Motion-Picture Technology

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Motion-Picture Technology


a branch of technology that formed as a result of the development of the production, reproduction, and projection of motion pictures; it uses photography, optics, mechanics, lighting engineering, electronics, and many other areas of knowledge. Motion-picture technology is widely used in entertainment and documentary cinematography; for scientific research, data storage, instruction, and training; and for amateur purposes.

The main technical process in the making of motion pictures —the depiction of movement and changes in the state of objects —consists in the formation on the film of images of the sequential phases of movement or the state of the objects on the film and the optical reproduction of these phases at a fixed speed on a screen. The production of a moving image consists in individual sequential processes of filming, the photographic processing of the film, and the projection of the film. These processes are supplemented by the process of sound transmission, which is the recording and subsequent reproduction of the sound together with the image on the screen. Motion-picture technology is the technical basis of film-making. The expressive possibilities of the latter depend to a significant degree on the use of motion-picture technology and techniques. In turn, the requirements of film-making stimulate the development of motion-picture technology.

Since the invention of the Cinématographe (1895), the main technical equipment of motion-picture technology have been the motion-picture camera, projector, and film. Equipment created during the process of the development of cinematography includes developers for the chemical processing of film, film printers for printing the film copies, and lighting equipment for filming. The first filming and projection equipment was made by the inventors of the Cinématographe themselves, in their small workshops. In 1897, C. Pathé and L. Gaumont of France organized the industrial production of several improved cameras and projectors. They had also produced the first film printers. During the first years of cinematography, film for photographing and reprinting of copies was produced by the factories of Lumière (France) and Eastman Kodak (USA). In spite of the rapid quantitative growth in the production of “silent” films and in the network of motion-picture theaters, motion-picture technology developed slowly in the first decade of the 20th century. The improvement of equipment was impeded by a patent struggle and the monopolization of the film industry. The development of film-making, which increased the demand for technical equipment of cinematography, contributed to the creation of new types of motion-picture apparatus. In 1908 the French firm A. Debry began producing the Parvaux cameras, with internal rollers and continuous focusing.

A new stage in the development of the techniques of the silent film began in 1918. At that time, new improved cameras with an automatic dissolve mechanism, a fixing pilot claw, and an intermittent plate appeared, as well as various equipment for microphotography and high-speed filming, for filming surgical operations, and so on. Automatic equipment was developed for manual filming—for example, the Cinamo (1921–24) and Aimo (1924). The production of equipment for the filming and projection of 16-mm films began.

In Russia, the production of motion-picture projectors was organized by the engineers P. V. Sosnovskii (1914) and K. Nikolaev (1915). After the Great October Socialist Revolution, as a result of the nationalization of the motion-picture industry, rapid development of motion-picture technology began. The Rus’ projector appeared in 1919, followed by the GOZ portable projectors and the TOMP-3 and TOMP-4 stationary projectors (1923–24). Industrial production of film, cameras, printers and projectors, developers, lighting equipment, and equipment for cutting and editing films began in the 1930’s.

After the invention of the Cinématographe and the development of large-scale production of silent films, the most important stages in the development of motion-picture technology were the appearance of the sound film; color and stereoscopic films; wide-screen, panoramic, and wide-gauge films with stereophonic sound; and the development of circular, panoramic, hemispherical-screen, multiscreen, and varioscopic films. Each stage was characterized by the use of new equipment, instruments, materials, and methods, as well as by the reconstruction or replacement of existing technology.

The sound film, which broadened the expressive properties of the motion-picture camera, originated almost simultaneously in the USSR, the USA, and the countries of Western Europe. Magnetic tape and stereophonic sound recording was introduced in the 1950’s. The widely used color systems, such as Agfacolor (the German firm Agfa, 1941) and Eastman Color (the American firm Kodak, 1950), were based on the production of a three-color image on a multilayer film. The Soviet system of color film (1945–47) was also based on the use of multilayer film. The Technicolor system was also widely used, particularly in the USA and Great Britain. It was based on an imbibition process of printing color images. A technically somewhat different imbibition process was used in the USSR for printing color film copies. Stereoscopic motion pictures that did not require special glasses, invented by S. P. Ivanov in 1935, was based on the use of a lenticular screen. The first stereoscopic theater equipped with such a screen was opened in Moscow in 1941. Stereoscopic motion-picture systems using Polaroid eyeglasses have been used on a limited scale since 1939 in various countries.

The successful development of the technical equipment of the motion-picture camera made possible, beginning in the 1950’s, the creation of new types with greater potential, using wide screens (with wide angular dimensions on the horizontal). Panoramic systems using three 35-mm films (Cinerama, 1952–57), wide-screen systems (Cinemascope and others) using 35-mm film and anamorphic optics (1953–56), and wide-frame film using film 65–70 mm wide (1956–59) began to become widespread. Wide-screen systems with cropped frames (the upper and lower parts of the frame on the 35-mm copy are not used), in which the picture projected onto the screen by a short-focus lens is somewhat wider than usual (for example, the aspect ratio is 1:1.75 or 1:1.85 instead of the usual 1:1.37), are sometimes used.

Techniques developed and put into use in the USSR during the 1950’s included a Soviet panorama system using three 35-mm films (Kinopanorama); wide-screen film using anamorphic optics; a wide-film system using 70-mm film and six-channel stereo sound; a stereoscopic film using the Stereo-70 system, in which two pictures (one for the left eye and one for the right) with the ordinary aspect ratio (1:1.37) are located side by side on a 70-mm film and have five perforations per frame; and stereoscopic 70-mm film with several images on one frame, with five or ten perforations. A circular panoramic film and the cupolorama (USA, 1955), as well as multiple screens (France, 1956), were used to show special feature and information programs, usually at exhibits and parks. Similar systems, including Krugovaia kinopanorama (full-circle panoramic projection; 1959) and a system of multiscreen films (1959), were also developed in the USSR; they were based on the simultaneous use of several films or several images in the frame of one film for filming and projection. For motion-picture technology used in scientific research, there has been a characteristic increase in the range of the filming speed from many hours per frame to hundreds of millions of frames per second with superhigh-speed filming. There has also been a continuous broadening of the range of optical magnification in filming (macrophotography and micro-photography). The operating convenience and economy of the equipment have provided for the development of narrow-gauge 16-mm films. They are mainly used in television and for educational and amateur purposes. Narrow-frame 8-mm films, particularly the Super 8 system (in which the area of the frame is 40 percent greater than the area of ordinary 8-mm film), developed greatly in the 1960’s and were widely used for amateur and educational purposes.

Motion-picture technology is developing continuously. The quality of the picture and the sound has been improved, the expressive potential of the showing of films has been broadened, and more light-sensitive films have been developed. The equipment and processing have been improved for converting films of one size to another size by the optical printing and duplicating method to provide the widest possible showing of the films, and the economic indicators have risen. Processes of motion-picture technology are also used in television.


Goldovskii, E. M. Vvedenie v kinotekhniku. Moscow, 1947.
Goldovskii, E. M. Problemy panoramnogo i shirokoekrannogo kinematografa. Moscow, 1958.
Goldovskii, E. M. Osnovy kinotekhniki. Moscow, 1965. (Bibliography.)
Vysotskii, M. A. Bol’shie kinoekrany i stereofoniia. Moscow, 1966.
Kinoslovar’, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1966–70.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.