Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis, were sons of well
known Lyons based portrait painter Antoine Lumière.
They were both technically minded and excelled in science
subjects and were sent to Technical School.
Antoine, noting the financial rewards of new
photographic processes, abandoned his art and set up a business
manufacturing and supplying photographic equipment. Joining
him in this venture was Louis who began experimenting with
the photographic equipment his father was manufacturing.
During his experimentation, Louis discovered
a process which assisted the development of photography. Louis
developed a new 'dry plate' process in 1881 at the age of
seventeen, it became known as the 'Etiquette Bleue' process
and gave his fatherís business a welcome boost, and a factory
was built soon after to manufacture the plates in the Monplaisir
quarter of the Lyons Suburbs.
By 1894 the Lumières were producing around
15,000,000 plates a year. Antoine, by now a successful and
well known businessman, was invited to a demonstration of
Edisonís Peephole Kinetoscope in Paris. He was excited by
what he saw and returned to Lyons. He presented his son Louis
with a piece of Kinetoscope film, given to him by one of Edisonís
concessionaires and said, "This is what you have to make,
because Edison sells this at crazy prices and the concessionaires
are trying to make films here in France to have them cheaper".
The brothers worked through the Winter of 1894,
Auguste making the first experiments. Their aim was to overcome
the limitations and problems, as they saw them, of Edisonís
peephole Kinetoscope. They identified two main problems with
Edisonís device: firstly its bulk - the Kinetograph - the
camera, was a colossal piece of machinery and its weight and
size resigned it to the studio. Secondly - the nature of the
kinetoscope - the viewer, meant that only one person could
experience the films at a time.
By early 1895, the brothers had invented their
own device combining camera with printer and projector and
called it the Cinématographe. Patenting it on February 13th
1895, the Cinématographe was much smaller than Edisonís Kinetograph,
was lightweight (around five kilograms), and was hand cranked.
The Lumières used a film speed of 16 frames per second,
much slower compared with Edisonís 48 fps - this meant that
less film was used an also the clatter and grinding associated
with Edisonís device was reduced.
Perhaps most important was Louisís decision
to incorporate the principle of intermittent movement using
a device similar to that found in sewing machines. This was
something Edison had rejected as he struggled to perfect projection
using continuous movement. The brothers kept their new invention
a closely guarded secret with Auguste organising private screenings
to invited guest only.
The first of such screenings occurred on 22nd
March 1895 at 44 Rue de Rennes in Paris at an industrial meeting
where a film especially for the occasion, Workers leaving
the Lumière factory, was shown. Unlike Edison, the
Lumière Brothers were quick to patent the Cinématographe
outside of their native France, applying for an English Patent
on April 18th 1895. The brothers continued to show their invention
privately, again on June 10th to photographers in Lyon.
Such screenings generated much discussion and
widespread excitement surrounding this new technology - in
preparation for their first public screening on 28th December
at the Grand Cafe on Parisís Boulevard de Capuchines. The
programme of films on show that day was as follows:
La Sortie de usines Lumière (1894)
La Voltige (1895)
La Peche aux poissons rouges (1895)
La Debarquement du congres de photographie a Lyons (1895)
Les Forgerons (1895)
Lí Arroseur arrose (1895) Repas de bebe (1895)
Place des Cordeliers a Lyon (1895)
La Mer (1895)
Louis photographed the world around him and
some of his first films were 'actuality' films, like the workers
leaving the factory. The brothers began to open theatres to
show their films (which became known as cinemas). In the first
four months of 1896 they had opened Cinématographe theatres
in London, Brussels, Belgium and New York.
Their catalogues grew from 358 titles in 1897
to 1000 in 1898 to 2113 in 1903; although out of the 2113
titles in the 1903 catalogue, less than 50 were the brothers.
The rest were taken by other operators like Promio, Doublier
and Mesguich. In 1900 the brothers projected a film on a huge
99 x 79 foot screen at the Paris Exposition, after which they
decided to curtail their film exhibitions and devote their
time to the manufacture and sale of their inventions.
In 1907 they produced the first practical colour
photography process, the Autochrome Plate.
Antoine, after the initial cinematic explosion,
returned to his art and continued to paint until his death