A Brief History of Film

Eadweard Muybridge Horse in Motion 1878

Eadweard Muybridge is the father of motion pictures. He was commissioned to see how a horse races and whether or not the hooves left the ground. He set up a series of cameras along the track and established that yes, the horse’s hooves did leave the ground. He went on to invent the zoopraxiscope, a device for projecting motion pictures (before the film strip).

Joseph Nicephore took the first known photograph about 1826. He called this process “heliography” or sun drawing with the exposure time being approximately 8 hours.

View from the Window at Le Gras circa 1826

Daguerreotype was the first commercially viable photography process, invented by Louis Daguerre with collaboration with Niepce. The first adopters turned out to be erotic photography. Posing for a daguerreotype wasn’t trivial because the exposure time was 15 minutes. The subject’s head had to be held still with a clamp.

Development continued and various cameras were invented to take pictures in rapid succession – with the operator moving the film forward with a crank – and ways to project the films.

William Dickson invented the Kinetoscope in 1893, with Kinetoscope parlors opening across Europe.

Kinetoscope parlor in San Francisco 1894-95. 25 cents bought a look in five machines, MEN only.

The Lumiere Brothers perfected the machine that served as camera, projector and film printer in 1895 called the Cinematographe.


Edison invented the Vitascope in 1896, producing numerous movies in his studio, Black Maria. This studio was built to take full advantage of sunlight witha hinged, flip-up roof and the entire structure could rotate on a track. Edison opened his own Kinetoscope parlor in New York in 1894 – the first motion picture house. He played films up to 27 seconds long.

For an overview of the history of the film studios of Hollywood, visit this site.

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