Collection represents the evolution of the means of recording and
showing moving images in a photographic form. It embraces the 'pre-history'
of cinematography, which ranges from optical toys and magic lanterns
to pioneer work in motion studies, and the audio-visual field, such
as slide/tape and multivision. It aims to record by associated contextual
material how the processes of film production and dissemination, both
professional and amateur, have developed particularly in Britain.
Whilst not concerned with the collection and preservation of film,
it includes a range of film samples to demonstrate process and format
and representative examples of film footage to illustrate the production
The Collection has a comprehensive range of apparatus and other artifacts
relating to the pre-history and early history of cinematography, with
the important exception of material concerned with Eadweard Muybridge.
Representation of professional equipment, cameras and projectors,
from the silent era is especially strong. Amateur equipment from all
periods is well represented.
The Cinematography Collection began in 1913 with the presentation
of equipment by the British cinema pioneer, Robert
W Paul. Since then, it has grown so that it now comprises around
13,000 items. Objects from the collection are on display at the National
Museum of Photography, Film & Television, Bradford and the Science
Here is a small selection of objects from the collection.
Javanese Shadow Puppet
Shadow plays, which can be regarded as an extremely early precursor
of cinema, originated in Java and India some thousands of years ago.
These thin leather puppets are intricately perforated and painted,
and depict figures in folk lore. They are manipulated by rods in front
of a translucent screen, lit from behind so that the puppet is seen
in silhouette. These are still in use today.
Praxinoscope, French, 1877
An optical toy showing moving pictures, invented by the French artist,
Emile Reynaud (1844-1918). This used strips of drawings around the
circumference of a mirrored drum. When the drum is spun, the mirrors
each reflect a separate drawing so you rapidly see each picture in
turn, giving the illusion of movement.
Analysis of motion experiment c1886
William Friese Greene (1855-1921)
This shows Friese Greene himself. These images were intended to be
projected on a magic lantern that used four lenses with a revolving
shutter to reveal each of the images in sequence.
Prestwich 35mm Cine Camera, British, 1910
This camera was used by Herbert Ponting on Captain Scott's ill-fated
Antarctic Expedition of 1910. It was made by the British firm of Prestwich.
Mitchell NC 35mm camera, American, 1935
Mitchells were the standard feature film industry camera. In 1966,
the manufacturers claimed that '85% of all films shown in theaters
throughout the world are filmed with Mitchell cameras'. They are noted
for their precision construction. Of the 744 NC cameras made, only
nine of this model were manufactured. This particular camera was used
at Ealing Studios in the era of its famous comedies, and later by
Sketch for Ursula Andress's make-up for She
One of several preparatory sketches made by Roy Ashton (1909-1995)
for his make-up for the sequence in Hammer Films' 1965 film in which
Ursula Andress ages 2000 years. It is part of the collection of drawings,
photographs and artefacts from the pioneering work of special effects
make-up artists Roy Ashton and Phil Leakey. They were responsible
for many Hammer Horror films including The Curse of Frankenstein,
Dracula, The Mummy, The Curse of the Werewolf and The Evil
Monarch Ethopticon Bi-Unial Magic Lantern, British, 1880s
This double-lens magic lantern was made by the Bradford firm
of Riley Brothers and projected 3¼" x 3¼" magic
lantern slides. It is shown with a mechanical slide in each
slide gate. The lamphouse held a limelight illuminant which
the operator could adjust through the velvet curtain at the
Magic Lantern slides by Newton & Co., 19th Century
These British-made slides show a lake scene during night and
day. A 'dissolving pair', they were shown using magic lanterns
with two or three lenses. As one lens, projecting one slide,
was covered, another lens, showing a second slide registered
with the first image, was uncovered to produce a 'dissolve'
or transformation between the two projected images.
Magic Lantern Slipping Slide, 19th Century
This British-made slide shows the process of a chrysalis transforming
into a butterfly in three stages. Slipping slides consist of
one glass slide painted with different stages of a simple movement
which is moved across a second, fixed, slide on which the non-changing
part of the image is painted. Black patches on the slipping
slide alternately cover and uncover the stages of movement.
Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904)
Chronophotographe fixed-plate camera, 1883
One of the Chronophotographe cameras invented by the French physiologist
Etienne Jules Marey
for the purpose of studying movement. It recorded sequential images
of a moving subject on a single, static photographic plate. The subjects
were photographed against a black background and the sequence of images
often overlapped on the photograph. Later, Marey devised a method
whereby subjects, dressed in black with while lines along the axes
of their limbs, were recorded as a graphic 'trace' on the photographic
Chronophotographe double-use camera, 1890
This camera used both glass plates and paper 'film', first produced
by George Eastman's Kodak company in 1885. By 1889, celluloid film
was used. The Chronophotographe demonstrated the essential characteristics
of a ciné camera - the exposure of a series of still images
on a strip of film, which was moved intermittently between exposures.
This front view shows the lens panel (the lens is missing). The rear
of the camera is racked backwards and forwards to focus. It contains
the film transport mechanism.
Close-up of the film mechanism, viewed from the rear of the camera,
showing the back plate raised to expose the circular bladed shutter
behind. Marey's other Chronophotographe film cameras had shutters
behind the lens. The film was moved through the camera by intermittent
motion and clamped in the film gate (centre) to expose each frame.
In Marey's first model of the camera, the clamp was electrically operated
but this was found to be erratic at the speeds at which it operated
(up to 40 pictures a second) and was abandoned for clockwork gearing.
The peephole in the foreground was used to check the focus of the
image on the film.
Chronophotography - the recording of movement in a sequence of photographic
images - was pioneered by Marey. He devised a number of Chronophotographe
cameras which he and his assistants used to photograph humans and
animals in motion. Here is a selection from the National Museum of
Photography, Film & Television's collection.
Click to see the movie Falling cat
Falling cat, undated
85mm film. 36 frames, 85mm (h) x 15mm (w). Distance between ledge
and floor marked '28' in pen on first frame.
This was the gardener's cat at the Physiological Station run by Marey
at the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. Marey conclusively disproves Newton's
first law of motion which states that the direction of an object in
motion can only be changed by an external force. Cats - and rabbits
- have the ability to twist round while falling and so land on their
Eugene Sandow, strongman, c1900
88mm film. 15 frames, 85mm (h) x 43mm (w).
When he visited Paris in 1900, the internationally-famous strongman
Eugene Sandow was photographed by Marey's assistant, Lucien Bull.
Sandow (born Frederick Muller in Germany in 1867) had already been
filmed by William Kennedy
Laurie Dickson, in 1894 for the Kinetoscope
and by the American Mutoscope Company, whose Biograph projector made
its public debut in Pittsburgh in a variety show starring Sandow in
September 1896. Sandow eventually settled in Britain, opening an 'Institute
of Heath' in London and writing books on physical fitness. Unfortunately,
in 1925, he performed one demonstration of strength too many when,
after he single-handedly pulled a car out of a ditch, he had a stroke
Click to see the movie Two fencers
Two fencers, 1891-2
85mm film. 19 frames. 45mm (h) x 85mm (w).
Taken by Etienne Jules Marey,
this is inscribed Escrimé-Epie, Naples,1891-92. This shows
the Italian method of fencing. Marey regularly spent winters at his
house, Villa Maria in Posilipo, outside Naples from 1870 onwards.
He set up a laboratory there.
Louis Le Prince (1842-1890?)
Le Prince 16-lens camera, 1886
This camera was devised by Louis
Aimé Augustin Le Prince to take sequences of pictures on
film with a paper base which George Eastman introduced in 1885. It
is the subject of Le Prince's American patent, applied for on 2 November
1886 and granted on 10 January 1888. A British patent, containing
an extra clause relating to a single-lens camera
and projector, was issued on 16 November 1888.
In the patent, Le Prince describes how this camera was meant to work.
At the front of the camera are sixteen lenses, each controlled by
an electro-magnetic shutter. Above these are two viewfinder lenses.
The front of the camera can be racked backwards and forwards for focusing.
Fitted to the rear of the camera was a magazine containing two sets
of spools of paper film, side-by-side, with the upper 'take-up' spools
connected to a drive shaft that could be operated by hand or attached
to a motor. Unfortunately, this magazine has not survived and all
that can exists on the camera are the two parallel slots into which
the magazine fitted.
The spools of unexposed film were in the lower part of the magazine.
In his Provisional Specification, Le Prince states that the 'take-up'
spools at the top were fitted with gear wheels connecting with a commutator
and battery which fired the shutters in sequence. In the Complete
Specification (10 October 1888) this was changed to a complicated
system of gearing. In operation, each roll of film was moved alternately.
While one remained static, clamped in position behind the first set
of eight lenses, each of which opened in sequence to record images
on the film, the other roll was moved up a distance 'equal or greater
than the total height of the square openings in front of the lenses'.
