Magic and Miracles

100 Years of Moving Image Science and Technology

The Work of the Society of Motion Imaging and Television Engineers

It's Here!

Magic and Miracles has arrived at the SMPTE Home Office!

About the Book

Lights ... Camera ... Action!

Magic and Miracles 100 Years of Moving Image Science and Technology

In 1916, expansion of the nascent motion picture industry was stymied by a lack of technical standards.

Following two failed attempts by industry trade associations, inventor C. Francis Jenkins placed his professional

reputation on the line and invited a number of his industry colleagues to form a motion picture engineering

society, and the Society of Motion Picture Engineers was established.

Little did Jenkins know that 100 years later...

His engineering society, now SMPTE (the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers), would not only still be in existence, but would have grown to include television, with a thriving membership across the globe!

The Society has facilitated the transition of the motion imaging industry to digital systems, championed its evolution to IT and enabled the ubiquitous availability of video content. 

As SMPTE enters its second century, the Society is developing next- gen standards and providing education to its members, as the industry is transitioning to IT-based infrastructures and implementing IP-based workflows.

Richly illustrated and written for nontechnical readers and media pros alike

Using essays contributed by SMPTE Members, descriptions of landmark events, insights into the Society’s standards development work, and archival material that documents the course of moving-image technology evolution, Magic and Miracles commemorates the work of the Society and its members in the development of motion-picture, television, and digital media technology.  

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Limited-Edition Companion Book Also Available!

The Honor Roll and Honorary Members of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers

This is a limited-edition 100 page, hardcover book published in full-color, that showcases the industry leaders and innovators who have contributed their talents to SMPTE over the past 10 decades. 

Perfect for any media technologist. Nontechnical industry professionals, executives, and motion-picture, television, and technology historians will also enjoy this commemorative book of these remarkable individuals. 

The regular SMPTE Member price is $25, and nonmembers may purchase for $30.

Order the Honor Roll Book FROM SMPTE

Meet the Editorial Director

Philip J. Cianci Headshot

About Philip J. Cianci

Philip J. Cianci's involvement in high definition television (HDTV) began at Philips Research in 1984 and continued at ESPN during the construction and commissioning of the all-HD digital center. From 2005-2007, he was the editor of the "Transition to Digital" Broadcast Engineering magazine e-newsletter. Cianci authored two Focal Press published books and in 2012, McFarland published "High Definition Television — The Creation, Development and Implementation of HDTV Technology," which documents the global deployment of HDTV. He is assisting the Smithsonian Institution in developing an HDTV archive. Living a dual existence in the parallel universes of creativity and technology, Cianci is forging a body of work exemplifying the intelligent fusion of technology and art at his Frog Hill Creative Sanctuary. His recent work was inspired by his participation in the development and deployment of HDTV. 

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What they are saying...

Ian MacSpadden, Technology Journalist, Tweeted:

"Just received my copy of 


Magic and Miracles! Kudos to Phil Cianci and team that put this together. For industry vets this is an enjoyable walk down memory lane, and for newcomers an intro to what SMPTE and the industry has accomplished!” 

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From BlogCritics:

"Magic and Miracles is an interesting, balanced reference book blending art, science and technology on a high level that is highly recommended (**** out of four stars)."

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Review in the Motion Imaging Journal

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Amazon Reviews

Customer Reviews:

"The human side of storytelling is revealed in these pages. There's no gossip or encyclopedic listing of stars here, it's all about heartfelt craft."

By Andrew Rosen

"This is a stunning compendium of SMPTE's work over a century, with great technical insight, lots of pictures, and acknowledgement of the people that made it all happen. It'll be a valuable reference book in my line of work as a SMPTE member, but it's also great just as a beautifully presented chronology of history. Highly recommended!"

By David Meyer

"This is great reading for people in the film and TV industry, it is interesting reading for people with a thirst for knowledge, who are TV watchers or movie buffs. I highly recommend this well produced book."

By Bazza 1

"If you wish to understand how the technology that supports the distribution of images-in-motion and sound came to be, how it evolved from silent black-and-white film through television and HDTV and the introduction of digital technology, this book, relating the 100 year history of the efforts by individual contributors involved in SMPTE activities to establish technical standards and guidelines, provides significant insight and understanding, in a format that is easy to follow."
By Stan Baron

"I thought this book was going to be a dry summary of historical SMPTE papers, but it's actually a beautiful, highly-graphic and easily-readable book about the history of movie making and television production. Even within its 392 pages, it can't get into deep details, but it's a wonderful survey of the technical history the medium beginning with Coleman Sellers in 1860 and unlike many other histories, it gives full weight to the contributions of inventors all over the world. It also details the content, beginning with the first copyrighted motion picture, 'The Sneeze', which was received by the Library of Congress in early 1894 as well as the business history, such as the patent and licensing wars of the earliest 20th century. Chapters are dedicated to sound, color, widescreen, Television, HDTV, digital audio, digital TV, digital cinema , production and post-production technology, animation and more. A wonderful book."

By ZoetMB

"Because storytelling through moving images is a merger of art and science, as each generation faced the decision as to whether or not to adopt a technical innovation in this industry, there could be no provably-correct answer in the scientific sense. The editors of Magic and Miracles did a masterful job of getting to the core, fundamental reasons that technological changes were adopted or were allowed to wither away by including unbiased, readable, and perceptive articles to explain the issues and how they were resolved. For example, the trade between film and digital cinematography was treated as two subjects getting to the technical fundamentals of the trade without ignoring the relationship to the art of film-making, and does so in a handful of pages, and all very readable. This eye towards proportionality is clearly reflected in the amount of space given to specific technologies, by avoiding the giving of excessive page count the technology rage-of-the-moment in favor of seminal inventions of the past, such as the video tape recorder. Of course, this means that some incremental improvements will not be given a lot of ink, such as the revolutionary advancement in camera optics over the past decade that was necessitated by the adoption of high resolution digital cinematography, but the overall balance between the topics included in the book in these tight 300 pages was excellent."

By Stephen Stough

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