Century Use of Magic Lanterns
First still photograph taken, using a glass plate technique
Claude Niepce's photograph the View from a Window at Le Gras
took nearly eight hours to expose.
Joseph Plateau and sons introduce the Phenakistoscope. Like
other toys of its kind, the Phenakistoscope was one of the
more successful illusion toys. Pictures on one disc viewed
through slots in the other, appeared to move when the two
were spun and viewed in a mirror.
Another illusion toy - the Zoetrope was introduced by William
George Horner. The Zoetrope used the same principle as Plateau's
Phenakistoscope but instead of discs the pictures and slots
are combined in a rotating drum. Zoetrope's were widely sold
Fox Talbot makes an important advancement in photograph production
with the introduction of negatives on paper - as opposed to
glass. Also around this time it became possible to print photographic
images on glass slides which could be projected using magic
Important in the development of motion pictures was the invention
of intermittent mechanisms - particularly those used in sewing
Emile Reynaud introduces the Praxinoscope. Similar in design
to Horner's Zoetrope, the illusion of movement produced by
the Praxinoscope was viewed on mirrors in the centre of the
drum rather than through slots on the outside.
Eadweard Muybridge achieves success after five years of trying
to capture movement. Muybridge was asked, in 1873, by the
ex-governor of California - Leland Stanford to settle a bet
as to whether horses hooves left the ground when they galloped.
He did this by setting up a bank of twelve cameras with trip-wires
connected to their shutters, each camera took a picture when
the horse tripped its wire. Muybridge developed a projector
to present his finding. He adapted Horner's Zoetrope to produce
Etienne Jules Marey, inspired by Muybridge's animal locomotion
studies, begins his own experiments to study the flight of
birds and other rapid animal movements . The result was a
photographic gun which exposed 12 images on the edge of a
Emile Reynaud expands on his praxinoscope and using mirrors
and a lantern is about to project moving drawings onto a screen.
George Eastman devises a still camera which produces photographs
on sensitised paper which he sells using the name Kodak.
Etienne Marey (right) builds a box type moving picture camera
which uses an intermittent mechanism and strips of paper film.
Thomas A. Edison, inventor of the electric light bulb and
the phonograph decides to design machines for making and showing
moving pictures. With his assistant W.K.L Dickson (who did
most of the work), Edison began experimenting with adapting
the phonograph and tried in vain to make rows of tiny photographs
on similar cylinders.
Reynaud exhibits a much larger version of his praxinoscope.
Edison travels to Paris and views Marey's camera which uses
flexible film. Dickson then acquires some Eastman Kodak film
stock and begins work on a new type of machine.
By 1891, Edison and Dickson have their Kinetograph camera
and Kinetoscope viewing box ready for patenting and demonstration.
Using Eastman film cut into inch wide strips, Dickson punched
four holes in either side of each frame allowing toothed gears
to pull the film through the camera.
Using his projecting Praxinoscope, Reynaud holds the first
public exhibitions of motion pictures. Reynaud's device was
successful, using long strips of hand-painted frames, but
the effect was jerky and slow.
Edison and Dickson build a studio on the grounds of Edison's
laboratories in New Jersey, to produce films for their kinetoscope.
The Black Maria was ready for film production at the end of
Lumière family is the biggest manufacturer of photographic
plates in Europe A Local kinetoscope exhibitor asks brothers
Louis and Auguste to make films which are cheaper than the
ones sold by Edison.
Louis and Auguste design
a camera which serves as both a recording device and a projecting
device. They call it the Cinématographe.
The Cinématographe uses
flexible film cut into 35mm wide strips and used an intermittent
mechanism modeled on the sewing machine.
The camera shot films
at sixteen frames per second (rather than the forty six which
Edison used), this became the standard film rate for nearly
During this year Woodville Latham and his sons Otway and Gray
began working on their own camera and projector.
In October of 1894, Edison's Kinetoscope made its debut in
London. The parlour which played host these machines did remarkably
well and its owner approached R.W Paul, a maker of photographic
equipment to make some extra machines for it. Incredibly,
Edison hadn't patented his kinetoscope outside of the US,
so Paul was free to sell copies to anyone, however, because
Edison would only supply films to exhibitors who leased his
machines, Paul had to invent his own camera to make films
to go with his duplicate kinetoscopes.
Another peepshow device, similar to the kinetoscope arrived
in the Autumn of 1894. The Mutoscope was patented by Herman
Casler, and worked using a flip-card device to provide the
motion picture. Needing a camera he turned to his friend W.K.L
Dickson who, unhappy at the Edison Company cooperates and
with several others they form the American Mutoscope Company.
