CHAPTER 1 / Part 1

FROM THE MAGIC LANTERN TO THE PROJECTED MOTION PICTURE

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THE ILLUSION OF MOTION IN MOTION PICTURES

If you look at the strip of film in Figure 1.1, you’11 be reminded that a “movie” is really a series of individual still photographs. We know from ample experience, of course, that if we project these pictures in front of a light source and run them in quick succession, we get the effect that we call “motion pictures”—a smooth, continuous flow of moving images. But if these pictures are in fact discrete still photographs, then the “motion” in motion pictures depends on an illusion. Psychologists call this illusion apparent motion, which occurs when an object seemingly ceases to be at point A and reappears at point B without really crossing the space between the two points. Naturally, apparent motion is not the same thing as real motion, which we perceive when an object actually does move from one point to another.

Marquee

                                   The Phi Phenomenon

A related illusion is called the phi phenomenon. Appropriately, a classic example is the movement of lights on a theater marquee, whether it appears that lights are moving around the sign or that words are moving from one side of the sign to the other. In both cases, different combinations of stationary lights are actually being flashed on and off. We perceive them as moving only because an exchange of stimuli—one light for another—has been carefully timed and placed.[1] The series of paired objects in Figure 1.2 also demonstrates the phi phenomenon. In each case, the replacement of form 1 with form 2 will result in the illusion of apparent motion—if the delay is timed just right.

The Correspondence of Successive Images
  We experience the same illusion when the stimuli are the discrete images—the individual photographs—that make up a motion picture. These stimuli are also carefully timed and placed: each image captures the subject in a slightly different position, and we experience the illusion of apparent motion because each stimulus seems to have moved smoothly into place from the position occupied by the preceding stimulus. Note, too, that the illusion works because each picture differs only slightly from the one before it. The visual system must detect correspondence—a high degree of similarity—between successive images; otherwise, the illusion doesn’t work.[2]

The Neuropsychology of Movie Watching

The mechanics of motion-picture projection engage certain perceptual processes that allow us to see discontinuous images as if they were continuous—that is, to accept the illusion of apparent motion. We know, for example, that when a movie is projected, each individual picture on the filmstrip is held briefly in front of the projecting light and then rapidly replaced with the next picture. We know, too, that the illusion of apparent motion works because this technique, which is essential to the mechanical process of presenting the filmstrip to our perceptual faculties, satisfies two conditions:

  1. The images on the filmstrip are sufficiently similar.
  2. The process of projecting the filmstrip is sufficiently rapid and smooth.

The Threshold of Rapid Repetition
  But what about our perceptual processes? What roles do they play? Psychologists and other neuroscientists attribute the processes of motion perception to a complex chain of events that links the visual system to the brain through neural impulses. This is not the place to summarize all of the most recent findings, but to get better understanding of the type of process at work, let’s return for a moment to the phi phenomenon. Experiments with flashing lights show that we perceive apparent motion—a single light moving back and forth from the on to the off position—only when the interval between the lights is less than 0.2 of a second; if the interval is longer, we see two lights going on and off in alternate order. Crucial to the illusion of apparent motion, therefore, is the rapidity of repeating images: only when the rapidity of repeating images exceeds a certain threshold do we perceive the illusion. In other words, the necessary illusion occurs in motion pictures if the rapidity with which a series of images is presented is above a certain threshold. Technically, therefore, a movie is actually a rapidly displayed series of still photographs.[3]

Our concepts of the phi phenomenon and the sensory threshold result from experiments into the principles of Gestalt psychology, which studies the processes of perception in order to examine the theory that human experience is formed in response to whole patterns rather than to fragments of perceptions and events. Reading 1.1, “In Theory: ‘The Photoplay Observes the Laws of the Mind,’” discusses the development of Gestalt psychology into a theory about our imaginative response to the art of motion pictures.

EXPOSING PICTURES WITHOUT THE AID OF SUNLIGHT: THE MAGIC LANTERN

Recalling a lamp-lit, hand-cranked apparatus that he received as a gift at the age of eleven, the renowned Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman entitled his 1987 autobiography Laterna Magica—The Magic Lantern. “It was not a complicated machine,” he recalls:

The source of light was a paraffin lamp. . . . At the back of the metal box was a simple reflecting mirror, behind the lens a slot for colored lantern slides. The apparatus also included a square purple box which contained some glass slides and a sepia-colored filmstrip . . . glued into a loop. . . .

