A Brief History of Modern Video Camera and its Impact on Media

Brianna Robinson

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Broadcasting is defined to be the “transmission of information by radio or television” and is a form of modern media that seeks to quickly inform or entertain its audience and create a sense of unity within that specific audience.  There remains multiple forms of broadcasting with all different objectives and audiences.  For the purposes of remaining succinct, this project will briefly cover the history of video recording technology and how it contributes to the role of visual broadcasting in modern media.

Technology is ever advancing and, consequentially, so are the forms for communication between people.  Broadcasting information to the mass public first started with the printing press and the ability to spread papers and journals.  Soon after, camera technology allowed images of shocking or exotic or exciting events to be shared between people.  We currently live within the video era, video journalism and broadcasting are extensively dominant forms of communication as the modern viewer begins to exhibit shorter attention spans and is forced to take in substantially more information on a day to day basis than they would have half a century ago.  Therefore, it is completely reasonable to conclude that video technology creates an enormous impact on modern media and the lives of people living in this era.  However, with that conclusion a natural question does in fact arise.  How is it that video technology is so successful?  How is it produced?  I will attempt to address these issues during the scope of this project.

To start, the modern video camera was brought about by the desire to display moving pictures.  In order to relay such images, a device was first needed to capture the various instances that were to be projected.  The technology to produce television was advanced by a man named Arthur Korn, who invented and built the first successful circuits for image transmission.  Korn’s success with compensation circuits developed the standard that inevitably contributed to a Scottish engineer named John Baird.  John Baird gave the world’s first demonstration of a working television broadcasting in 1927.  Baird’s demonstration included the transmission of moving images over 400 miles of telephone line and utilized a similar circuit system that Korn had developed.

Although Baird’s first officially recognized success was in 1926, he had been experimenting for years prior to his demonstration.  Initially, Baird utilized what is called the “Nipkow disk” system in order to capture and relay images.  The Nipkow Disk system (invented by Paul Gottlieb Nipkow) operates by projecting images through a spinning disk with holes inside of it.  As the disk rotates, a lens projects an image of the scene onto the disk.  The image is split up into rings, or “slices” that a sensor detects to be patterns of light and dark.  To reproduce the “recorded” image, the sensor must be hooked up to control a light behind a second Nipkow disk rotating at approximately the same speed.  The recording of the signals of light and dark by the sensor is an application of using an analog signal system.  Baird later combined the nipkow disk with the circuit system developed by Arthur Korn to produce an early model of a semi-mechanical analog television in 1924.

Baird went on to fine tune his design during his time until the mid 1930’s when the Iconoscope emerged as a more efficient and digitally based system for recording images.  The iconoscope, unlike previous image-capturing systems, was fully electronic and did not utilize an analog signal to record information. An iconoscope forms images using a system of elements called a mosaic.  Inside the iconoscope there is a plate with covered with small grains and sheets of metals that store electrical energy as capacitors.  The energy is typically stored in clusters of grains which creates pixels.  The internal components of the iconoscope are first charged by scanning this plate with an electron gun.  The electron gun deposits charges into the grains; when the plate is later exposed to light, a coating on the plate allows electrons that are stored in those mini-capacitors to be released.  In short, this entire process of exchanging and releasing electrons forms an electrical “coded” version of the visual image being recorded.  The electron gun scans the plate again and this time the remaining charges are reflected back into the tube facing the plate.  The charges are collected by a “ring” of metal.  Those charges, representing the same image as was encoded on the plate, is then amplified to represent a positive video signal.

This remains only a brief summary of the particular technology associated with the initial video capturing devices, these designs have been under constant revision and evolve just as quickly as the rest of the technology in our society.  However, the impact that these initial designs had on the media is far more substantial than most of the revisions made to them.  Before Baird’s primitive televisions and the production of the iconoscope, no such technology existed that allowed media to broadcast information in the form of images across distances and possibly directly into people’s homes.  The most popular distribution of news was through newspapers, radio stations, and general mouth to mouth transportation of information.  Television became successful from the novelty of the enterprise.  Never before had people been able to actually watch another being move, or talk, or sing without being directly there with them.  It should be easy to assume that people had toyed with the idea all the way up until the point that the invention was realized.  The shock value that would have been associated with the aspect of moving images could only have contributed to the popularity of the device.

