Video projection has its origins in the 1800s, with the birth of recorded imagery and sound. Although it has progressed extensively from the old organ-accompanied narratives of a by-gone age, video projection has essentially stayed the same: using light to tell stories.
So Many Scopes
The 19th and 20th centuries saw a variety of precursory video projectors invented: the praxinoscope, the zoopraxiscope, the phantoscope (later named the Vitascope), and Thomas Edison's amazingly popular kinetoscope. While all of these are seen as stepping stones in the development of movie-making, not many people remember that movies don't exist without projectors to project them.
English: Edison Vitascope from LOC New York : Metropolitan Print Company, c 1896. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Magic Lantern
A device called the Magic Lantern was arguably the first modern projector. It was a lantern with a candle inside, but light could only escape through a perpendicular tube in the side, through which slides with photographs on them could be fed. As the focused candlelight shone through the tube, the images were projected onto the wall. The slide projectors of the mid-20th century were simply an embellishment on the magic lantern.
Muybridge's Galloping Horse
In 1878, Eadweard Muybridge produced the first "moving picture" ever. It was, in essence, much like the multi-page doodle that many people have made: draw a series of slightly different pictures on each page of a shief, and then flip through them rapidly to create perceived movement. Muybridge did just this, using 24 cameras to create images of a galloping horse. Light was shown through the slides, and video projection was born.
Animated sequence of a race horse galloping. Photos taken by Eadweard Muybridge (died 1904), first published in 1887 at Philadelphia (Animal Locomotion). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What if We…
In the next decade, cameras were developed that would allow continous, video photography, that stored the images on reels of film. Necessity is the mother of invention, and soon video projectors were created, shining light through the film reels and projecting them on screens for audiences to watch. Through the turn of the century, filmmakers began experimenting with multiple angles and shots.
The 21st Century
Nowadays, video projection has gone digital with the rest of the world. Dell digital projectors employ thousands of microscopic mirrors to reflect light from a projector onto a screen, in much the same way as pixels on a computer screen relay light to the eye. In place of candles and lightbulbs, LED lights are used as a light source. With a color wheel dictating which colors should be reflected off the mirrors, images take shape on screens with startling clarity and superb resolution. In fact, some Dell digital projectors do away with both the LED and color wheel and get both light and color from lasers. From the humble, jittery moving photographs of less than 200 years ago, light is still be used to tell the human story.