A film and TV Crane which has been used in silent cinema and modern films

From Silent Cinema to The Modern Age: The History of Film and TV Cranes

The silver screen has witnessed some of the most iconic moments of history. Having lived through the wartime, silent cinema era and making its way to the Hollywood blockbuster age, film and TV has provided audiences with the perfect getaway from any drama outside of the theatre. Despite the power that cinema possesses, the knowledge and understanding of the art has escaped a large proportion of the population, particularly surrounding one of the most important components of film and TV: the crane. This brief history of the crane in cinema will tell you everything you need to know about how a director’s vision translates onto the big screen.


Silent Cinema


Compared to the feature-length, action thrillers of today, movie-making has relatively humble beginnings. Silent cinema was the first medium of telling stories through moving images, yet even at this times, a form of film and TV cranes were used in the production. Even in the final years of the 19th century, cranes were being implemented into film sets to help capture the best possible shots.

Due to the nature of filmmaking in the early 1900’s, cranes were often used to accommodate big crowds and larger sets, and the ability to zoom in and out with ease was perfect for these sets. As displayed in the 1935 film ‘Triumph of the Will,’ cranes were one of the main tools for creating this flick, and paved the way for future decades of movie making.


Chapman Company


As the spoken word settles into the big screen and the industry evolves into an unrivalled form of entertainment, the technology behind the movies advances at an accelerated rate. The Chapman Company catered for this growth in business by developing the film and TV crane across the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Their tallest crane, which was available in the early stages of the 60’s, revolutionised the way cranes were used in films and created the potential for a wider variety of shots and sequences.

The 1964 hit film ‘I Am Cuba’ is the textbook example of how cranes had been developed over the decades, with the two iconic tracking shots providing the perfect examples of how these tools could engineer beautiful, scene-setting landscape shots.


The Coloured Age and The Modern Era


Although black and white movies were the founding fathers of film, the progression to coloured movies from silent cinema has provided us with the modern classics and favourite films that we are all so familiar with. To help create the more sophisticated movies of today, each and every component of film production had to be developed, especially the crane. With an action and sci-fi genre creating a need for innovative filming methods, the crane evolved into a whole different beast, with articulated jibs and telescopic booms being added to the chassis to help devise those jaw-dropping scenes.

The history of film and TV cranes has been as big a part of the history of film itself. With recent movies grossing millions of pounds and dollars, the days of silent cinema seem a whole world away. Although the differences between these two eras of film may be striking, the one consistent element of both of these ages has been the importance and relevance of the film and TV crane.

If you are in the process of creating the next cinematic masterpiece and need to enlist the help of a film and TV Crane, why not get in touch with NMT Film and TV Crane Hire today on 01753 785351 or leave us a message via our online form.