March 1, 2013

Herb Farmer Technology Display at SCA

Visit the Collection of Cinema’s Rich History

By Valerie Turpin

Today’s moving images are created far differently than its origins: with green screens, motion capture technology, 3D visuals and more, the possibilities are endless. However, the history of cinema is captured not only through the images themselves, but through its advances in technology. To keep filmic history alive, the School of Cinematic Arts is currently showcasing the Herbert E. Farmer Motion Picture Technology Collection within the Hugh M. Hefner Exhibition Hall for viewers to see these pieces of cinematic history firsthand.

A Powers no. 5 Projector (1910) used to screen
films during the silent era.

Dino Everett, Archivist of Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive, explained the importance of students first understanding cinema’s origins as a basis for modern-day filmmaking. “One of the best ways to master the equipment is to understand how it works,” said Everett. “Digital technology is very similar to the Wizard of Oz, where everything is taking place behind the wizard’s curtain, but the old movie technology was essentially gears, film and the manipulation of light. The workings of this machinery and the progression of how it improved over time is how you have arrived at where you are today. Students should be well versed in that progression. They need to know what an actual shutter on a 35mm movie camera looks like to have a complete understanding of what it means to set the shutter on a digital camera.”

The collection features items ranging from pre-cinema, such as the late 19th century Magic Lantern, Stereoscope and Zoetrope, to early LumièreCinématographe and Bell & Howell cameras, to early home cinema, early technologies in color and sound and ephemera like George Lucas’s original Walkie Talkie used during Star Wars (1977)and the original Excalibur sword from Camelot (1967).

A Technicolor 3-strip camera (1930) for early color.

Named for Herbert E. Farmer, whose 71 years at USC marked an unprecedented dedication toward archiving film history, the display seeks to give students a broad understanding of film technology’s history to enrich their studies. “Now we are entering a time where film technology is becoming a part of history and is becoming a greater source of study,” added Everett, “and having access to this on campus is yet another benefit the students of SCA have that you cannot access at other universities.”

With support from the Bea and Herbert E. Farmer Endowed Fund, the exhibit is on display until July 2013. 

The Herb Farmer Technology Archive View the The Herb Farmer Technology Archive Photo Gallery »