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Intellectual Property

Everyday IP: The method used to create magic in movies

Action, camera, light! Filmmaking technology has advanced significantly over the past century. Similar to how creating a movie requires more than just a plot and some money, creating a brand-new industry also requires a significant amount of Intellectual Property (IP).

Moviemaking transformed from a curiosity into a multi-billion-dollar form of public entertainment thanks to several crucial eras involving one or more innovators. Even though only a few concepts were successful, it is not surprising that patent protection has dramatically impacted the development and peculiarities of this art form.

Camera and Film pioneers The Lumières, Méliès, and Edison are the intellectual property.

The first “moving pictures” system belongs to Auguste and Louis Lumière, who unveiled their cinématographe in 1895 at the Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris. Nevertheless, the Lumières’ showing of “Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory” came after displays of Léon Bouly’s cinématographe, a film-viewing device that he created and patented, as well as Thomas. However, the brothers could utilise, alter, and benefit from the Intellectual Property (IP) because Bouly failed to maintain his patent or trademark on the word.

Georges Méliès, a former stage magician who rose to become one of the first great filmmakers, immediately adopted the Lumière method. His place in film history is mainly due to his inventive use of in-camera effects and film editing, which allowed him to make science fiction and fantasy movies like “The Haunted Castle” and “A Trip to the Moon” with stunning visuals. Nevertheless, Méliès made a mistake by failing to patent his ideas, and as a result, he struggled financially for much of his life. Despite this oversight, Méliès’ influence and eccentric, frequently reproduced iconography can be a sight in almost all contemporary science fiction films.

Sound Wars: The Patent Wars Have Begun

Although Thomas Edison possessed 1,093 patents, either alone or jointly, he was not ultimately responsible for the innovations that gave rise to films with synchronised sound (talkies). Among those vying for that distinction are:

  • Edward Lauster: The “sound great,” a relatively straightforward device to record sound and film simultaneously, was patented in 1907 by Lauste, a former employee of Edison (who some claim invented Edison’s Kinetoscope).
  • Freeman Owens and Lee de Forest: Before getting interested in movie sound, De Forest created several audio systems. In 1923, he and several associates began a talkie device known as the “photo film.” However, he and his colleague Freeman Owens quickly became embroiled in a patent dispute over the invention. Even though de Forest ultimately prevailed, many people believe Owens to be the genuine creator of the story.
  • Charles Hoxie: Hoxie developed the “pallophotophone” in 1922 while working for General Electric (GE), which could record up to 600 words per minute onto film. The “RCA Photophone,” which Hoxie intended to create, was improved by other GE engineers.
  • The Western Electric Company and Bell Telephone Laboratories: These businesses created audio tracks for movies using phonograph records. The “Vitaphone” technology produced sound with greater accuracy than de Forest’s optically printed film. Additionally, picture studios were already accustomed to and experienced with phonographs.

With the release of the first full-length talkie, “The Jazz Singer,” in 1927, Warner Brothers, a modest studio at the time, gambled on quick profits from the innovative and possibly transitory trend of synchronised soundtracks. Warner Brothers hurried to make sequels that would capitalise on the movie’s success because it was a huge hit. A triumph over other market participants.

Competing sound-recording formats quickly became the focus of contentious patent challenges in American courts. The patents for the German Tri-Ergon sound-on-film technology were gain up by William Fox, the company’s creator who would later form 20th Century Fox. Using those patents to aggressively fight Warner Brothers, MGM, and other motion picture studios utilising competing technologies, he then used those patents. Because audio and visual components could be simultaneously recorded into the same media, ensuring synchronised playback, sound-on-film systems like Movietone quickly rose to industry standard.

The start of the modern film studio

The early days of cinema had monopolies in distribution because production companies owned movie theatres: Universal movies could only study in Universal theatres, etc. That changed in 1948 when the United States Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., significantly impacting the motion picture business. The court ordered the big Hollywood studios to stop preventing independent theatres from showing their films. This choice caused the studio system to collapse and independent filmmakers to emerge. Additionally, it opened the door for independent theatres to try out creative and occasionally risky, experience-enhancing gimmicks and for television to emerge as a prominent player in the entertainment industry.

