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How Films Evolved With Technology: A Detailed History

Team StoryWeavers|October 17, 2022, 23:10 IST|

Evolution of fim

Ever wondered how films were made back in the day? From the first black-and-white movie to today’s 4D cinematic experience, filmmaking has come a long way. Let’s reel back in time, and see how technology and innovation helped advance the art of visual storytelling.


Back in 1895, Georges Méliès was not only a talented filmmaker but also an innovative inventor. He patented many inventions, including the camera car and the Méliès illusion, which is used even today.

In addition to being pioneers in recreating the illusion of movement, the Lumière Brothers were all about creating illusions on the screen. With the invention of the cinematograph and the release of the first motion film, filmmakers went far beyond the basic techniques such as projecting images in a dark room and displaying 12 images per second.

Cinematograph filmmaking

The Lumière cinematograph in filming mode.

Before the Lumière Brothers began working with celluloid film, they had developed previous techniques such as projected images, dissolves, and special effects. 

In 1896, the first ever movie was made. Pathé’s The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat was shot by Étienne-Jules Marey — the father of modern scientific photography.  He was also known for his pathbreaking work on motion studies and chronophotography.


The history of coloured motion pictures is as old as cinema itself. The Kinemacolor system was developed in France in 1902. It was the first colour process to be widely used in cinematography and remains popular in countries such as Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia even today.

In 1916, an essential aspect of filmmaking, Technicolour, was introduced. Cinema first reeled in black-and-white, pushing filmmakers to develop an expertise in light and dark. With decades of development, filmmakers now have more and more technology to bring their vision to life—the use of a photographic chemical process that introduced colour in movie frames.

A 3-strip Technicolor camera from the 1930s.

The innovation of Technicolour by Daniel Comstock and Burton Wescott turned black and white films into colour. The three-strip camera revolutionised the industry. Technicolour led to tremendous growth in filmmaking from 1935. Today, the power of colour remains strong as ever, and modern filmmakers have the flexibility of digital cameras and colour-grading programmes.


The sound of cinema has changed and developed over time. The first films — the so-called silent cinema — had no synchronised sound, only musical accompaniment. In 1927, the premier of the black-and-white film The Jazz Singer by Alan Crosland opened doors for a technical breakthrough, the Vitaphone. It allowed the recording of soundtracks and spoken texts on disks to be reproduced simultaneously as the film.

A demonstration of the Vitaphone sound system in 1926.

Despite its constraints, this device evolved sound in filmmaking. With the development of Movietone by Lee de Forest in 1927, a second system emerged to record audio directly onto the film. 


Animation was a new concept; people could not imagine something unreal in motion. But, Walt Disney made the impossible possible with the release of Steamboat Willie in 1927. Disney introduced a technique that would allow cartoons and sounds to synchronise, as perfectly shown in the scene of smoke coming out of the boat that a primitive Mickey Mouse sailed.

Walt Disney was the first to give importance to animation as a potential for the filmmaking sector. The multiplane camera by Ub Iwerks provided traditional animation with innovative three–dimensional effects. This video camera was used in Snow White, making scenes more realistic by achieving depth in animation for the first time in history.

The 1937 multiplane camera developed by Walt Disney Studios.

Computer Graphics

The Pixar system is a computer animation production system created by Ed Catmull and Ray Toy at the computer graphics research group of the California Institute of Technology. It was first used to make a short film titled Luxo Jr., which won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Subject in 1983. The following year, the system produced another award-winning short, For the Birds.

Poster for Luxo Jr.

By 1986, Pixar had produced four films using the Computer Animation Production System (CAPS), including Luxo Jr. and For the Birds. By then, there would be no more films using hand-drawn animation without CAPS.

At this time, Pixar’s main rival at Disney was also trying to create a digital animation system: Disney’s CAPS. After some initial setbacks, Disney eventually won the race with its proprietary RenderMan software in 1988.

4K Technology and 3D Effects

4K technology with 3D effects has been a key element in visually engaging action drama and sci-fi movies. This involves virtual reality technology using the latest cameras, like the Lucid VR camera, to shoot 3D videos in 4k resolution. Such technology allows filmmakers to shoot scenes in-depth to deliver an immersive experience to the viewers. Films like The Martian and Avatar are shot in 4K technology, with 3D effects.

A 4K resolution camera.

Dual Camera VR 

The dual camera system is in action in the Avengers: Infinity War movie. The technology is also used to shoot videos and virtual reality content. The dual camera system can be used to create a number of effects, including 360-degree views and 3D videos. 

3D Movie Technology

The first 3D movie experience started as early as the 1900s, with the release of The Power of Love in 1920. 3D films emerged from a time when viewers wore the theatre’s paper-made 3D glasses. Using RealD technology, a light-based technique known as circular polarisation is used to create a stereoscopic image-type projection of the 3D film, minimising production costs as the movie was shot in 2D but projected in 3D. 

The best technology known for providing the best-quality audio elements – Dolby 3D – is also used in 3D filmmaking. Here, the alternate colour wheel is placed on the projector that connects the main colour wheel, causing both wheels to produce the same colour range but at different wavelengths.

Visualisation of how passive 3D TVs work

There’s More to Filmmaking Technology

Today we have a digital graphics card to save edited videos from raw film footage. In addition to drone cameras, AI is also now making an entry into filmmaking to treat the audience to a delightful visual experience. 

What part of films do you find the most interesting? Tell us in the comments below!

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About the Author

Priyanka writes for a living and comes from the city of joy. She loves to cook and wanders around, gazing at trees whenever possible. She believes exploring thoughts, ideas and places give her the space to discover people, their worlds and beyond! Priyanka pursued her Master`s degree in Education, seeking ways to educate all. To shake things up, she pursued her career in marketing. She inspires people to explore the world (and beyond) with her content!

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