Black & White Silent Film


Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin is a name everyone knows, it doesn’t seem to matter if they are old or young. Charlie was an absolutely brilliant comedian and filmmaker in the 1900s.

Charlie Chaplin was most remembered for his silent black and white films/sketches which would be designed to amuse the audience. Not only was he the main actor in these films he also produced and directed them which made it even more fantastic. 

We have studied some of his work, identifying key aspects of black and white silent films. 

This includes: 

  • 16-23 frames per second (this is because the camera was turned by hand)
  • Static camera shots (the camera was extremely heavy and could not be moved!)
  • Increased body language and dramatic hand actions to convey emotions and thoughts without speech.
  • Longer Shots
  • Closeups would just be created with a black border as zoom did not exist.
  • Screen Titles to convey text to the audience if needed.
  • Dramatic and Orchestral music to set the mood and once again convey emotion.
  • Of course, it’s black and white as colour had not yet been invited in cameras.
The Circus 1928

This is one of Charlie’s films we looked at “The Circus”.

I really enjoyed watching this, all these years later and I still find the comedy and actions funny.

This film displays all the factors we have talked about before which makes it a great example.

My favorite part is the scene in the lion’s cage for multiple reasons but just mainly due to the fact its funny it draws me into finding out if he gets out or not, or does he get eaten? The music just adds so much atmosphere that these silent films really need.

The Great Train Robbery 1903

The Great Train Robbery was another example we studied and another one I quite enjoyed although this would not be my general genre.

In this film they use extremely long shots and they are very creative in the way they used special effects for stuff like explosions and moving backgrounds without the use of green screen (since this did not exist).

The only thing I would say is that the story is a bit hard to follow without the narration or speech we are used to in a modern-day film.

They also do not use title cards in this film so you have to work out for yourself what was happening.

Did I like the extra scene at the end in which one of the bandits? shoots the camera however this was cut out of a lot of versions as it was deemed to scary at the time!

Battleship Potemkin 1925

I have already said how I liked a couple of the films we have looked at in the genre however I have taken a dislike to this one.

Why do I dislike this one? Well honestly it’s just boring, im watching it and I’m bored there’s nothing interesting or funny happening to capture my attention, there are a lot more shots in this film and good shots they are for that time however the story lets it down. 

The music does work with the film and it captures the battleship setting quite well so that’s one of the better parts although even that’s not very adventurous. 

I think its important when it comes to black and white silent films to know what makes a good and a bad film in general and in are opinions and this one just does not appeal to me at all. 


We had a practice session earlier on in which we split into random groups of around 3-4 and went out to film a silent film style 30 seconds long clip just simply using our phones.

I did this with Gareth Edwards as well as another film student, me and Gareth became the actors while the other person filmed on their phone. We filmed this outside the college entrance and the basic storyline was that we had bumped shoulders walking along the path and then became angry and each other which is when after a lot of dramatic hand gesturing I smacked his hat off and he chased me around a couple of trees.

This was then edited black and white and the sound was removed in Imovie.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get any of the footage from this practice. 

Pre Production

For the main shoot, we once again separated the class into groups of 6. This group of 6 was then split into 2 further teams which consisted of the research & writing team as well as the technical team. The writing team was in charge of scripting and then acting when it came to production, the technical team was in charge of equipment and operating during production. We also had a team lead for each team that was in charge of safety and roles.

I was a team leader for the technical team and I was in charge of making sure equipment was secured and being used properly as well as low hanging light and trip hazards in the studio environment.

The teams as displayed:

Technical Team

  • Adam (Team Leader, Lighting, Assistant Camera)
  • Ellie (Acting, Assistant Camera)
  • Jack (Acting, Props and Set)

Research and Writing

  • Gareth (Team Leader, Director)
  • Harley (Writer, Actor)
  • Charlie (Writer, Actor)

“The idea for our 30 second B&W silent film is to do a slapstick musical chairs final round where there are 2 people left fighting for the last chair left. At the start one person (Ellie) is carrying a chair out while the announcer (Charlie) says this is the last round and “play the music” which will be shown on a board thing on screen. Jack and Harley will be the last two fighting for the final chair. When the music ends Jack attempts to sit down on the chair and Harley grabs the chair from under jacks unsuspecting behind as jack then comically falls down and Harley succeeds as Adam then walks back on and lifts one of Harley’s arms up as he won.” 


Charlie: Final round time, play the music 


Starts with long shot of the scene showing the floor so that Jack can be seen when he falls over.

Scene starts with Jack and Harley staring each other down making threatening gestures.

Ellie is carrying a chair off screen to the left at the start.

Charlie is centre screen as he announces “This is the final round, Place your bets and start the music!” 

Charlie walks off screen to the right and then the music starts. 

Harley and Jack start walking around the last chair.

A few seconds later the music stops and as Jack attempts to sit down Harley pulls the chair out from under Jacks unsuspecting buttocks and he falls over in a comical fashion.

Harley sits down on the chair in a similar way as to Bethesda games. 

Next shot is a medium long shot of Harley as Charlie comes back and holds up Harleys hand as Charlie explains “WE HAVE A WINNER!!!!” 

Jack sits up in bottom corner of screen looking very upset.


Kist Listing
  • 2x chairs
  • (Sony) camera
  • Lights
  • Blue roll (decoration)
  • Whiteboard (background décor)
  • Door handle


On Tuesday the 6th we planned, wrote and produced our black and white short film. We separated into groups of 6 and then separated again into 2 teams further, preproduction team and technical team. I was assigned tech team, team leader by my group in charge of equipment and safety. During production in the TV...
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In addition to what the blog post mentioned I was also in charge of lighting design on the set and I also operated the camera briefly during the takes so other members could focus on there specializations. 

Final Film


I really like the outcome of this project, It just all really works. I was debating adding the scratches in post-production but decided to do it just to add a bit more of the feeling to the short film. It was quite easy to edit and overlay the music and making it with the group made it a lot quicker to film. I wanted to write a large evaluation on this project but this is what I have, simple and basic I can’t think of anything more to say it was a decent project, maybe not really my style but it went well.

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