The conception of cinema derived from a collage of fast-moving, still-frame photographs. This invention not only revolutionized the entertainment industry, but scientific exploration as well. The recording of a moment not only captures that peculiar moment indefinitely, but allows that recording to be stored, modified, investigated, and replayed at the discretion of the visual user. The visual information may now be meticulously analyzed for the sake of understanding. Such examples of this may be seen in Edweard Muybridge’s motion-picture creation of a galloping horse. His motion picture solved a heavily deliberated issue: are a horse’s feet ever completely airborne when in full-gallop? A collective, scholarly brooding simply could not solve this issue. Innovative photography would resolve this enigma by giving man a close, slowed view of the speedy action escapable to the naked, human eye in real time. Other photographic/motion picture innovators such as Etienne-Jules Marey also contributed to the science of motion picture. This man indeed revolutionized the field of photography by creating the photograph gun and closing the gap between still-frame photography and cinema. The concept of quick photography serves as the premise of this innovative, applicable style of motion picture. Renowned inventor Thomas Edison and cinematic genius George Melies would also make substantial contributions to the nascence of cinematography. Contributions from this narrow pre and post-cinematic time period would prove to revolutionize world understandings, public entertainment, and the intriguing wile of visual disinformation through contentious collaboration.
The Grand Idea
The idea of motion picture spawned from rapid photography. Rapid photography is a self-explanatory process. Multiple images are taken over an ephemeral period of time to capture an event or happening that is difficult for the human eye to discern. Etienne Jules Marey was the invented the photographic gun in 1882 (the same year Muybridge published Locomotion of Animals).
This device allows the user to take a rapid succession of photographs by incessantly pulling the trigger of the gun. The application of this invention was prodigious. As witnessed in Muybridge’s A Horse in Motion, the viewer of the photograph can take a more meticulous look into what has been so intrinsically captured. The apprehension gap is narrowed with the invention of this device and was adapted by many photographers of both aesthetes and scientists alike.
Based upon the contributions and patents of Marey and Muybridge, renowned inventor Thomas Edison developed the first confirmed form of cinematic motion picture. Edison created the kinetoscope in 1891: a device that allowed the viewer to peep through a hole or aperture and witness a series of fast-moving images. The transition speed creates a coalescence of visual information. The images flow due to the cyclical, chronological order of the still-frame photos. The viewer could use this device as a means of transitory entertainment. Due to the paucity of resources and lack of digital duplication or application, these movies were very short in length. Edison’s creations were placed into kiosks in dramatic theaters and other locations people would conglomerate for entertainment purposes. However, Edison did not patent the product; therefore, his creation generated revenue, but his idea became a prime target of lucrative reproduction and distribution.
Slowly but surely, the kinetoscope grew and manifested a new name and audience. Edison would later change the name of the kinetoscope to the vitascope. The application of the vitascope attained recognition as primarily means of entertainment. The first large-scale cinematic experience took place in 1894 in Richmond, VA. Charles Francis Jenkins used a vitascope to recreate a Butterfly Dance performed by a woman (Manly 5).This vitascope was projected on a larger canvas to entertain multiples in attendance. Viewing the sequence of images form the comfort of your seat is much more convenient and comfortable than looking through the film of a small aperture. In the image above, note the vertical length of the reels. The images projected had to be compacted into a small space. The viewer or user of the kinetoscope at this time would have peered through a small aperture to view these sequential images (Manley 6). The device was initially contrived to accommodate the individual user. This is where others took advantage of Edison’s initial plan of thinking.
Progression of Rapid Photography
Edweard Muybridge fervently explored the idea of rapid photography. This indelible approach allowed the viewer to witness a series of real events in a quick fashion. Small increments of time slip by between each picture; thus, some discrepancies will exist and a given series of time is not completely captured. Nonetheless, Muybridge’s contributions helped close the gap between still-frame photography and motion picture. Muybridge first configured the collage of photographs in 1878 and published The Horse in Motion in 1882 through the Pennsylvanian scholarly magazine (Coe; Herbert 1) .This printed collage represents a series of juxtaposed photographs that he would later display and advertise via zoopraxiscope. These photographs represent a step-by-step reenactment of a horse galloping. This photograph received much praise and laud because it represented so much more than a collage of equine movement, but an understanding of something the human eye could not descry.