I . . . lit the paraffin lamp and directed the beam of light on to the whitewashed wall. Then I loaded the film.

A picture of a meadow appeared on the wall. Asleep in the meadow was a young woman. . . . I turned the handle and the girl woke up, sat up, slowly got up, stretched her arms out, swung round and disappeared to the right. If I went on turning, she would again lie there, then make exactly the same movements all over again.[4]

As you can tell from this description, the magic lantern was a forerunner of the slide projector—an optical device for projecting an enlarged image of a picture. Bergman’s machine obviously could be used to project either slides or “filmstrips,” both of which were drawn and painted by hand. The woman in his little “scene” appeared to move because he turned a handle, thereby replacing one static image with another. The episode would repeat because the filmstrip had been formed into a loop.[5]

“The Great Art of Light and Shadow”

Athanasius_Kircher

          Athanasius Kircher

By Bergman’s time, the magic lantern might come equipped with photographic images for projection, but the projection device itself predates photography by about 200 years.[6] As early as 1646, a German scholar named Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680) described in his book Ars magna lucis et umbræ (The Great Art of Light and Shadow) an elaborate apparatus for reflecting sunlight onto an image etched on a mirror, through a specially ground lens, and onto a screen mounted in a dark room. During the 1660s, a Danish lens grinder named Thomas Walgensten (1627-1681) refined the device and became the first entrepreneur to exploit its commercial possibilities by presenting shows to royalty across Europe.[7]

The Thaumaturgic Lantern
  Walgensten’s device, which he called the lanterna magica and Kircher a thaumaturgic lantern, depended for its images on a long glass slide on which were painted as many as eight separate scenes. These scenes were passed, one at a time, between a lamp source and a lens and projected on an appropriate surface for viewing. Kircher later illustrated Walgensten’s magic lantern (Figure 1.3), reminding his readers that the device seemed “magic” only because it was capable “of exposing pictures without the aid of sunlight.”

Twenty years later, the second edition of Kircher’s Ars magna described two different “thaumaturgic” devices (see Figure 1.4 [8]):

Beginning in the 17th century, the development of the magic lantern appears to go hand in hand with the development of a few enduring tendencies in the art and science of image projection. These currents are discussed in more detail in Reading 1.2, “In Theory: Certain Tendencies in the Pre-Cinema.”

The Sorcerer’s Lamp and the Fantasmagorie
  As soon as portable magic lanterns made traveling exhibitions possible, itinerant showmen appeared at fairs and similar venues. The entertainment passed from the hands of the upper to the lower classes and became popular because lantern shows lent themselves to themes from folk tales and other stories passed down in traditional folklore.[9] Among these themes were those that we recognize as staples of “Gothic” literature and film—tales of the supernatural, of mysterious or macabre goings on in eerie settings. Clearly, the magic lantern, which seemed to give life to shadows, had an affinity for such themes. Even the word “magic” suggested a link to things that were mysterious, and the practice of screening shows in the dark contributed to the effect of such images as ghouls, ghosts, and other manifestations of the unearthly. Kircher had already observed that the device was “not undeservedly . . . called ‘The Magic Lantern’ or ‘The Sorcerer’s Lamp’ due to its remarkable capability to let the vision of any object come to sight in a dark room or in the silence of the night.”[10]

Etienne_Gaspard_Robert

       Étienne Gaspard Robert

“The Terror Inspired by Shadows”
  From the outset, then, the projection of moving images was strongly associated with the mysterious and magical. In 1799, a Belgian inventor named Étienne Gaspard Robert (1763-1837), who billed himself as “Robertson,” first delighted Parisian audiences with a magic-lantern spectacle designed (as he reports in his Mémoires) to evoke “the terror inspired by the shadows, spirits, spells, and occult work of the magician.”[11]

Robert called his show the Fantasmagorie (Figure 1.5), and following his success, “phantasmagoria” operators were popular, especially in England and the United States, through the 1840s.[12] Images—including animated skeletons, disembodied heads, cavorting witches, and ghosts of the rich and famous—were often projected from behind a large translucent screen, and by using more than one lantern simultaneously, the showman could create a composite image. Using a large stationary lantern to project an atmospheric background, for example, he could also use smaller lanterns to project images of figures moving through space in ghostlike fashion.

