1.    Who could be said to have ‘invented’ cinema, and how did their device improve upon other emergent film technologies?

At the end of the nineteenth century, many inventors were fascinated with the moving picture. While the Zoetrope and the Praxinoscope set the principles by giving “the impression of movement”, Etienne-Jules Marey and Augustin-Louis Le Prince presented machines to only photograph, not project, moving images (James Chapman: 53). George Eastman perfected and standardized celluloid film rolls by 1890, essential for filming and projecting, but still others lead the way to the spectacle of cinema (Filmreference).

 In 1891, the American Thomas Edison (1847-1931) and his assistant W.K.L. Dickson invented the Kinetoscope viewing box and shortly after the heavy Kinetograph camera, enabling one person peepshows of less than thirty seconds. Two of their attributes became standard in the following years: a “stop-motion device to regulate intermittent motion of film strip” and two-rowed holes in the film to pull synchronous and effectively through the machine (Filmreference). Commercial use launched in 1894, using the first film studio, the Black Maria, in West Orange, New Jersey; consequently, various Kinetoscope parlours emerged in the USA and Europe, but they lacked the cinema-feature of collective viewing (James Chapman: 53).

Inspired by Edison, the American Birt Acres (1854-1918) with Robert Paul (1869-1943) build the portable Kinetic Camera in Britain in March 1895; in 1897, he gave a public performance with his projector, the Kineoptikon. Unlike others, he gave lectures and performed at scientific societies; thus, he lost his lead (Victorian Cinema: Birt Acres). His innovative Birtac, a camera-projector for amateurs, required too much proficiency and was outrivaled by the cheaper Biokam (Early Cinema: Birt Acres). With more entrepreneur skills, he might have led the way to cinema.

German lanternist Max Skladanowsky (1863-1939), with his brother Emil, invented the Bioskop in 1895 which projected images alternatively. The Berlin Wintergarten Theater exhibited their shorts for a paying audience from November on. Further, the Bioskop expanded in Europe; however, the appearance of Lumière’s show resulted in cancelations in London and Paris. Despite Skladanowsky’s improvements, his film trade licence renewal was rejected in Berlin due to an excessive existence of licences, so he resumed his earlier work with flip books (Victorian Cinema: Max Skladanowsky).

Simultaneously, August (1862-1954) and Louis Lumière (1864-1948), French scientific novelties inventors, were similarly inspired by Edison and, imitating a sewing machine, made the easy transportable Cinematograph, a combination of camera, projector and printer, intermitting perforated film with a pull-down system and using a universal 35mm film gauge. They presented short viewings from March 1895 on (Victorian Cinema: Louis Lumière); eventually, at the Grand Café in Paris in December, they publicly showed their first 25 minute actualité program for a paying audience including The Arrival of a Train at the Station and Arrival of Congress (James Russel: Cinema of Attractions). They send operators through Europe and America to spread the business of cinema, where the audience can be a collective voyeur in a social activity, and afterwards provided the most used technology; thus, they became a symbol for the beginning of cinema (James Chapman: 54), shooting appealing single-shot films in various “exotic” locations in the following years shown especially in Paris (Filmreference).

Edison surely opened up the development but the restricted peepshow could not withstand the mass entertainment; Lumière’s portable camera-projector, as well as the possible longer duration of silent films, was superior. Also, the attraction of Lumière’s everyday-life films outplayed Edison’s presented vaudeville dancing (James Chapman: 54).


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