Muybridge’s publication of The Horse in Motion would solve a heavily disputed controversy regarding the placement of a horse’s feet during full gallop. Two factors contributed to this unresolved belief: “availability of the animal, and the inability of the camera to capture movement in anything but blurs” (Thomas & Braun 82). However, Muybridge’s contributions and understandings of photographic development proved otherwise. A precise moment of validation is unveiled through Muybridge’s juxtaposition and a theory is debunked. Indeed, a photograph captures all feet of horse ungrounded. The viewer can examine the sequence of photographs and vividly witness the undisputed truth.
This incredible feat was not galvanized solely through the Pennsylvanian, but through the zoopraxiscope as well. After Muybridge’s creation and publication of the Animal Locomotion, his career took a more commercial turn. To initially create a simulation of real time and modifiable speed, Muybridge created the zoopraxiscope (Herbert & Brian 1). Cinematic breakthrough would be nigh.
This intricate, yet simple device portrayed a given series of photographs in a cyclical fashion. The images are placed in chronological order (based upon the initial, rapid images collected) and pasted around the circumference of a circular cutout. Once the images are properly arranged, the viewer may rotate the circular cutout while viewing through a short, cylindrical tube usually covered by a colored film. The user of the device can turn the circular piece at his/her discretion to simulate motion. Muybridge created this intricate device in the year 1879 only one year after his configuration of horse in full gallop. Muybridge noticed the incredible interest in such photography and the awe-inspiring idea of motion picture. Muybridge would expand his photographic arsenal by capturing photos of athletes in motion. The captured images would once more be transposed onto a zoopraxiscope. When rotated quickly, animation is simulated. Heterogeneous appeal equals great revenue. While still recognized as an affiliate of Pennsylvania University, he galvanized his invention and indeed generated much entertainment. His massive, public impression on the entertainment business would transcend his scientific invention to a product of simple, yet intriguing entertainment.
Muybridge’s photographic collage of the galloping horse was just one application of rapid photography. Because the time gap is narrowed between each and every photograph taken, not only a moment, but an entire series of events can be played and replayed at the discretion of the viewer. Edison’s zoopraxiscope and Marey’s photographic gun had indeed ameliorated the entertainment industry, but also enhanced the scientific process. Natural, yet speedy occurrences can be closely observed. For instance, a cheetah’s sprint and motion can be carefully studied. A robin’s sustained flight route can now be observed by ornithologists for the sake of higher understanding. Minute details are unveiled with the creation of rapid photography. One can now rewind a series of events by simply spinning the zoopraxiscope in the opposite order.
There photographic breakthrough also benefited competitive athletes. Long-distance running form, elaborate dances, and any action requiring a specific range of motion can now be captured and galvanized. Though these applications particular would become more evident with the progression of time, the possibility is existent, only motive is needed. However, these particular areas of interest would not become formalized until rapid photography acquired a new name: video (Manley 7). This creation made room for new ideas, larger audiences, and mass revenue.
The Dawn of the Camera
While many attribute credit to Thomas Edison for composing the first cinematic experience, the next photographic/technological innovation would once more enhance a previous revolution. Although Edison’s invention yielded much success, he did not patent his idea; therefore, he lost much revenue and credit for his newly appelated Kinetoscope. Edison attempted to portray his fast-moving images onto a large canvas to accommodate a larger audience, but into many technical difficulties pertaining to the noise of the projector and constant tearing of the film (Manley 6). For reasons unknown, Edison abandoned the idea of large-scale projection. He centered his Kinetoscope business around smaller populations. Understandably, Edison may have wanted to monitor the production and sales of the individual Kinetoscope to ensure business aggrandizing. The Kinetoscope was, after all, initially designed to accommodate individual viewers, not multitudes of people. Despite the reasoning behind Edison’s rescinding of effort, others took advantage of Edison’s hesitance and attempted to rectify the technical flaws that caused Edison to abdicate this endeavor of mass accommodation.
