Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Ready for an Audience

W.K. Laurie Dickson, a researcher at the Edison Laboratories, is credited with the invention of a practicable form of celluloid strip containing a sequence of images, the basis of a method of photographing and projecting moving images. In 1894, Thomas Edison introduced to the public the Kinetograph, the first practical moving picture camera, and the Kinetoscope. The latter was a cabinet in which a continuous loop of film (powered by an electric motor) was projected by a lamp and lense onto a glass. The spectator viewed the image through an eye piece. Kinetoscope parlours were supplied with fifty-foot film snippets shot by Dickson, in their "Black Maria" studio. These films were usually short sequences by acrobats, music hall performers, and also included boxing demonstrations. Kinetescope Parlours soon spread to Europe, and aroused a great deal of interest.
Edison believed that he had a monopoly position on moving pictures, as he was the only one with a camera. Two Greek entrepreneurs called upon Robert Paul, a British electrician and scientific instrument maker of Hatton garden, London.They asked him to build a number of replicas of a kinetoscope that they had acquired. To his amazement, he found that Edison had not patented this invention in Britain, and he went on to produce a number on his own account. One of these was supplied to Georges Melies, and aroused his interest in the possibilities of film. As films for these machines were in short supply, Paul, with the assistance of Birt Acres invented a camera. One of their first films was of the Derby, won by the Prince of Wales's horse.
Edison had not initiated the idea of projection nor transmission of films; but had merely intended to display them in individual viewers. However, Paul hit upon the idea, and invented a film projector, giving his first public showing in 1895. about the same time, Auguste and Louis Lumière, also inspired by the kinetoscope, invented the cinematograph, a portable, three-in-one camera, developer/printer, and projector. In France in late 1895, the Lumière brothers began exhibitions of projected films before the paying public. They sparked the move from single-viewer units to projection (Cook, 1990), and quickly became Europe's leading producers of the new medium. Even Edison joined the burgeoning projection trend with the Vitascope within less than six months. Nikola Tesla, who worked with Edison at one time, invented the radio (credited to him post-humously by the US Patent Office) along with the Tesla coil used in Marconi's radio telegraph, and he claimed that one of its benefits of radio would be the democratisation of information including projecting duplicated moving images in every house in the world, king or pauper, thus successfully predicting television before the first movies were even made.
The movies of the time were seen mostly via temporary storefront spaces and travelling exhibitors or as acts in vaudeville programs. A film could be under a minute long and would usually present a single scene, authentic or staged, of everyday life, a public event, a sporting event or slapstick. There was little to no cinematic technique: no editing and usually no camera movement, and flat, stagey compositions. But the novelty of realistically moving photographs was enough for a motion picture industry to mushroom before the end of the century, in countries around the world.

Watch out for .................... The Silent Era


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