ILLUSIVE THEORY AND REAL INVENTION: TOYS AND PHASE DRAWINGS

Peter_Mark_Roget

                Peter Mark Roget

In 1824, an English physician named Peter Mark Roget (of Thesaurus fame) noticed that when the rotating spokes of a wheel were observed through the vertical slats of some obstruction—say, the evenly spaced pickets of a fence—they appeared to be curved. In order to investigate this illusion, he built a device with which he could examine a rotating wheel with straight spokes through a series of passing vertical slats. He found that, if the vertical slats were equally spaced and caused to pass by at a sufficiently high but constant speed, the sequence of images of the rotating wheel observed through the slats did indeed produce the image of a rotating wheel with curved spokes.

Roget used basic geometry to explain why the spokes appeared to be curved, but when he addressed the question of how the eye transformed a series of images containing fragments of a whole—the arcs constituting the curved lines of a spoke—into the whole itself, he arrived at a misleading conclusion. Each stimulus, he argued—each image exposing an arc from a whole spoke—left “tracings” in the eye, each of which remained there for a fraction of a second after the corresponding stimulus was gone; interpreting these tracings as arcs of a “continuous curve,” the eye (or the brain) thus saw each spoke as a whole curved line.

See the moving picture

Palisade Illusion

                        Roget’s Illusion

The Persistence of Vision Fallacy
  This illusion has for a long time been called persistence of vision (a term that Roget himself never used). Today, scientists understand enough about our perceptual system to know that Roget’s explanation of the phenomenon isn’t quite sufficient. For a very long time, however, textbooks and other accounts of motion-picture projection have borrowed the principle of “persistence of vision” to account for the illusion on which movie watching depends: according to this theory, the brain interprets a series of successively presented discrete images as objects in motion because it retains images of previous visual stimuli while simultaneously responding to each new stimulus; like the arcs of Roget’s continuous curve, successive visual stimuli are interpreted as fragments of a larger pattern unfolding.

As a matter of fact, we don’t entirely understand the perceptual processes that make motion pictures work, but we do know that “persistence of vision” is not an adequate explanation. Visual processing of any kind involves a vast system of interconnected microscopic cells, and, again, although we don’t yet understand the neural code through which they communicate, we do know that it’s much more complex than any process suggested by the theory of persistence of vision.[13]

Phase Drawings and the Principle of the Moving Shutter

At the same time, however, if we examine the description of Roget’s experimental apparatus, we can see why—mechanically, at any rate—the images of a wheel with mere fragments of curved lines for spokes were so effective in giving the illusion of a wheel with whole curved lines for spokes. Remember that Roget’s experiment involved looking at the wheel through a series of vertical slats: regularly alternating with the spaces between them, the “picket-fence” slats of his experiments performed in much the same fashion as a shutter—the mechanism that opens and shuts the aperture through which a photographic image is exposed in both cameras and projectors. Regardless of its shortcomings in explaining the phenomenon of apparent motion in the movies, the principle underlying the “Roget illusion” became the basis of hundreds of optical-entertainment toys that furnished the illusion of still images in motion.[14]

Resulting from a raft of simultaneous experiments in Europe and the United States, these inventions, which proliferated in the two decades just prior to 1850, went by a variety of names, mostly coinages from Greek or Latin to lend them a scientific aura. By 1832, both a Belgian optician named Joseph Plateau (1801-1833) and an Austrian inventor named Simon Ritter von Stampfer (1792-1864) had employed the principle of the moving shutter (though not necessarily understanding it as such) in machines that operated by rotating series of so-called “phase drawings.” Generally speaking, here’s how they worked:

Zoetrope

                   19th-Century Zoetrope Ad

The Stroboscope, the Phenakistiscope, and the Zoetrope
  Stampfer called his device the stroboscope; Plateau called his the phenakistiscope (Figure 1.6). In both cases, the “shutter” effect was achieved by the use of a slotted disk. This technique, however, soon gave way to the idea of a topless revolving drum: the pictures, now arranged along a strip, were fixed around the inside wall of the drum, with the slits cut in the drum wall just above the strip. The illusion of movement, which was produced when the drum was spun, was more convincing than that of slotted-disk devices. In 1834, an English mathematician named William George Horner (1786-1837) introduced such an apparatus that was eventually marketed with great success as the zoetrope (Figure 1.7).