Up until then, it was radio that served as the primary source of news and entertainment for the people.  Once the production of televisions was underway, the people desired to own their own set, to be part of the ‘modern’ age.  Once word was spread about the device, everyone wanted to experience it for themselves. Initial use of television was mixed between “news, drama, and education”.  As televisions became more popular, the individual governments of communities broke up the different “channels” into television stations.  Initially, due to the limitations set forth by the technology, broadcasting was done over radio wavelengths by a method dubbed as “terrestrial broadcasting.”  This technology later evolved, however the method of keeping different programs on different wavelengths stayed the standard.

Radio news and talk stations were some of the first to make appearances onto the moving screen, allowing the new technology to film their shows and provide the audience with a visual as well as aural stimulant.  These talk shows sought to accompany all three of the ideal types of broadcasting, they operated with the intention of informing the public about news and educating them on world issues, but doing so in an entertaining manner that would keep the audience’s attention.  In the manner that they were produced, a friendly competition started to form between rivaling stations in a similar geographic area.  Over time, this rivalry expanded into the situations that we come to know today.

The popularity of this type of broadcasting sparked interest in further developing the technology behind it.  Scenes started to become filmed, and displayed, in higher resolutions as the iconoscope’s lenses and sensitivity was improved.  Later in the century the realization of color television was explored.  It was the popularity of the devices with the public and the competition between all the different producers of shows/films that went hand in hand with the demand for better quality images.  Additionally, each new innovation to the franchise sparked more interest with the public.  The two aspects seems to coincide with one another and develop a directly related exponential growth between the viewer’s demand for better technology and the popularity of television and video recording systems.

There are multiple divisions of every aspect of broadcasting in the modern age.  In even the simplest of cable packages are a variety of different news stations, sitcom channels, music-only channels, and so on.  Each individual channel continuously fights for your attention, wants your views and your time.  The competition has evolved due to the incredible profitability that comes with the advertising associated with modern broadcasting.  Television broadcasting, at least in America, takes in considerable amounts of economic revenue where companies pay to have advertisements run during certain spots in a particular station’s program.  Typically, the more viewers a station has, the more likely it is that they can charge more to these advertisers.  So, it wasn’t only the viewers that wanted better technology.  Naturally, the producers of television stations are going to want the very best experience for their audience so that they remain as popular.  Additionally, the viewers wanted access to equipment for themselves so that they can record their own videos for professional and personal purposes.

So how does video recording technology fit into this?  Well, obviously there could be no film if it were not for the systems use to capture and distribute the images displayed.  The major impact that video cameras had was how much the technology advanced the possible ways for the media to reach the general public.  The spread of information is substantially crucial to the objective of media and broadcasting in general.  Video devices enable television and internet streaming, providing all different sources of information outlets for media to utilize.  In short, the video camera is one of the key technological advancements to establishing the stability that the media has in modern society.

The constant demand for better technology from all these different directions caused video recording equipment to reach the level it is at today.  Without a doubt, every inventor saw the opportunity there was to make a profit off of developing this technology.  Home video camcorders, cameras in smart phones, security surveillance equipment are all just a few examples of the uses of video recording technology today.  Video technology has found its way into our everyday lives to the point where our society depends on it almost as much as we do on electricity and the internet.  The power to be able to record and relay information is a luxury that serves as a prime symbol as to what our society values.  We value information and we value the ease and the ability to know almost anything about current events and new technology practically instantly.  Overall, video recording technology has contributed to the major advancement of our society and, although it is not singlehandedly responsible for developing our society’s dependence on information, it certainly helps satisfy the need.









2 thoughts on “A Brief History of Modern Video Camera and its Impact on Media

  1. Cool article! I found the background of the video camera really interesting and the outline of its impact on media and entertainment thought provoking! The way you broke down your piece was really clear and easy to follow. I was wondering- what do you think is next for the video camera and the constantly evolving technology of the media? Do you think there is a change it could ever become obsolete? If so, do you think it would happen sooner rather than later?


  2. I find it really interesting how the video recording technology we have now actually aids in more than just the production of broadcasting but is actually part of the system of broadcast relevance. Broadcasting has become clearer and clearer which brings in the viewer more and more. Do you think the easy access we have to video technology today aids in not only a societal need to view video but, also, to create it.


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