People were always fascinated by the fact that images could move. Before photography came along, there were other forms of “visual entertainment” like magic lantern, thaumatrope, zoetrope or stroboscope, to satisfy peoples’ curiosity and the need to see a motion picture. The invention of the camera and the possibility of capturing reality was a turning point. With time, techniques evolved and the exposure time could be reduced enough to capture a movement.
This was a basis of Edward Muybridge’s study of movement of living creatures. In order to capture images of a running horse, he set along a row of cameras, each making an exposure in 1/1000 of a second. This was another revelation, that led to more studies and experiments on how to improve it. Muybridge didn’t invent motion picture, but made a great contribution to future inventions like Marey’s photographic gun – a prototype of film camera. Muybridge constructed a device, that facilitated showing the images, called zoopraxiscope. It consisted of a circular glass plate, on which the drawings based on the photographs were placed, and after setting it in motion, the drawings seemed to move; Zoopraxiscope could therefore be called a primitive cinematograph.
The scientific community had now had a new obsession: how to set a still image in motion. They discovered that a human eye will perceive motion if a serious of slightly different still pictures will be projected quickly – about 16 frames per second. A photograph is a single frame, a moment that is always a past experience. Film on the other hand, is made of many moments that create a continuous present, it seems “alive”. It articulates narrative modes taken from theater and literature, so it was another way of storytelling. It is still delusion, a brain’s misinterpretation of the presented image that only seem like a real experience. Seeing is determined by two factors: the sensation and perception. It is difficult to separate them, but we can assume that sensation is detecting and encoding of visual impulses and perception is a mental process of organizing, decoding and interpreting of these impulses.
Moving images become most popular visual art form, for couple of reasons. Firstly, because people were amazed about the possibility to see still elements moving, and to project them on any surface. Secondly, because people liked mystery and magic, unexplainable events and creatures, like ghosts or talking heads. Thirdly, besides the entertainment purposes, it had educational value and therefore became a major media form since.