The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

June 11, 2007

Film, the first Digital Medium

It was with amazement that early audiences watching the Lumiere lumines-
cent train heading towards the camera immediately grasped the fictional
and technological nature of the event. It's been postulated that neither
the persistence of vision nor the saccadic movements of the eyes had yet
been developed to any great degree. As a result, what the audience
witnessed was actually a series of stutters or spurts; it was impossible
for them to reconstruct the analogic experience from these few, far
between, and pitiful photographic images. What an error on the part of the
producers, who expected an overwhelming experience! Through the next
several years, men and women developed the illusion of projected motion -
with children, the learning curve was considerably shorter, given their
embrace of anything new and remote from the already decadent culture of
their parents. There was a curious hiatus between the Lumiere and further
experimentation with audience, during which the showmen attempted the
impossible - an awkward unraveling of the filmstock itself, a transparent
ribbon woven and passed among the motion picture audience. Since the film
was now moving, albeit without projection and the maltese-cross way of
holding each image for a split-second in the frame, the viewers of the
film were strangely satisfied. This all changed, perhaps for the better,
within a few months, when the projects began their clacking once again,
and the houses of vaudeville were filled with the melodrama and hijinks of
gardeners, factory workers, and attempts to reach the moon. (A surviving
specimen from the hiatus, not suitable for children (what were they think-
ing!) - ).

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