The Importance of the Shutter in the Flicks
  Why was the moving shutter important in the development of moving-image technology? Again, the matter comes down to the perception of apparent motion—to the quirk in the visual system that makes possible the illusion that static images are in motion. As we’ve seen, “moving pictures” depend on apparent motion, and we know that the perception of apparent motion involves a different perceptual mechanism than the perception of real motion. Consider, for instance, another demonstration of the phi phenomenon: experiments show that two lights moved back and forth in real motion become blurred at the same speed at which two stationary lights are flashed on and off to produce a successful illusion of apparent motion.[15]

This fact reminds us that advances in cinematic technology do not occur because new and better machines are designed to capture more effectively the phenomenon of real movement. The presentation of moving images continues to improve technically because engineers continue to master more effective ways of capturing and controlling the the illusion of movement in images that don’t actually move. Among the most important advances in the development of moving-image technology we must include improvements in processes for controlling the flicker effect that characterizes the projection of discrete, stationary images which are revealed to us when the aperture of the projector is open and which are replaced under the very brief cover of darkness that occurs when it’s closed.

Shutter

             The Double-Bladed Shutter

Your Critical Flicker Frequency
  The key to the control of flicker is the control of film speed or rate—and not merely the speed or rate at which the filmstrip is pulled through the projector. Equipped with a doubled-bladed shutter, the modern projector, which moves the filmstrip at a rate of 24 frames per second, exposes each frame to three intervals of darkness, resulting in a flicker rate equivalent to 72 frames per second (see Figure 1.8). This speed is well above the range of 30 to 50 flashes per second that constitutes our critical flicker frequency (cff)—the highest rate of flicker at which we can tell that seemingly continuous images are indeed flickering. The flashing light atop a police car, for instance, flashes because its rate is below our cff; otherwise, it would appear constant (and wouldn’t attract our attention the way it’s supposed to). Movies were once called flickers or flicks for the same reason: because slow shutter speeds kept the flicker rate below cff, viewers could detect the flickering effect.

The principle of the shutter, then, is critical in the presentation of “moving” images: in effect, the shutter, which interrupts the series of images, actually creates flicker under controlled conditions—conditions that enhance our perception of apparent motion. Here’s one systematic way to summarize those conditions:

The shutter reproduces the perception of apparent motion under artificial conditions, but remember: we experience apparent motion only under such artificial conditions as moviegoing—never under natural conditions.[16] Toys like the phenakistiscope, stroboscope, and zoetrope worked because they engaged the principle whereby a single continuously repeating stimulus was rapidly and repeatedly interrupted.[17] In other words, they reproduced flicker at a rate that was conducive to the illusion of apparent motion.

Charles-Emile_Reynaud

          Charles-Émile Reynaud

The First Projected Animations
  In 1877, a French inventor named Charles-Émile Reynaud (1844-1918) improved on the zoetrope by replacing the slits in the drum with a prism of mirrors wrapped around the center of the drum. He called his invention the praxinoscope (Figure 1.9). The mirrors not only provided increased illumination but, properly angled, replaced the slits of the phenakistiscope and zoetrope as the shutter mechanism for separating the images. The sequence of pictures, though still interrupted, flowed more smoothly. Because Reynaud made his moving images by painting colored pictures on strips of translucent material, the praxinoscope was a forerunner of the technique of frame-by-frame animation that we now know as the cartoon.

More importantly, by 1882, Reynaud had managed to combine his praxinoscope with a magic lantern, thereby creating the first workable device for projecting moving images on a screen. His “second-generation” praxinoscope actually used two “projectors”: while one projected a permanent background scene, the second projected Reynaud’s moving figures in the foreground (Figure 1.9).[18]

At his Théâtre Optique, which he opened in 1892, Reynaud was able to show 15-minute “films” composed of some 600 images hand-drawn on a translucent 140-foot ribbon wrapped around a drive disk three feet in diameter. (To accommodate a comparable spectacle, a zoetrope would have to be 900 feet in diameter, a phenakistiscope about 4,500 feet.[19]) In Reynaud’s exhibitions, therefore, animation clearly predated live-action cinema in every important respect. Unfortunately, Reynaud’s career as showman came to an abrupt end, probably because audiences preferred the realism of photographic images like those which became available only a few years later.