This was then clamped in position and exposed through the second set
of eight lenses while the first film was advanced. Thus images 1 to
8 were recorded on the first film, 9 to 16 on the second, 17 to 24
on the first, and so on. The camera was designed to work at about
16 pictures a second.
Man walking around a corner, 1886-1887
The only 16-lens image apparently taken with this camera was probably
made on a single glass plate and not on film, as described in the
patent. No films made with this camera have been found.
Le Prince single-lens camera, 1888
This camera was devised by Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince at
his workshop in Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, Great Britain and is said to
have been used in 1888 to take moving picture sequences of a Roundhay
Garden Scene and Leeds Bridge.
This is believed to be the second of two single-lens cameras designed
by Le Prince. The lower of the two lenses is the taking lens; the
upper is the viewfinder lens. The whole assembly was moved backwards
and forwards for focusing, using the lever on the right. Behind the
taking lens is a rotating disc shutter. The wooden body of the camera
was made by Frederic Mason, a local joiner, the metal parts were cast
at Whitley Partners, Leeds and fitted by Le Prince's assistant, James
E Kilburn Scott, writing in 1931, describes the camera's operation
'The film, 2¼ inches (60mm) wide, is wound from one to the
other of a pair of ebonite spools about six inches in diameter, one
above the other. The top one is revolved intermittently by a cam bearing
a number of teeth which engages with projections on the hub of the
spool. the film is thus drawn up through the "gate" behind the lens
in a series of jerks. At each exposure, it is held fast by a flat
brass plate also operated by a cam. The plate moves back slightly
when the film is being pulled through, to prevent scratching...Light
is cut off from the film during movement by a circular slotted brass
shutter, which revolves behind the lens in the same way as in modern
machines. The shutter is a robust affair, and the opening of it is
adjustable...To assist in promoting smooth, even motion the spindle
of the lower spool carries a heavy brass flywheel. The intermittent
drive on the top spool was unvaried, whatever the amount of film the
This resulted in uneven spacing of the frames throughout the reel.
One of the important technical problems of cinematography, solved
by Thomas Edison and
W K L Dickson, was how
to record regularly-spaced images on the film so that each successive
image was in register and could be projected with absolute steadiness
on the screen. A film photographed with a mechanism that did not register
each frame precisely would have to be projected using the same, or
identical, apparatus on which it had been taken. This was the method
which Le Prince adopted to project his films.
However, it is not certain whether Le Prince managed to project his
pictures. There are various testimonies, notably those of Frederic
Mason and Walter Gee, an electrician, claiming that Le Prince succeeded
in doing so, though E Kilburn Scott, who installed an arc lamp as
a projector light source for Le Prince, does not mention ever seeing
pictures projected. None of the films or projection apparatus is known
to have survived. All we have are copies of paper prints from sections
of three films.
Picture sequences by Louis Le Prince
These sequences were made by Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince
using the single-lens camera of 1888.
Click to see the movie Leeds Bridge
Leeds Bridge, 1888
Photographic copy of paper prints from a film showing Leeds Bridge,
Leeds, Yorkshire, Great Britain. Le Prince's son, Adolphe, stated
that this scene was taken at twenty pictures a second in October 1888
from a second storey window at the south-east corner of the bridge.
This is almost exactly contemporary with films made by the French
scientist Etienne Jules
Marey in his roll-film Chronophotographe
and shown to the Académie des Sciences in Paris on 29 October
Click to see the movie Roundhay Garden Scene
Roundhay Garden Scene, 1888
Photographic copy of paper prints from a film taken in the garden
of the Whitley family house in Oakwood Grange Road, Roundhay, a suburb
of Leeds, Yorkshire, Great Britain. Le Prince's son, Adolphe, who
appears in this picture, stated that it was shot in early October
1888 (he suggests 14 October) as it shows Mrs Sarah Whitley, Le Prince's
mother-in-law, who died on 24 October that year. The other subjects
are Joseph Whitley and Miss Harriet Hartley. They are plainly having
fun walking round in circles, keeping within the area framed by the
view from the side (with side panel removed to show the film loop).
Invented by Edison's
British employee, William
Kennedy Laurie Dickson (1860-1935), this was the first device
to show motion pictures. Looking through the eyepiece at the top,
a viewer saw about twenty seconds of film passing through in a continuous
loop. Favourite titles were The Corbett-Courtney Fight, Sandow and
Annabelle Serpentine Dance.
of the interior from above, showing the loop of film which is moved
continuously through the machine by a sprocket roller driven by an
electric motor. Underneath the picture gate (middle right) is an electric
light. The round shutter wheel revolved, giving intermittent flashes
of light, momentarily 'freezing' each successive frame of the film
as it passed. The viewer perceived this rapid series of images as
a continuously moving picture.
