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The Kinetoscope

The film consisted of a continuous loop fed vertically by a series of spools. At the top, it passed under a peephole lens with an aperture that spun in synchronization with the film itself. The principle of the continuously moving filmstrip—as opposed to one controlled by an intermittent mechanism—hearkens back to Muybridge’s zoöpraxiscope. Edison’s insistence on battery power made the kinetoscope unwieldy and, unlike the machines that ultimately supplanted it, stationary. The length of the filmstrip inside the kinetoscope was about 50 feet. Because it was projected at approximately 40 frames per second, it lasted for a little less than half a minute—and so, therefore, did the action of the typical Edison movie, which was simply photographed and shown without any editing.

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