there to see it originally happen could still experience it. The only thing missing was the mechanism to make it possible. This is how the video camera came about.
The first breakthrough in video came with what is known as the zoopraxiscope. Originally developed in 1879 by Englishman Eadweard Muybridge, his device was able to project a real of closely sequenced silhouette paintings that created the illusion of a moving picture. “It is the first apparatus ever used, or constructed, for synthetically demonstrating movements analytically photographed from life, and in its resulting effects is the prototype of all the various instruments which, under a variety of names, are used for a similar purpose at the present day” (Muybridge 1899). These original “videos” were simple productions that depicted images such as a horse running or a lady dancing.
The next major development in video projection came out of Thomas Edison’s lab between the years of 1889 and 1892 with the invention of the kinetograph and the kinetoscope. The kinetograph was the actual motion picture camera that was capable of rapidly taking a continuous stream of photographs in order to create a reel of sequential still images that depicted a live-action scene. The kinetoscope was the exhibition device in which these reels of film could be displayed. It was designed for the use of one viewer at a time through a peephole that peered into the window of view within the actual device. The kinetoscope allowed for the production of entire motion picture stories, as opposed to the simple moving images made possible by the zoopraxiscope.
Later that decade, French inventors Louis and Auguste Lumière sought to expand upon Edison’s creation of the kinetoscope by developing a way for motion picture films to be displayed by a projector, allowing for an entire audience to view at the same time. Thus, the cinematograph was born. Their invention also produced a sharper image than had ever been seen before. The screening of their initial 1895 film Workers Leaving the Lumière resulted in the cinematograph exploding in popularity throughout the world amongst all social and economic classes.
Fast forward through over 90 years of technological innovation and video production is now a booming worldwide industry in which feature-length films, television shows, and commercials are produced in Hollywood studios. Computer-generated graphics (CGI) were becoming a popular yet expensive aspect of many Hollywood blockbusters with the average film costing over $50 million to produce. About 75% of American households owned a VCR with the very first DVDs coming about in 1997. HDTV became prevalent in the late 90s, increasing the number of horizontal lines on video screens and in turn improving picture quality. The most impactful change in video production came in the way that we edit video footage with the widespread implementation of non-linear editing.
Prior to non-linear editing methods, the only way to edit film was to cut the tape with scissors or a blade and then fuse the separate segments together. This technique resulted in frequently error-ridden edited copies suffering in continuity due to the lack of precision that came with physically cutting and pasting segments of film. Non-linear editing programs perform non-destructive changes to the original material, allowing for the original production to remain unmodified while the editor can change specific aspects of the tape to be reconstructed and saved into a brand new file, separate from the original tape. This provided video editors with greater flexibility in how they craft their masterpieces. Editors could make as many minor tweaks to the product as they wanted without the fear of making a mistake that could damage the entire original footage. The original was now always safely independently stored. Non-linear editing had been gradually developed for about 20 years until in 1993 the Avid Media Composer was finally able to edit the feature-length film Lost in Yonkers.
The turn of the millennium saw a paradigm shift in which online video production began to drastically differentiate itself as an industry from that of classic filmmaking. Computers became a common personal tool for video editing, high-quality video cameras were now available to the masses, and the internet emerged as a primary forum for video exhibition with the leading site YouTube being created in 2005. Crafting a motion picture was no longer reserved for the major Hollywood studios, anybody could do it.
These developments brought about a drastic expansion of media culture, a trend that continues to accelerate with each year. Film and video can change the way that people interpret and understand the world, this power of change was now in the hands of more people than ever before. So many of the filters and barriers that had contained the content in which Hollywood could produce were now gone. The world of video production was now wide open to anyone who had a random idea for a video to produce.
The 2010’s and Today
The modern era of video production saw a renaissance of production and distribution with the explosion of social media video. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat now offered video sharing as a primary component of their software. People now spend countless hours communicating with one another through social media video. The most profound consequence of this development was the rise of social media advertisement. Companies began to realize that they needed to reach potential customers through social media as the number of users of each site grew with each passing year. Most major companies now have their own social media pages in which they can market their brand through videos that showcase new products or alert their customers of upcoming merchandise sales.
Aside from online video, the filmmaking industry made great strides in production capability through improvements in footage-capturing technology. Large budget films now had the most powerful camera to date with the arrival of the ARRI ALEXA 65 in 2015. Drones were now available to people, making it no longer necessary to operate a helicopter to attain an aerial shot. iPhones were also now a viable option for shooting feature-length films.
Video production services will never stop growing and evolving, so long as the human passion for creation never fades. What started as nothing more than the idea of capturing moving images has evolved for over a hundred years to now enabling anyone with a smartphone to produce a video and publish it for the world to see. Now that video is so available and accessible for everyone we are able to stay far more connected. A soldier stationed overseas can now stay closely connected to their family with the use of video calling technology. The ability for loved ones to stay in contact like this from afar is one of the great triumphs as a result of the many years of evolution.
As technology continues to improve, so will the way that we produce and distribute our videos. It was once impossible to imagine that somebody could capture moving images and then replay them for an audience. It’s for certain that nobody in the 20th century could’ve envisioned the state of video production and sharing in 2020, and I have a difficult time imagining what the industry might look like even 10 years from now. The only thing that we can feel confident about is that video production will continue to evolve and expand in ways that amaze us, just as people were amazed by the very first video cameras and productions over a hundred years ago.