The 1947 film The Biography of the Motion Picture Camera is an art documentary produced by Les Films du Compas and Roger Leenhardt, and narrated by Tony Kraber. The film traces the history of the development of motion pictures from the first camera to Edison’s kinetoscope and the Lumiere brothers’ cinematograph. The film begins with a brief recap of photographing still simple subjects. The issue of animating still photographs is apparent with the “School of the Successive Pose” (01:51), and it isn’t until Dr. Etienne-Jules Marey begins his study of movement that the motion picture camera’s foundation is laid. Marey’s study of motion began with Karl von Vierordt’s sphygmograph (03:20—likely a Marey design of Vierordt’s invention). Marey then adapts the sphygmograph to fit a horse and rider (04:09) in order to record the movement of the horse (at a walk, trot, and gallop). Marey’s graph reveals that on the third beat, a horse rested on only one leg, a conclusion that was at odds with the current understanding of how horses galloped. Avid horse racing fan Leland Stanford places a $25,000 bet on Marey’s conclusion and hires photographer Eadweard Muybridge (05:28) to prove Marey’s theory using a battery of 24 cameras to photograph the galloping horse (05:45—recreation of camera battery). Muybridge’s album is sent to Marey, who is impressed and takes up photography to better understand movement. Marey invents his own chronophotograph to better capture movement (07:30—use of chronophotograph, representation of Marey), going as far as to diagram human movement (09:30). With Kodak film (10:15—early Kodak film camera) replacing photographic plates, Marey adapts his chronophotograph (10:20), photographing himself (11:30) with his own chronophotograph. However, it isn’t until Thomas Edison (12:09) that the next breakthrough in motion picture cameras is made. Edison and his interest in reproducing movement brings the motion picture camera into existence. Edison invents his own camera and begins making his own films. After the success of his commercial phonographs (12:27), Edison builds a viewing machine for his films called the kinetoscope (12:50), and people soon pay to watch moving pictures, including the 20-second Sandow (13:04), featuring Eugen Sandow, the German strongman. The documentary then provides a quick explanation of how the kinetoscope works (13:37), then shows a handful of kinetoscope films produced by Edison’s Black Maria Studio: Buffalo Dance (14:22), Hadj Cheriff (14:34), Athlete with Wand (14:46), Annie Oakley (14:55), The Boxing Cats (15:09). The documentary finishes by looking at the impact of Auguste and Louis Lumiere. The Lumiere brothers patent the cinematograph, a projector used for showing motion pictures to large audiences (as well as recording). Louis Lumiere (15:49) makes commercial showings possible by incorporating the principle of the claw of the sewing machine (15:56) into their projector (16:23). The first commercial public screening of films takes place in 1895 at Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris. The Lumiere brothers show ten short films, including Workers Leaving the Factory (15:20) and Baby’s Breakfast (17:12)—featuring Andree Lumiere. Soon after, most cities have commercial screenings of films, allowing people to marvel at the short and simple motion pictures (17:50).
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