Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Short Bit About Muybridge And The Horse Photography

The very earliest "movies" can be seen in the rise of something of a in-between technological advance in photography and true motion picture cameras:  it's called series photography and it's inventor was one Eadweard Muybridge (who was actually born in UK [Kingston-upon-Thames, England] as Edward Muggeridge.) 

Muybridge after the invention of series photography.

The first, and most famous of these, is the series of horse photographs dating from 1877 (see plate above).  Though photography had been around since the 1820's, the amount of exposure time needed to produce these images was rather encumbering in terms of portability (actually an understatement).  As the the 19th century advanced, so did technologies within the photographic world.  The reduction of exposure time from a full 15 minutes to 1/100 of a second by the 1870's, made photography a more portable and out door affair; however, it was really the change in photographic plates that made what Muybridge would conceive of as possible.  The introduction of gelatin dry plates made outdoor photography a much portable and cheaper affair (the plates before these had been wet silver plates, which didn't travel nearly as well and were much more expensive).  The new advances also improved the quality of outdoor photography especially.  

Another plate showing a series of horse photographs by Muybridge is states of motion, and one stationary photo, with measurements.
Still it took Muybridge some 5 years to work out how to achieve this (not that he was devoting his time during this period to just this venture--he traveled as a hired a photographer, amongst other things during the stretch).  It all started when he was hired in 1872 as a well known photographer by one Leland Stanford (tycoon and, yes, the namesake of the university) to prove that at some point in the stride, or gallop, of a horse, all four hoofs were off the ground at once.  It took until the summer of 1877 to pull this off.  He did so by setting up a string of electrically powered cameras at a racetrack in Sacramento California, pulling wires across the track at each camera so that when the animal ran through the string, the shutter would be tripped.  What he captured more than proved that horses do indeed have all four legs off the ground at times in full gallop; but it also sparked an idea.  By finding a way to arrange the photographs in an electrically controlled flip type machine (a perfection that he would later call a zoopraxiscope), he could actually show the animal and rider in motion.  Well hey presto, the motion picture industry was born.  Inventors like Edison, the Lumiére Brothers and others got their cogs turning independently from each other.  Taking photography to the next level of creating a moving picture which could be viewed without the use of a visible mechanism was the next stop.  Here come the movies.  Below is an embed that shows some of this horse photography in animated action.

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