The Lumiere brothers of France were quick to act upon the endeavor of mass cinematic accommodation. The Lumineres brothers’ debut film La Sortie de l’Usine Lumière à Lyon was an instant success (Manley 7). The brothers were able to project the film (succession of photographs) onto a large canvas. This event attracted quite the crowd and proved to be a rather interesting film. The film itself depicted the ordinary events in the life of a factory worker. It intrigued audiences because it allowed the public to look into the life of another; in this case, the life of a working-class hero. This film likely appealed to audiences not because of its riveting content, but because it represents a recording of time. The projection of the film likely fueled interest as well. You no longer ave to peer through a small opening in a small box to enjoy a flick. Because events are captured and indefinitely recorded, people are capable of witnessing something they may never see themselves.
Though Edison may have been initially distraught by the modifications and success of the Lumineres Brothers, their success would also be ephemeral. When one innovation seemed to conquer all, an unprecedented event would occur. The idea of cinematography becomes almost epistemic. One idea builds on a previous discovery. Although this is true in most areas of study, the minuscule time gap of cinematic development is quite amazing. Former magician Georges Melies once again proved to attribute to the already awe-inspiring invention of rapid photography conceived less than a decade earlier.
This (Melies) man made substantial contributions to cinematic visual effects and dissimulation. The term “dissimulation” refers to deception or guile (Tufte 135). Visual dissimulation can be both mendacious and intriguing. Melies was a simple magician who received the opportunity to contribute his work through Alfred Clark’s “The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots”. In this film, there is an ostensible beheading (Manley 10). To recreate this beheading, a dummy was placed in lieu of the actual actor. This was Melies’ idea and would prove to serve as the premise of visual effects or what is currently known as visual dissimulation. In essence, Melies’ contribution to cinematography birthed the idea of film editing.
Melies’ idea was not only witty, but innovative. Audiences would be highly intrigued with this false representation of death. The motive behind Melies’ idea was to create a sense of realism. In drama or films demanding a high level of sincerity, obvious implementations of dissimulation are too amateur for proper verisimilitude placement. This is where strategy comes into play. Melies implementation was a very prudent process. He would edit the reel of film to portray a real, chronological sequence of events without revealing the actual intermittent action. In order to accomplish this, Melies stopped the filming, strategically placed a few frames of the headless dummy in the exact position of the previous actor, then proceeded to film again. Positioning was crucial when doing this. To create the illusion of continuity, Melies had to ensure logical congruency between the real and fake shots. The sequence was designed to dramatize an actual death without blatantly revealing the tampering of individual frames.
Melies’ imagination did not stop here. He would also be the first director to transition setting in a motion picture (Manley 11). In, “La Voyage dans la lune”, there are numerous scenes with different characters. This visual diversity creates a more intriguing story. Completing such a task was initially onerous. Because the scenes differ, the story cannot be made entirely in real time. The process becomes more intermittent and the configuring process becomes more complex. However, Melies imagination apparently superseded the required effort. These visual modifications were well-received by the general public and once more, the cinematic industry would aggrandize.
All of these contributors shared a common attribute: quick assessment. When one photographic breakthrough occurs, another contributor of a different skill set is quick to contribute. The unique correlation between renowned inventor Thomas Edison, magician George Melies and the Lumiere directors warrants this paradoxical “collaboration”. Muybridge’s initial idea of rapid, collage photography would transcend into the film industry we know today. Though his ideas and innovative thinking combated with Marey’s photographic gun, this contention fueled the progression of cinematic development and progression. To this day, we see such contention is a means of contribution. Film editors, graphic designers, actors, directors, and producers alike are striving for a similar goal: contrive unique, unprecedented ideas that will spark yet another cinematic breakthrough.
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