1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cinematograph

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CINEMATOGRAPH, or Kinematograph (from κίνημα, motion, and γράφειν, to depict), an apparatus in which a series of views representing closely successive phases of a moving object are exhibited in rapid sequence, giving a picture which, owing to persistence of vision, appears to the observer to be in continuous motion. It is a development of the zoetrope or “wheel of life,” described by W. G. Horner about 1833, which consists of a hollow cylinder turning on a vertical axis and having its surface pierced with a number of slots. Round the interior is arranged a series of pictures representing successive stages of such a subject as a galloping horse, and when the cylinder is rotated an observer looking through one of the slots sees the horse apparently in motion. The pictures were at first drawn by hand, but photography was afterwards applied to their production. E. Muybridge about 1877 obtained successive pictures of a running horse by employing a row of cameras, the shutters of which were opened and closed electrically by the passage of the horse in front of them, and in 1883 E. J. Marey of Paris established a studio for investigating the motion of animals by similar photographic methods.

The modern cinematograph was rendered possible by the invention of the celluloid roll film (employed by Marey in 1890), on which the serial pictures are impressed by instantaneous photography, a long sensitized film being moved across the focal plane of a camera and exposed intermittently. In one apparatus for making the exposures a cam jerks the film across the field once for each picture, the slack being gathered in on a drum at a constant rate. In another four lenses are rotated so as to give four images for each rotation, the film travelling so as to present a new portion in the field as each lens comes in place. Sixteen to fifty pictures may be taken per second. The films are developed on large drums, within which a ruby electric light may be fixed to enable the process to be watched. A positive is made from the negative thus obtained, and is passed through an optical lantern, the images being thus successively projected through an objective lens upon a distant screen. For an hour’s exhibition 50,000 to 165,000 pictures are needed. To regulate the feed in the lantern a hole is punched in the film for each picture. These holes must be extremely accurate in position; when they wear the feed becomes irregular, and the picture dances or vibrates in an unpleasant manner. Another method of exhibiting cinematographic effects is to bind the pictures together in book form by one edge, and then release them from the other in rapid succession by means of the thumb or some mechanical device as the book is bent backwards. In this case the subject is viewed, not by projection, but directly, either with the unaided eye or through a magnifying glass.

Cinematograph films produced by ordinary photographic processes, being in black and white only, fail to reproduce the colouring of the subjects they represent. To some extent this defect has been remedied by painting them by hand, but this method is too expensive for general adoption, and moreover does not yield very satisfactory results. Attempts to adapt three-colour photography, by using simultaneously three films, each with a source of light of appropriate colour, and combining the three images on the screen, have to overcome great difficulties in regard to maintenance of register, because very minute errors of adjustment between the pictures on the films are magnified to an intolerable extent by projection. In a process devised by G. A. Smith, the results of which were exhibited at the Society of Arts, London, in December 1908, the number of colour records was reduced to two. The films were specially treated to increase their sensitiveness to red. The photographs were taken through two colour filters alternately interposed in front of the film; both admitted white and yellow, but one, of red, was in addition specially concerned with the orange and red of the subject, and the other, of blue-green, with the green, blue-green, blue and violet. The camera was arranged to take not less than 16 pictures a second through each filter, or 32 a second in all. The positive transparency made from the negative thus obtained was used in a lantern so arranged that beams of red (composed of crimson and yellow) and of green (composed of yellow and blue) issued from the lens alternately, the mechanism presenting the pictures made with the red filter to the red beam, and those made with the green filter to the green beam. A supplementary shutter was provided to introduce violet and blue, to compensate for the deficiency in those colours caused by the necessity of cutting them out in the camera owing to the over-sensitiveness of the film to them, and the result was that the successive pictures, blending on the screen by persistence of vision, gave a reproduction of the scene photographed in colours which were sensibly the same as those of the original.

The cinematograph enables “living” or “animated pictures” of such subjects as an army on the march, or an express train at full speed, to be presented with marvellous distinctness and completeness of detail. Machines of this kind have been devised in enormous numbers and used for purposes of amusement under names (bioscope, biograph, kinetoscope, mutograph, &c.) formed chiefly from combinations of Greek and Latin words for life, movement, change, &c., with suffixes taken from such words as σκοπεῖν, to see, γράφειν, to depict; they have also been combined with phonographic apparatus, so that, for example, the music of a dance and the motions of the dancer are simultaneously reproduced to ear and eye. But when they are used in public places of entertainment, owing to the extreme inflammability of the celluloid film and its employment in close proximity to a powerful source of light and heat, such as is required if the pictures are to show brightly on the screen, precautions must be taken to prevent, as far as possible, the heat rays from reaching it, and effective means must be provided to extinguish it should it take fire. The production of films composed of non-inflammable material has also engaged the attention of inventors.

See H. V. Hopwood, Living Pictures (London, 1899), containing a bibliography and a digest of the British patents, which is supplemented in the Optician, vol. xviii. p. 85; Eugène Trutat, La Photographie animée (1899), which contains a list of the French patents. For the camera see also Photography: Apparatus.