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Film, also known as motion picture or movie, is a series of still photographs on film that are projected onto a screen in rapid succession using light. This gives the illusion of actual, smooth, and continuous movement due to the optical phenomenon known as persistence of vision.

Film is an incredibly effective medium for conveying drama and, in particular, for evoking emotion. The film industry is extremely complex, requiring contributions from nearly every other art form as well as a wide range of technical abilities (for example, in sound recording, photography, and optics). This new art form emerged at the end of the nineteenth century and quickly became one of the most popular and influential media of the twentieth century and beyond.

Film’s most important characteristics

The art of motion pictures has undergone many fundamental changes in its brief history, such as those brought about by the introduction of sound. It exists today in a variety of styles that vary greatly from country to country, as well as in forms as diverse as a one-person documentary shot with a handheld camera and a multimillion-dollar epic involving hundreds of actors and technicians.

Characteristics of the film image

The image, or single shot, is the most basic unit of expression in film. The practise of imbuing images with magical properties has a long history. This connection has been well documented among many primitive peoples, and it is reflected in the term “magic lantern” as a synonym for “film projector.” Any image taken from the real world and projected onto a screen appears to be magically transmuted to some extent. This mystical quality helps to explain why early films like La Sortie des usines Lumière (1895; “Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory”), which were merely photographic records of everyday scenes in France in the 1890s by French film pioneers the Lumière brothers, received such a warm reception.

Intensity, intimacy, and accessibility

The key properties of the motion-picture image have been identified as intensity, intimacy, and ubiquity. Its power to hold the spectator’s full attention on whatever slice of reality is being portrayed gives it its intensity. Except for irregular intervals of concentration on what is selected for closer examination outside the theatre, a person’s attention is normally dispersed in the unending surrounding world. In the movie, one is pushed to gaze at something that the filmmaker, not the viewer, has chosen for reasons that are not always obvious. This intensity is particularly obvious when the camera is fixed on something for a longer period of time than appears appropriate, and viewers become intensely aware of their loss of control over their own attention. This strategy isn’t employed very often, but when it is, it’s quite effective.