See the moving picture


The Inventions of Louis Le Prince

Le Prince’s first camera (left) contained 16 lenses, each to capture one of the 16 images per second required to produce the illusion of movement. Records indicate that by the summer of 1888, he’d built a single-lens camera, with which he successfully photographed a series of pictures at the rate of 12 per second. He applied for a British patent on both a camera and projector in November 1888. In October 1888, using newly introduced Eastman film stock, Le Prince shot footage from Leeds Bridge at the rate of 12-20 photographs per second, having selected the busiest street in the city of Leeds in order to capture as much activity as possible (center). The extant footage contains 20 frames and lasts about 3 seconds. In 1886, Le Prince had drawn up a preliminary schematic for a motion-picture “deliverer” (projector), which was designed to project the pictures shot with an earlier single-lens camera (right). Note, left and just above the conjunction of the legs, the Maltese cross mechanism. The original caption refers to it as “the star wheel arrangement allowing the band [i.e., reel of film] to work at the proper time.” Proponents of Le Prince’s claim to precedence in the projection of motion pictures cite evidence that he had demonstrated his projector sometime between mid- and late 1889.

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