When taking a journey back in time to look at the history of videos, one has to start with film, since that’s where the magic of motion pictures started. In fact, film history dates back to 1891 when the Edison Company successfully demonstrated the Kinetoscope invented by Thomas Edison’s assistant William Kennedy Dickson. This was the first device to show moving pictures. Three years later, the Kinetoscope was commercialized in parlors where one patron at a time could watch short movie clips through a peephole viewer.
When Was The First Movie Made?
Although it is sometimes cited as the earliest documented film in history, The Horse in Motion by English photographer Eadweard Muybridge was a series of cabinet cards that pictured a sequential series of six to twelve “automatic electro-photographs” depicting the movement of a horse. Shot by Muybridge in June 1878, these photos are the first known example of chronophotography, an important step in the development of motion pictures.
The honor of the oldest surviving film in existence goes to Roundhay Garden Scene. The one-minute silent short was recorded by French inventor Louis Le Prince in Leeds in the north of England on October 14, 1888. Interestingly, Le Prince is largely unknown today, even though he was granted patents on both a 16-lens device and a single-lens type several years before either Thomas Edison or the Lumière brothers. Le Prince mysteriously disappeared on September 16, 1890, and was never seen again, despite an exhaustive search by French police and Scotland Yard.
Louis and Auguste Lumiere, the two French brothers who developed a camera-projector called the Cinematographe are credited for the first commercial movie screening. On December 28, 1895, a film made by the Lumiere brothers was unveiled to the public at the Grand Café in Paris. The Cinematographe was smaller, lighter, and used less film than Edison’s technology.
- The Jazz Singer, released in 1927, was the first feature-length movie with synchronized dialogue, officially marking the end of the silent-film era.
- Fantasia and The Wizard of Oz are two early motion pictures that utilized Technicolor technology in the late 1930s.
When Was The Video Camera Invented?
Looking back at video camera history, the first question that springs to mind is, “Who invented the video camera?” The first video camera was invented by Scottish engineer John Logie Baird, when he created a variation of an older device known as a Nipkow disk. This mechanical device broke an image into “scanlines” using a rotating disc with holes cut into it. This innovation led to Baird developing the first television, a dream many scientists had thought about for decades.
Early Video and Television Technology
In 1924, Baird transmitted a flickering image across a few feet and on January 26, 1926, gave the world’s first demonstration of a true television for 50 scientists gathered in an attic in central London. In 1927, Baird’s television was demonstrated over 438 miles of telephone line between London and Glasgow, after which he formed the Baird Television Development Company. The following year, his company achieved the first transatlantic television transmission between London and New York and the first transmission to a ship in the mid-Atlantic. At this time, he was also able to give a demonstration of the first known color and stereoscopic televisions. By the 1930s, new all-electronic designs based on a cathode-ray video camera tube replaced mechanical variations with electron scanning technology.
Launch of Color TV
In 1950, both CBS and RCA were competing to be the first to release a color television. When the FCC tested the two systems, the CBS TV was approved, while the RCA model wasn’t due to low picture quality. RCA ultimately won the color TV war when its far superior model gained FDA approval on December 17, 1953. Achieving optimal bandwidth required to broadcast color programming enabled RCA to tape shows in red, green, and blue and then broadcast them to television sets. But the public didn’t start buying color TVs in earnest until the 1960s because early sets were extremely expensive. By the 1970s, color TV sales outpaced black-and-white models for the first time.
- Ampex made a color videotape recorder in 1958, which NBC used to tape An Evening with Fred Astaire, the oldest surviving network color videotape.
- The Tournament of Roses Parade telecast by NBC on January 1, 1954 was the first coast-to-coast color broadcast.
- The premiere of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color in September 1961 is credited with inspiring consumers to purchase color TVs.
Launched on July 10, 1962, from Cape Canaveral, Fla, the Telstar 1 satellite was the world’s first active communications satellite. Two days later, the first global television signal was transmitted from Maine to Brittany, France. The first images in the broadcast included views of the Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower, remarks from President John F. Kennedy, clips from a baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago Cubs, shots of the American flag waving in the breeze, and images of French singer Yves Montand.
- The aluminum satellite dish used by consumers was invented by Stanford University professor and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientist H. Taylor Howard in September 1976.
- Early home satellite systems cost about $10,000 to install.
The Rise of VHS
Prior to VHS becoming the go-to media for taking and watching movies, Super 8 movie cameras were all the rage. Although Betamax video technology hit the market first in 1975 and featured a superior picture quality, it was quickly dethroned by VHS.
- In 1976, JVC launched VHS and the VCR in Japan and on August 23, 1977, this video format was released in the U.S.
- At the height of its popularity in 1999, consumers spent 12.2 billion on VHS rentals and purchases!
Introduced by Sony and Panasonic in 1995, the MiniDV was considered a state-of-the-art recording format and a far more compact option for home recording than the large VHS camcorders. Although MiniDV tapes were cassettes, the quality was comparable to digital quality picture and sound. But like any technology, a new kid called DVD was waiting in the wings to dethrone both VHS and the MiniDV.
Evolution of DVDs
With more storage, better picture and audio quality, interactive features, and no need to rewind, it’s no wonder DVD quickly became the new video king when it was introduced in 1997. By 2000, DVDs had nearly replaced shelves stocked with VHS tapes. Although digital streaming has taken over the world, the DVD media format is still widely accepted and used by people of all ages.
The Streaming Age Takes Center Stage
Old-school movie projectors, heavy video camcorders, slide projectors and their associated media have become antiquated relics thanks to digital technology. While digital technology began in the early 1990s, companies such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, and Hulu, revolutionized streaming media in recent years.
Netflix: Founded in 1997 as a movie rental service that shipped DVDs via mail, in 2007, the company launched streaming movies and TV over the internet. Netflix currently has 203.66 million subscribers. In 2013, the Netflix series House of Cards was the first original online-only streaming television show to receive major nominations for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards. In 2020, Netflix set an all-time record with 160 Emmy Award nominations, the most for a network in a single year.
Amazon Prime Video: As of January 2020, there were more than 150 million Amazon Prime Video users. Launched in late 2010, Amazon Studios develops and produces original films and television shows distributed through theaters and Prime Video. Award-winning Amazon Studio television shows include Transparent and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, while the 2016 movie Manchester by the Sea won two of six of its Oscar nominations.
Digital Downloads: Driven by rapid leaps in internet use, widespread availability of mobile devices, and the ever-increasing popularity of online video content, global video streaming has experienced huge growth. In 2020, video-on-demand revenue reached an estimated $61 billion and about 239 million people in the U.S. watched digital videos.
- TikTok has 689 million monthly active users worldwide, with 62% in the U.S. between 10 and 29-years-old.
- An estimated 74% of U.S. adults currently watch YouTube and the number of total U.S. watchers is predicted to increase to 228.1 million by 2024.
Accessing Old Video Formats
The best way to watch old videos and movies is to get them digitized. Movies, videos, and photo slides/negatives are all subject to varying levels of degradation. Getting them professionally digitized preserves history, especially the personal and film history that holds sentimental memories for you and your family.