Moving images are everywhere today. Can we even imagine a world without video?
The first motion pictures arrived in early in the 20th Century, typically with a running time of a few seconds to a couple of minutes. The first films were released in 1894 with Edison’s Kinetoscope, which was designed to be viewed by one individual at a time. its so easy to watch hbo go on tv now a days but before the 1900 what was the scenario?
‘Fred Ott’s Sneeze’ is the first motion picture, produced in 1894 by Edison Studios, with a running time of 5 seconds.
Human life was revolutionized by the advent of photography several decades earlier, and now those images were coming to life. This was magical technology, being able to replicate life through images. This was a big deal to people, never before had real life been accurately portrayed like this.
A great example is a 50-second film by The Lumière Brothers called Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (1896). The legend goes that people were so overwhelmed by the life-size train projected on the screen that they screamed and ran to the back of the room. It’s laughable now for our society now but back then naturalistic moving images were brand new, and a comparable technology today could be Virtual Reality.
(Charlie Chaplin’s The Tramp)
In the 1910s, comedic short films were most popular, especially in the form of a series. Many of the great comedians of cinema got their start in short films, including Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, and Buster Keaton. Chaplin’s iconic Little Tramp character originated in a 6-minute short film titled “Kid Auto Races at Venice” (1914).
The silent movie magazine The Cinema said of the film, “Kid Auto Races struck us as about the funniest film we have ever seen. When we subsequently saw Chaplin in more ambitious efforts, our opinion that the Keystone Company had made the capture of their career was strengthened. Chaplin is a born screen comedian; he does things we have never seen done on the screen before.”
Phone, or Personal Movie theater?
While feature films have dominated the cinematic landscape for most of the 20th century, in 2018 – the short film format rules the world. Instagram is arguably the largest content creator and distributor of video-driven content in the world, with every video having to be under a minute or less. These videos are mostly consumed by individuals on their phones or personal computers, just as the first films were designed to be viewed individually through the kinetoscope. It’s easy to imagine Fred Ott’s Sneeze being uploaded to Instagram, where we could watch the sneeze playing over and over again.
The Future of Short Films
Filmmaking technology is becoming more and more affordable by the day, and this allows more unique artistic voices to emerge and experiment. Just as Chaplin got his start with shorter films, many future talents will continue to emerge from this medium. It seems like short films are only increasing in popularity, as evidenced by the increase in short film distribution on networks like HBO. Derrick Williams’ ‘Ugly’, is one such example, an innovative coming of age story previously showcased by HBO.