The light of a flickering candle makes the night come alive. Everyday
objects cast shadows that flutter like moths. A hand held in a certain
way in front of a flame projects a wolf or a bird onto a wall. Shadow
shows like these are as old as fire itself. But primitive shadow theater
like these eventually became the lifelike movies that we all enjoy today.
Eventually, shadow puppets made by the Javanese and Asians would be used
to tell traditional tales with a narrator and an orchestra.
A discovery by Chinese wise men 1,000 years ago marked the first step
to projection of pictures. They noticed that a hole in a window blind
projected an upside-down picture of the scene outside. Five centuries
later, Italian Girolamo Cardano fixed a lens into the hole, which made
pictures clearer. By the 18th century, the simple shadows had grown into
elaborate pictures painted on glass--a magic lantern. The magic lantern
is the ancestor of today's movie projector. It had a simple lens and used
a candle as a light source.
Like today's home video, a lantern slide show was considered a civilized
way to spend a pleasant evening. A bed sheet hung on the wall made a screen.
The Belgian Etienne Robert Shocked his audiences in the 1890s with his
phantasmagoria show. His lantern created frightening movie of demons
that seemed to move toward the audience. Traveling peep shows were also
very popular. Here, people would look into a box and see movie projected.