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The Complete History of the Discovery of Cinematography - Part 4 - Motion Study Analysis and Commercialization

By 1877 the increased speed of photographic emulsions and improved camera shutters made it possible to photograph rapid motions. Pioneers such as Muybridge and Marey were interested in motion rather than in photography. Their combined studies and experimentation's in stop-action series photography and motion study analysis have led to wonderful inventions within modern times. To study the gait of a running horse, Eadweard Muybridge, an English born book-seller turned photographer, set up on a racetrack in California a row of 12 cameras that had electric shutter controls. As a horse ran by the cameras, it tripped strings that activated the shutters and exposed the plates. Muybridge repeated the experiment using 24 cameras. In this way the first instantaneous photographs of un-posed, continuous motion were made. Muybridge's work led to many experiments in motion photography aimed at achieving the same results with a single camera.

This was first accomplished in 1882 by a Frenchman, Étienne-Jules Marey, who was also studying the movement of living things. Marey perfected the "photographic gun," shaped like a rifle but with a lens in the muzzle and photographic dry plates in the chamber. With only one pull of its trigger, 12 exposures were made in rapid succession. Marey later improved the gun by using emulsified paper film instead of dry plates and was able to take about 100 pictures a second. His paper film, however, could not be projected. The next important step in taking pictures was the development of a light-sensitive emulsion on Celluloid film. This was achieved by Hannibal Goodwin, an American amateur photographer from Newark, N. J., in 1887. A short time later George Eastman, also an American, marketed a similar transparent, flexible film to be used with the Kodak camera he invented. Celluloid film, though highly flammable, could be manufactured in continuous fashion, rapidly exposed by intermittent motion, quickly passed through a projecting device, and easily wound.

Another giant step taken towards motion pictures was the one taken by Baron Franz von Uchatius, an Austrian military officer, who combined the revolving disk principle with the magic lantern to project a series of phased drawings on a wall or screen. Uchatius perfected his projection apparatus between 1845 and 1853. His pictures could be viewed by a number of people at one time. During the years that these men were discovering how to make pictures move and how to project them, others were pioneering in the development of photography. By the middle of the 19th century, still photographs began to replace drawings on optical disks. However, due to the long exposure time required by the wet-plate process then in use, each phase of a motion had to be posed and photographed separately. By 1870, inventors in the United States and England had developed devices in which posed photographs of motion, mounted on a revolving disk, passed between a light source and a lens for projection for an audience. These mechanisms created an illusion of motion, but it was not yet possible for the photographer to capture on film the objects in motion.

Frenchman Louis-Augustin Le Prince who lived primarily in Leeds England, in 1888 patented a machine to film and project images using Celluloid film. Le Prince never showed his cinematograph pictures to anyone other that his co-workers and those in employment at the Whitley factory where he had his shop. This fact has lessened his impact on the history. Without an official announcement and documented coverage of a 'first showing', Le Prince was left out of predominance for the most part. However, no other strip of working film has been discovered that predates the Leeds bridge traffic scene of 1888. The extant film shot by Le Prince but never shown publicly or announced to the world, was presented seven years before the Lumiere's cafe presentation to workers in the Whitley factory where Le Prince performed his work. Le Prince used non-perforated sensitised paper for these frames which remain twenty in all.

Commercialization Of Film

The first people generally credited with using Celluloid film for motion pictures were the American inventor Thomas A. Edison and his assistant William K.L. Dickson. By 1890 they had developed the Kinetograph, a motion-picture camera using Eastman film. To view the film, the Edison laboratory developed the Kinetoscope, a peep-show type of machine in a cabinet. The machine ran a continuous 50-foot loop of 35-mm. film driven by sprockets. A revolving shutter allowed a brief glimpse of each image. On April 14, 1894, the first Kinetoscope parlour opened at 1155 Broadway in New York City. It was an arcade containing banks of Kinetoscope machines, which featured motion pictures of vaudeville acts, wild West and circus shows, and other entertainment. They were filmed at the "Black Maria," the world's first motion-picture studio, built by Edison at West Orange, N.J., in 1892-93. By the end of 1894, other Kinetoscope parlours had opened in the United States and Europe.

Perhaps better known for his contribution to the quality of life than the entertaining aspect of it, Edison wrote on the moral demeanour of the finished product to his contemporaries while being honoured at a birthday gala in 1924. He too saw the vast potential, not just from an entertainment aspect, but from a reputable and ethical one. Edison had an uncanny intuition and incredible foresight of what the future held. He spoke these words to motion picture industry executives almost thirty years after the first reels had been turned...

"I believe, as I have always believed, that you control the most powerful instrument in the world for good or evil. Remember that you are servants of the public and never let a desire for money or power prevent you from giving to the public the best work of which you are capable. It is not the quantity of riches that count; it is the quality that produces happiness, where that is possible. I wish you a prosperous, useful, and honourable future." - Thomas A. Edison

The success of Edison's machines inspired other experimenters to improve on his devices and to try to find a means of projecting films for large audiences. In 1895 a number of new motion-picture cameras and projection devices -some within the same machine - were demonstrated in the United States and Europe. The most successful was the Cinématographe - a combination camera, printer, and projector - invented by Louis and Auguste Lumičre in France.

They gave their first private film show in March 1895, and in December they began public showings at the Grand Café in Paris. These were almost immediately popular, and in 1896 the Lumičres converted a room at the café into the world's first cinema theatre. The Cinématographe spread rapidly through Europe, and in 1896 it was imported by the United States.

To meet the competition of films projected on a screen, Edison arranged to manufacture the vitascope, a projector developed by Thomas Armat and Charles Francis Jenkins in the United States. The Armat-Jenkins projector was the first American one to use the principle of intermittent motion, allowing each frame to remain stationary on the screen for a brief time. Like the Europeans, Edison also developed a portable motion-picture camera that could take films anywhere. On April 23, 1896, Edison's first public performance using the vitascope opened at Koster and Bial's Music Hall in New York City with films of prizefighters, dancing girls, a scene from a play, and ocean waves. With the development of the vitascope, all of the basic tools of cinematography were finally available.

So it is with man in his more civilized and educated state when he draws on his innate and natural urge to expand and go beyond what his senses say is unexplainable. Society's magnetic attachment to watching films today is no different than the drawing power that pinhole images had on Aristotle. Nor is today's attraction to television, videos or computer games any stronger than Venetians of the 13th century viewing Villeneuve's moving shows. Great film directors of today pursue the finishing touches of their artwork at the same speed and obsession as the pioneer's of previous centuries pursued theirs.

Only technology changes, and technology is the culminating factor in the final presentation of any product, especially in the medium of movement re-creation. In fact, technology is the final presentation because it becomes the improved version of itself. The subject matter of any scenario remains stationary among all versions until technological advances bring it to a new plateau, a new height of enjoyment through it's own technological phases of expansion.

Film has been defined as a photographic projection of continuous still images. In contrast to chronophotography, it has been called a technical device for achieving the illusion of motion by photographic means. Regardless of whatever description one gives to the definition of motion pictures, it remains without doubt, a monumental discovery within history.

I invite you now, to view the chronology of events leading from the pinhole image to the silver screen.

This is the genesis of the cinema.
~ Paul Burns

"Our invention can be exploited for a certain time as a scientific curiosity, but apart from that, it has no commercial future whatsoever." - Auguste Lumičre


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Edison's 35mm Kinetoscope of 1902 (left) (Courtesy Michael Rogge Collection)

Lumičre Brothers 1895 Cinematographe (Right) (Courtesy Smithsonian National Museum of American History)

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