The Kinetoscope's inventor, Dickson, based this method of continuous
film movement interrupted by flashes of light on the Tachyscope viewer
invented by the German Oscar Anschütz in 1887.
The Kinetoscope contains a loop of about 46 feet (14 metres) of film
which ran at 46 frames a second, giving the viewer just twenty seconds
of moving pictures. Later machines were enlarged to contain 150 feet
(45 metres) of film running at 30 frames a second, giving 80 seconds
viewing time. This allowed a round of the popular boxing films to
fit on a single machine.
Parlours, containing machines offering a choice of films, first opened
in New York on 14 April 1894. The first British Kinetoscope Parlour
opened in Oxford Street, London on 18 October 1894. The Kinetoscope
was not patented in Britain, allowing Robert
W Paul the freedom to copy the machine and become one of the pioneers
of the British film industry.
Although the Kinetoscope was the first commercial exploitation of
motion pictures, it was a different experience from that of cinema,
introduced a year later by the Lumière
brothers in Paris. Only one person at a time could see a film in a
Kinetoscope; in a cinema, the whole audience sees the film simultaneously
on a screen and shares the performance. Kinetoscope Parlours did not
survive the introduction of cinema.
at Clovelly Cottage, 1895
A section of the first film shot in Britain. The full-length film
no longer exists. It was made before 29 March 1895 by Birt
Acres, using the camera he devised for his business partner Robert
W Paul, and shows a scene in front of Acre's house at Barnet, Hertfordshire.
It was a test made to show on the Kinetoscope copies that Paul was
manufacturing. Paul wrote to Thomas
Edison, on 29 March enclosing sample frames of this film and offering
to supply films for the Kinetoscope. The offer was rejected.
Projector No 2 Mark 1, 1896
General view from left-hand side, showing winding handle. Robert W
Paul first demonstrated his Theatrograph projector at Finsbury Technical
College, London on 20 February 1896, the same day as the preview showing
of the Lumière Cinématographe
This is the second, improved model, patented on 2 March, 1896, which
sold for �80. Over a hundred were produced. This, and five other objects,
was presented by Paul to the Science Museum in 1913 and formed the
basis of the Cinematography collection. The lamphouse is a replica.
The Cinématographe, invented by Auguste
and Louis Lumière was a combined camera, projector and
printer. Here it is set up for projection, using a magic lantern lamphouse
as a light source. The Cinématographe was hand-cranked and
the film ran from the top spool holder though the projector to a box
in the stand below.
With a similar Cinématographe, the Lumière brothers
gave the first cinema show at the Grand Café, boulevard des
Capucines in Paris on 28 December 1895.
35mm Cine Camera, British c1909
Made by the Williamson Kinematograph Company, London, UK, this is
a characteristic British 'upright' pattern cine camera, containing
the feed and take-up film magazines on top of each other inside the
went on to become of the major manufacturers of aerial reconnaissance
and gun cameras.
'KOK' 28mm ciné projector, French, 1912
Designed specifically for home use by the French Pathé company,
this projector was known as the 'KOK' after the firm's trademark:
a crowing cockerel. Until the introduction of Edison's Home Kinetoscope
and this projector in 1912, films for home use had been produced on
the highly inflammable nitrate
film stock. The Pathé films came in a new format, 28mm, printed
on non-flammable cellulose acetate safety film. The crank handle not
only moved the film but also drove a small dynamo to power the projector
light source, which went out when cranking stopped, another safety
three-colour 35mm camera, American, 1932-1955
Technicolor, introduced in 1915, is regarded as the finest colour
motion picture process. It evolved through four versions, culminating
in this three-colour camera which used a beam splitter and red, green
and blue filters to record colours as primaries on three separate
monochrome films. Following processing, each colour separation negative
was reproduced in its appropriate dye colour on the print.
'Normandy' 35mm Camera, British, 1950
This camera was designed and manufactured by Vinten's which started
in 1909 by making Kinemacolor projectors for Charles
Urban. Designed mainly for technical and scientific film-making,
it has a three-lens turret and could be driven by a choice of clockwork
(as shown), battery or mains electrical motors. The firm is now
mostly known for its film and television dollies and cranes.