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This 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 process.

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 Museum, London.

Here is a small selection of objects from the collection.

Javanese Shadow Puppet 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 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 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 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 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 the BBC.

Sketch for Ursula Andress's make-up for She 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 of Frankenstein.

Magic lanterns

  The Monarch Ethopticon Bi-Unial Magic Lantern, British, 1880sThe 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 rear.
  Hand-coloured Magic Lantern slides by Newton & Co., 19th CenturyHand-coloured 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.
  Hand-coloured Magic Lantern Slipping Slide, 19th CenturyHand-coloured 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
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 plate.

Chronophotographe double-use camera, 1890
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
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 feet.

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 and died.

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
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
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
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 W Longley.

E Kilburn Scott, writing in 1931, describes the camera's operation as follows:
'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 latter carried'

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 1888.

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 camera.

The Kinetoscope

Kinetoscope - exterior view.General 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.

Kinetoscope - interior view.View 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.

Kinetoscope Parlours
Kinetoscope 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.

Incident at Clovelly Cottage, 1895

Incident 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.

Theatrograph Projector No 2 Mark 1, 1896

Theatrograph 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 in London.

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.

Lumière Cinématographe, 1895
Lumière Cinématographe, 1895

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.

Williamson 35mm Cine Camera, British c1909

Williamson 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 camera. Williamsons went on to become of the major manufacturers of aerial reconnaissance and gun cameras.

Pathé 'KOK' 28mm ciné projector, French, 1912

Pathé '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 feature.

Technicolor three-colour 35mm camera, American, 1932-1955

Technicolor 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.

Vinten 'Normandy' 35mm Camera, British, 1950

Vinten '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.

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