Sunday, August 28, 2011

Before Film

Before screenwriting was even in the picture, we needed the picture – a moving one at that.  The first “motion pictures”  came to us in the form of mechanical devices.  One was called the Phenakistoscope which was invented by Joseph Plateau.

Muybridge - Phenakistoscope disk Muybridge - Phenakistoscope disk animated

Plateau was credited with the invention even though the idea had been around since Euclid.  The Phenakistoscope disk above was done by Eadweard Muybridge.  More on Eadweard later. 

The other invention was the Zoetrope.  Invented by Ding Huan in China in 180 AD but modernly credited to William George Horner.  It became popular in the 1860s.


Eadweard Muybridge, mentioned above, is considered the first person to make a motion picture – capture live images.  Eadweard captured the images of a horse using 24 trip wired cameras to settle a bet made about  whether a running horse ever had all four legs lifted off the ground at once. 

Muybridge - Sallie Gardner Muybridge - Sallie Gardner animated

After Muybridge the first motion picture camera was invented by William Friese-Greene.  But his ‘chronophotographic’ camera only ran at 10 frames a second which was far too slow for practical use.

Chronophotographic camera  Muybridge - Woman walking down stairs

The example chronophotography is another by Eadweard Muybridge, Woman walking down stairs.

In 1891, K. L. Dickson working for Thomas Edison invented the Kinetograph (aka Kinetoscope)  which took a series of instantaneous photographs on standard Eastman Kodak photographic emulsion coated on to a transparent celluloid strip 35 mm wide. 


And though it might have looked a bit different than today’s cameras, the age of motion pictures had begun.

Next article The Earliest Films

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