Charles Weiss created the AromaRama technique, which used technology to flow over 100 smells into the theatre through ceiling vents to “make the movies smell.” With “odours of grass, earth, exploding firecrackers, a river, incense, burning torches, horses, restaurants, the perfume of a captured tiger and many more,” Carlo Lizzani’s Far-East travelogue “Behind the Great Wall” was deemed to be very clever at the time. It is intentional to awaken all the senses to provide a more “immersive” experience. In the 1960 movie “Scent of Mystery,” Hans Laube’s Smell-O-Vision, a related idea, was shown. Unfortunately, the concept of aromatic movies has continually been made fun of by the general audience, and attempts at this genre typically fail commercially.

William Castle developed Illusion-O, another movie gimmick, to frighten audiences into adoring his movies. The “ghost viewer,” a new invention that came along with the 1960 film “13 Ghosts,” allowed viewers to see (or not see) the ghosts on screen by using blue and red filters. The 1959 cult classic “The Tingler” used Percepto, another of Castle’s creations. During pivotal scenes, Percepto employed electric buzzers concealed under multiple seats to send chills down the spines of various moviegoers. The audience should have been equally terrified by these stunned spectators’ yells. If you’ve ever forgotten your phone in your back pocket, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the feeling.

Garrett Brown is a brilliant Steadicam patent expert.

During his formative years, Garrett Brown was a folk singer and a copywriter during the 1960s. However, his efforts as a camera operator and commercial television producer with heavy mounts and dollies led him to one of filmmaking’s revolutionary discoveries. Brown submitted a patent application for the Steadicam, sometimes known as “Brown’s Stabilizer,” in 1974. This device incorporates spring-loaded arms and handles, allowing operators to shoot fluid film while moving freely. The famous films “The Shining” (1980) and “Rocky” (1976), for which Brown received an Oscar, both made use of the Steadicam. Even in James Cameron’s sci-fi action sequel “Aliens” from 1986, the gadget appeared in front of the camera as a future “Smartgun.”

The Skycam, a wire-guided camera system that flies overhead and frequently records during football games, and the Mobycam, an underwater video system intended to record footage of marine life, are two of Brown’s other noteworthy creations.

George Lucas: complete visual effects

The 1977 debut of “Star Wars” by George Lucas revolutionised how he created unique effects-driven movies. Motion control photography, a special effects method that enables filmmakers to produce realistic photographs of moving objects, was initially used in “Star Wars.” Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), a business owned by George Lucas, invented the technique, which has now become commonplace. With its work on blockbusters like “Jurassic Park” (1993) and “Avatar,” ILM has continued to push the limits of special effects (2009).

The birth of digital Intellectual Property

Inadvertently starting a revolution, Oscar-winning effects artist Lawrence Butler built a blue travelling matte backdrop for the 1940 epic movie “The Thief of Baghdad.” The blue made it simple for the filmmakers to set up amazing visual effects for the time, like floating carpets, a considerable genie, old Iraqi landscapes, and more.

This chroma-critical procedure is called “blue screen” or “green screen.” Butler’s successors made significant improvements to it. Wadsworth Pohl developed the sodium vapour method, which improved the appearance of performers in backdrop film. Petro Vlahos invented techniques for colour mixing, motion-control cameras, and other devices that let filmmakers create increasingly fantastical worlds. One reason is that without Vlahos’ efforts, the first “Star Wars” would not be what it is.

Digital technology exploded onto the world stage in the latter half of the 20th century. The 1982 movie “Tron,” used computer-generated imagery (CGI) for the first time. By today’s standards, this and other early CGI examples were rudimentary, but they opened the way for more complex effects. When James Cameron’s culture-defining “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” was released in 1991, the general audience who attended the movies was astounded by what an amalgamation of old and new special-effects technologies could accomplish. To the detriment of more traditional trades, digital technology is working in practically every phase of filmmaking, from pre- to post-production.

These innovations have contributed to increasing the accessibility and appeal of movies to viewers all around the world. Intellectual Property Patents have safeguarded the technical and artistic brilliance that underpins these miracles of expression in a cutthroat business.

Though they might not be the next Schwarzenegger, Intellectual Property IP Docketers‘ patent specialists possess Kubrick’s perfectionist tendencies and Edison’s attention to detail. If you get in touch with them, tell them you’ll be returning.


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