From Painted Drawings to Photographic Images

Photography is a method for producing lasting images by means of a chemical reaction that occurs when light strikes a specially prepared surface. As the term suggests, cinematography is the technical process of photography—not animation—applied to moving images. By the second half of the 19th century, the development of photography had made it possible to replace animated images with photographic slides and so-called “phase photographs.”

The Camera Obscura
  To understand the development of photographic processes, we first need to understand a device called the camera obscura (Latin for dark room). Basically, the camera obscura is a box with a small hole in one end. This “box,” however, can be a portable apparatus or a chamber large enough to accommodate a human being (see Figure 1.10). The purpose of the camera obscura is to aid in the drawing of an image, and the principle is the same regardless of the model:

Reflex Camera Obscura

             Design for Reflex Camera Obscura

The Camera Obscura and the Photographic Camera
  Based on a simple optical principle, the camera obscura boasts all the elements of the photographic camera—except, of course, film. As you might expect, it works well only in direct sunlight: reflected light casts a dimmer image of the subject, and if the artist tries to improve illumination by enlarging the hole (or aperture), the incoming light is diffused, allowing overlapping rays of light to enter. Eventually, a convex lens was placed just behind the aperture to bend the rays and make them converge on an appropriately placed focal plane behind the lens. If you look at yourself in the bowl of a shiny spoon, however, you’ll see that a convex lens turns the incoming image upside down. A mirror, therefore, was added to turn the image right side up, prefiguring the reflex system of the modern photographic camera. When the aperture became adjustable, the diaphragm had been invented: by opening or closing the diaphragm and moving the focal plane forward or backward, the operator could control the focus of any image cast on the focal plane (usually a piece of paper on which to trace the image).

The Development of Photographic Processes
  In the early 1820s, a French physicist named Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833) discovered that he could reproduce a drawing by placing it on a glass plate coated with bitumen, a substance found in asphalt, and exposing it to light. In 1826, he put one of his bitumen-coated plates in a camera obscura and set it in a window with the lens facing outward for eight hours. The result is the earliest camera photograph still in existence.

Niépce+Daguerre

   J.-N. Niépce and L.-J.-M. Dauguerre

The Dagurreotype
  Needless to say, Niépce’s process was laborious. When his efforts to improve it reached an impasse, he began sharing his work with a painter and inventor named Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (1787-1851), who found a way to speed up the process of producing an image on a glass plate.[20] First, he replaced Niépce’s bitumen with more light-sensitive silver iodine; then he shortened the exposure time by exposing the glass plate to mercury fumes. The process that he pioneered is called developing, and the final image produced by this process soon came to be called a daguerreotype.

As in the camera obscura, however, the original daguerreotype image had to be exposed to a light source before the developing process began. The process itself required a six-minute exposure, and because the image was developed directly onto the photographic plate, the daguerreotype process generated only a single, unreproducible image.

The Calotype and the Collodion
  In 1841, a British inventor named William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) introduced the calotype, which produced a negative original—an inverse record of the light and dark areas of the photographed object. The final product was then reproduced as a positive image on specially treated paper. Talbot’s improvement meant that an indefinite number of positives could be struck from a single negative—the most important advance of Talbot’s calotype over the daguerreotype. In 1851, Frederick Scott Archer (1813-1857), an English sculptor-photographer, replaced Talbot’s paper negative with the “wet plate,” or collodion—a glass plate bathed in a special emulsion. Ultimately, the use of the collodion made possible modern photography—and cinematography—by reducing exposure time to one-hundredth of a second.[21]

Stereopticon

               19th-Century Stereopticon Show

Fixing Nature on Glass: The Stereopticon
  Talbot’s process was improved upon by various inventors, many of whom developed different agents for making photographic images adhere to base surfaces other than paper. By the 1850s, when glass had become a common support base for photographic emulsion, glass slides for magic lanterns appeared. During the next decade, the stereopticon—a magic lantern using photographic slides—became a popular means of illustrating travelogues and lectures about such current events as the Civil War. Lantern slides shifted the entertainment value of moving-image exhibitions from spectacles of magic and mystery to programs devoted to what would eventually become the staples of the “documentary,” ranging from travel and war to ethnography and archaeology.[22]