The first film shot with the Cinématographe camera is La Sortie
de l'usine Lumière a Lyon (Workers leaving the Lumière factory
at Lyon). Shot in March it is shown in public at a meeting
of the Societe d'Encouragement a l'industrie Nationale in
Paris that same month.
In March of 1895, R.W Paul and his partner Birt Acres had
a functional camera which was based partly on Marey's 1888
camera. In just half a year they had created a camera and
shot 13 films for use with the kinetoscope. The partnership
broke up, Paul continuing to improve upon the camera while
Acres concentrating on creating a projector.
The Lathams too had succeeded in creating a camera and a projector
and on April 21st 1895 they showed one film to reporters.
In May they opened a small storefront theatre. Their projector
received only a small amount of attention as the image projected
was very dim. The Lathams did however contribute greatly to
motion picture history. Their projectors employed a system
which looped the film making it less susceptible to breaks
and tears. The Latham Loop as it was dubbed later is still
in use in modern motion picture projectors.
Atlanta, Georgia was the setting for another partnership.
C. Francis Jenkins and Thomas Armat exhibit their phantoscope
projector but like Latham, attracts a moderate audience due
to its dim, unsteady projector and competition from the Kinetoscope
parlours. Later that year, Jenkins and Armat split. Armat
continued to improve upon the projector and renames it the
Vitascope, and obtained backing from American entrepreneurs
Norman Raff and Frank Gammon.
One of the most famous film screenings in history took place
on December 28th, 1895. The venue was the Grand Cafe in Paris
and customers paid one Franc for a twenty-five minute programme
of ten Lumière films. These included Feeding the Baby, The
Waterer Watered and A View of the Sea.
Early in 1896, Herman Casler and W.K.L Dickson had developed
their camera to go with Casler's Mutoscope. However the market
for peepshow devices was in decine and they decided to concentrate
on producing a projection system. The camera and projector
they produced were unusual as they used 70mm film which gave
very clear images.
January 14th saw Birt Acres present a selection of his films
to the Royal Photographic Society - these included the famous
Rough Sea at Dover and soon projected films were shown there
The Lumière brothers sent a representative from their company
to London and started a successful run of Cinématographe films.
R.W. Paul continued to improve his camera and invented a projector
which began by showing copies of Acres' films from the previous
year. He sold his machines rather than leasing them and as
a result speeded up the spread of the film industry in Britain
as well as abroad supplying filmmakers and exhibitors which
included George Méliès.
After agreeing to back Armat's Vitascope, Raff and Gammon
approached Edison, afraid to offend him, and Edison agrees
to manufacture the Vitascope marketing it as "Edison's Vitascope".
April 23rd saw the first public premiere of the Vitascope
at Koster and Bial's Music Hall. Six films were shown in all,
five of which were orginally shot for kinetoscope, the sixth
being Birt Acres' Rough Sea at Dover.
By 1897 the American Mutoscope Company become the most popular
film company in America - both projecting films and with the
peephole Mutoscope which was considered more reliable than
The American Mutoscope Company changes its name to the American
Mutoscope and Biograph Company to include its projection and
British filmmaker James Williamson produces "The Big Swallow"
which demonstrated the ingenuity of the Brighton School (of
filmmakers) of which he and George Smith were principle contributors.
Georges Méliès produces his magnificent "Voyage to the Moon",
a fifteen minute epic fantasy parodying the writings of Jules
Verne and HG Wells. The film used innovative special effect
techniques and introduced colour to the screen through hand-painting
British film maker George Smith makes Mary Janes Mishap which
was praised for its sophisticated use of editing. The film
uses medium close-ups to draw the viewers attention to the
scene, juxtaposed with wide establishing shots. The film also
contains a pair of wipes which signal a scene change.
The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company begin making films
in the 35mm format rather that the 70mm which boosted their
sales. The company went on to employ one of the most important
silent film directors - D.W Griffith in 1908.
Edwin S. Porter, working for Edison makes "The Life of an
American Fireman" which displayed new visual storytelling
techniques and incorporated stock footage with Porter's own
photography. It acted as a major precursor to Porter's most
famous film "The Great Train Robbery" also made in 1903 which
displayed effective use of editing and photography technique.
Cecil Hepworth produced, with Lewin Fitzhamon "Rescued by
Rover". A charming film in which Hepworth, his wife, child
and dog, star.