The lifelike and life-size quality of the images enhanced the spectator’s sensation that he was viewing immediate reality, and the stereopticon gave the moving-image show a renewed aura of scientific legitimacy. Perhaps most importantly, photography began to standardize the practices of the moving-image show on an industrywide basis. Manufacturers, for example, could now make multiple copies of single images. Moreover, slides were cheaper and high quality easier to obtain, and the projection machines themselves, though often elaborate (see Figure 1.11), became generally smaller and less expensive.

As a greater variety of visual images became available, exhibitors began customizing their presentations with lectures, music, and sound effects. Even the rudiments of editing emerged: exhibitors not only selected and juxtaposed images, but imposed patterns of continuity and spatial logic through such techniques as point-of-view shots and exterior-interior sequencing (for instance, intercutting shots of a traveler’s railroad car with shots of the passing landscape).[23]

The Advent of Moving Images: From the Successive Pose to Serial Photography

In 1861, Coleman Sellers (1827-1907), a Philadelphia engineer of machinists’ tools, patented a device that he called the kinematoscope, which could show movement through a succession of still images. Although the kinematoscope was never successfully marketed, another American inventor, Henry Renno Heyl, improved on the principle by adapting it to the magic lantern. His phasmatrope mounted 16 photographic slides along the outer edge of a disk. As the disk was rotated in front of the light source, the successive images were projected onto a screen, each slightly different image supplanting the one preceding it.

Photographers called the technique for making such images the successive pose: the subject, such as the dancers in Figure 1.12, held a pose long enough for a first exposure, then slightly changed position for the second exposure, and so on. The effect is the same as that of the so-called “riffle book,” in which images give the illusion of movement when pages are rapidly flipped. Today, we recognize the same technique as stop-action photography. The images were sometimes called “phase photographs,” and with the stereopticon and such devices as the phasmatrope, “phase photographs” replaced “phase drawings” in moving-image exhibitions.

Note, however, that the phasmatrope did not produce the illusion of movement by presenting photographs taken in a continuous series: because each image was separately posed, the action captured in the series of reproduced images was discontinuous. Phase photography, then, is not true moviemaking, which entails recording action spontaneously and simultaneously as it occurs, not merely simulating action by substituting “phase photographs” for “phase drawings.”

Eadweard_Muybridge

             Eadweard Muybridge

Eadweard Muybridge: The Pursuit of Locomotion
  The next step in the development of “motion pictures” was the advent of serial (or series) photography: capturing, in a series of continuous images, a subject in rapid unposed movement. In 1872, an English photographer named Eadweard Muybridge (b. Edward J. Muggeridge, 1830-1904) was commissioned to determine if all four of a running horse’s legs were at any given point simultaneously off the ground. Muybridge constructed a battery of cameras, each equipped with an electromagnetic shutter that was tripped when a galloping horse broke a thread stretched across the track (Figure 1.13). Each shot was exposed for approximately 1/500 of a second and each exposure separated by about 1/25 of a second. A white backdrop with black vertical stripes made it possible to record the distance being traveled by the moving subject and captured by the cameras. In June 1878, Muybridge’s serial photos succeeded in showing that a galloping horse does indeed become momentarily airborne.[24]

Images for Study: Animal Locomotion
  Muybridge continued his experiments for the next 16 years, focusing his efforts on creating images for the study of human and animal motion. The photographic sequence in Figure 1.14 is among the 20,000 collected in a multivolume book entitled Animal Locomotion, which Muybridge published in 1887. Like his strategy for capturing a galloping horse, Muybridge’s technique for creating these sequences relied on multiple cameras. A sequence, for example, might be composed in the following manner:

The Zoöpraxiscope
  In order to re-create the illusion of movement in demonstrating his serial photographs, Muybridge adapted the principle of the phenakistiscope to a projector that he called the zoöpraxiscope. It was actually a machine for projecting serially taken phase photographs, and the process ultimately worked as follows:

Muybridge’s serial photographs were not, technically speaking, “movies,” but in capturing continuous unposed movement, they provided a critical link between still photography and motion pictures.[25]

Étienne-Jules_Marey

            Étienne-Jules Marey

Étienne-Jules Marey and the Single-Lens Camera
  In 1882, a French physiologist named Étienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904) improved upon Muybridge’s system with what he called le fusil photographique, or chronophotographic gun (Figure 1.16). To a long barrel holding a single taking lens Marey attached a circular chamber containing a single glass photographic plate. The plate rotated twelve times in the second during which Marey “shot” his subject, the twelve exposures thus forming a ring around the plate. With this apparatus, Marey went a long way toward solving a fundamental problem of motion-picture photography: the need for a single camera that could engage the illusion of apparent motion by taking 24 pictures in no more than two seconds. Moreover, Marey’s serial-photography device, unlike Muybridge’s battery of cameras, was portable, and we probably owe to his photographic “gun” our contemporary term shooting.[26]

For more information on the subsequent work and influence of Marey, see Biographical Sketch 1.1: Étienne-Jules Marey.

GLOSSARY

apparent motion   Illusion that occurs when an object seemingly ceases to be at point A and reappears at point B without really crossing the space between

camera obscura   Darkened room or box enabling an artist to trace on paper a reflected image captured by a lens and cast on a focal plane

critical flicker frequency (cff)   Highest rate of flicker (i.e., changes in light intensity) at which the human eye can observe that images are indeed flickering

developing   Chemical processing of photosensitive material to produce a recorded image

magic lantern   Forerunner of the projector; optical device for projecting an enlarged image of a picture painted on a glass disk or slide

phi phenomenon   Apparent motion caused by flashing lights in sequence; similarly, the perception of motion caused by the displacement of two objects that are seen in rapid succession in proximate positions

serial (or series) photography    Photographic process of capturing in a series of continuous images a subject in rapid unposed movement

shutter   Mechanism that opens and shuts the aperture through which a photographic image is exposed in a camera or projected in a projector

stereopticon   Magic lantern using photographic slides or slides with painted images taken from photographs

REFERENCES

[1] See Stuart M. Anstis, “Apparent Movement,” in Handbook of Sensory Psychology, ed. R. Held, H.W. Leibowitz, and H.L. Teuber. Vol. 8 (Berlin: Springer Verlag, 1978), esp. p. 656. Animated illustrations of various forms of apparent motion can be found at “Illusions,” Stuart Antsis Labs, at http://anstislab.ucsd.edu (accessed May 18, 2016). See also Donald H. McBurney and Virgina B. Collings, Introduction to Sensation/Perception, 2nd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1984), pp. 234-39.

[2] Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Stuart M. Anstis, “The Perception of Apparent Motion,” Scientific American (June 1986), p. 102.

[3] Thomas Hardy Leahey, A History of Psychology: Main Currents in Psychological Thought, 4th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997), p. 210.

[4] The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography, trans. Joan Tate (New York: Viking, 1988), p. 16.

[5] Russell Naughton, “Magic Lanterns,” Adventures in CyberSound, at www.acmi.net.au (accessed May 30, 2011).

[6] This section is based in part on Charles Musser, The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1990), pp. 15-54. See also George Auckland, “A History of the Magic Lantern,” The Magic Lantern Society, at www.magiclantern.org.uk (accessed November 14, 2012).

[7] For a pertinent excerpt from Kircher’s Ars Magna, see “About the Construction of The Magic Lantern, or The Sorcerer’s Lamp,” trans. Mats Rendel (1997), at www.phonurgia.se (accessed May 18, 2016).

[8] For Figure 1.4, see Musser, The Emergence of Cinema, p. 20.

[9] See Musser, The Emergence of Cinema, pp. 24-29; Ian Christie, The Last Machine: Early Cinema and the Birth of the Modern World (London: British Film Institute, 1994), pp. 111-17.

[10] “About the Construction of The Magic Lantern, or The Sorcerer’s Lamp.”

[11] Quoted by Musser, The Emergence of Cinema, p. 24.

[12] Russell Naughton, “Robertson’s Pantasmagoria,” Adventures in CyberSound, at www.acmi.net.au (accessed May 30, 2011); and Henc R.A. de Roo, “Phantasmagoria,” De Luikerwaal, at www.luikerwaal.com (accessed May 18, 2016).

[13] See esp. Joseph Anderson and Barbara Fisher, “The Myth of Persistence of Vision,” Journal of the University Film Association 30:4 (1978), 3-8, at http://faculty.uca.edu (accessed May 18, 2016); and Joseph Anderson and Barbara [Fisher] Anderson, “The Myth of Persistence of Vision Revisited,” Journal of Film and Video 45:1 (1993), 3-12, at http://academic.evergreen.edu (accessed May 18, 2016).

[14] Russell Naughton, “Magic Machines: A History of the Moving Image from Antiquity to 1900,” Adventures in CyberSound, at www.acmi.net.au (accessed May 30, 2011).

[15] See Robert Sekuler and Randolph Blake, Perception (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), pp. 279-82; McBurney and Collings, Introduction to Sensation/Perception, pp. 238-39.

[16] This material is based on McBurney and Collings, Introduction to Sensation/Perception, pp. 234-239, and Sekuler and Blake, Perception, pp. 253, 279-287.

[17] See Michael Chanan, The Dream That Kicks: A Prehistory and Early Years of Cinema in Britain (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980), pp. 54-64.

[18] Ralph Stephenson, Animation in the Cinema (London: A. Zwemmer, 1967), pp. 8-9, 26-27. See also Stephen Herbert, “Charles Émile Reynaud,” Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema (British Film Institute, 2016), at www.victorian-cinema.net (accessed May 18, 2016); Sylvie Saerens, “Émile Reynaud” (1997), Les Indépendants du premier siècle, at http://www.lips.org (accessed May 18, 2016); Christie, The Last Machine, p. 83.

[19] George Wead and George Lellis, Film: Form and Function (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981), p. 12.

[20] For more detail on the discoveries of Niépce and Daguerre, see “Nicéphore Niépce House,” Spéos Photo School and Maison Nicéphore Niépce, at www.niepce.com (accessed May 18, 2016).

[21] See Peter Stubbs, “Early Photographic Processes,” EdinPhoto, at www.edinphoto.org (accessed May 18, 2016).

[22] “Documentary,” in The Oxford History of World Cinema, ed. Geoffrey Nowell-Smith (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996), p. 87; see also Musser, The Emergence of Cinema, pp. 32-33.

[23] See Musser, The Emergence of Cinema, pp. 29-48. See also Terry Borton, “Film History Began with the Magic-Lantern” (1998), The American Magic-Lantern Theater (2008), at www.magiclanternshows.com (accessed May 18, 2016).

[24] See Mitchell Leslie, “The Man Who Stopped Time,” Stanford Magazine, May-June, 2001, at www.stanfordalumni.org (accessed May 18, 2016).

[25] Muybridge left his zoöpraxiscope and many of his photographic plates to the museum at Kingston upon Thames, the town in southern England where he both was born and died. See Eadweard Muybridge: Kingston’s Muybridge Collection, Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (2016), at www.kingston.gov.uk (accessed May 18, 2016); Marta Braun et al., Eadweard Muybridge: The Kingston Museum Bequest (Hastings, UK: The Projection Box, 2004), at http://books.google.com (accessed May 18, 2016); Eadweard Muybridge: Defining Modernities (London: Kingston Univ.), at www.eadweardmuybridge.co.uk (accessed January 24, 2014). See also Musser, “A Cornucopia of Images: Comparison and Judgment across Theater, Film, and the Visual Arts during the Late Nineteenth Century,” in Moving Pictures: American Art and Early Film 1880-1910, ed. Nancy Mowll Mathews (Manchester, VT: Hudson Hills Press, 2005), pp. 16-24; Nancy Mowll Mathews, “Early Film and American Artistic Traditions,” in Moving Pictures, ed. Mathews, pp. 39-45; Brian Coe, “Eadweard Muybridge” (2004), Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema (British Film Institute, 2016), at http://www.victorian-cinema (accessed May 18, 2016).

[26] See Laurent Mannoni, “Étienne-Jules Marey,” Who’s Who in Victorian Cinema (British Film Institute, 2016), at www.victorian-cinema.net (accessed May 18, 2016).

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