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The Lumière Brothers and their Fantastic Film Machines – Part 2

July 15th, 2015

Lumiere BrothersAfter Louis and Auguste Lumière introduced their Cinematograph to the world and turned its hand crank to run the world’s first film in December 1895, they had many offers to buy the dual camera-projection machine. But the brothers Lumière refused all offers. In 1896 they took their Cinématograph show on the road, opening theatres in London, Brussels, and New York and projecting their short, celluloid films.

film strip

That year they also shot over 40 “Actualités” – short films about daily life in Lyon and environs. Additionally, they filmed the first newsreel, (of the French Photographic Society conference) and the first documentary (on Lyon’s Fire Department).

First Cinema Auteurs
Next the Lumières and trained a team of operators to use the Cinematograph and to shoot scenes that were screened as “Lumière shots.” monitors at Lumiere Museum The team fanned out from Lyon to capture everyday life and events all over the world from China to Turkey to the U.S. They filmed in a particular style developed by the Lumières which dictated where to place the camera, and basic film grammar, rendering the brothers the first auteurs, according to film historians. All in all, the operators created 1428 shots, many of which run continuously at the museum. (See photo of monitors to right.)

“There’s something extremely cinematographic in the films that Louis Lumière and his cameramen made … He is “the last of the inventors but he’s the first of the filmmakers.”
Thierry Frémaux, director of the Institut Lumière and the Cannes Film Festival

The Photorama
In 1900 the Lumières came up the first surround theatre with the invention of the Photorama. At the museum which photoramaI visited in Lyon, you could stand inside the system and watch a street scene of horse drawn carriages and people negotiating the streets of Marseilles. The Photorama used 50mm and 70mm film placed in 12 cameras to shoot the scene. To project it the Photorama employed 12 lenses attached to a circular plate rotating 3X/second that swept past the film in a circular motion, encircling the audience.

Moving on
As vaudeville theatres began adding the novelty of movies to their repertoire and filmmaking became a business with directors, actors, etc. the Lumières lost interest. “We stopped filming to leave it to the artists,” Louis stated. After 1914 the French influence declined and Hollywood took the reins.

But the Lumières dedication to image making didn’t stop there.

In 1903, after two years of work, Louis came up with what he considered the greatest invention of his life.Ad for Lumiere film He developed the autochrome plate, the first color photography process. Dubbed the “blue label” due to the color of the boxes the film came in, the invention allowed people to take photographs by themselves, without depending on a photographer. The process lasted over 30 years and made the Lumières very rich.

Other Lumière Inventions

The brother continued to create photographic materials andLumiere Truck invented a precursor to the hologram but they also ventured into other areas. Louis invented a mechanical hand to replace those amputated on WWI soldiers. August came up devised a non-adhesive dressing – the Tulle Gras – that was used for decades to help burn victims. He also founded pharmaceutical laboratories and the medical review. The Frères Lumières patented over 200 inventions before Louis died in 1948 and Auguste died in 1954.

And the last word goes to …

Louis Lumiere Plaque… Thierry Frémaux: “Lumière invented the movie theater. Of course, you can watch films on watches, on iPhones, great. But the movie theater is incomparable.”

History/research, Technical & process

The Lumière Brothers and their Fantastic Film Machines – Part 1

July 3rd, 2015

While in France this May I had an experience that truly thrilled me: I visited the Institut Lumière Rue du Premier Film in the Monplaisir district of Lyon. Its grounds, which encompass a museum and a hangar are devoted to the two brothers – Auguste and Louis Lumière – who famously invented, filmed, and exhibited the first motion picture.

Institut Lumiere Staircase inside Institut Lumiere Located on Rue du Premier-Film, the museum is housed in the villa that their father built and the boys renovated to the Arte Moderne style.

Beginnings
The brothers were as thick as twins, having made a pact as children whenCinema Wall at Institut Lumiere they survived a near-drowning. They studied at La Martiniere, Lyon’s biggest technical college, and worked at their father’s photographic factory. He challenged them to invent and Louis came up with the dry plate process, a milestone on the road to creating moving images.

Everyone, including Edison was working on motion picture machines. The brothers patented a number of inventions, including film perforations in 1894. Yep. They put the perfs in celluloid film.

The Breakthrough
The big invention – the Cinematograph – they patented in 1894. “All I wanted to do was reproduce life,” Cinematograph at Institut LumiereLouis explained. Influenced by the Impressionist painter, he took practical input from the foot pedal of the sewing machine in creating the Cinematograph.

What I hadn’t understood previously was that what made the Lumière machine Kinetoscope  at Institut Lumiere unique was that fact that it not only filmed images but it also displayed them. Edison’s Kinetoscope and Herman Casler’s Mutoscope required viewers to peer into scope to enjoy short films as did the Lumières’ kinora which was which was popular in the UK and Ireland during WWI.

What set the Lumières’ Cinematograph apart was that it was a camera and a projector – the first dual machine.

First Movie Exhibition
On March 19, 1895 the frères Lumières turned the hand crank on their Cinematograph to La Sortie des Usine Llumiere shoot “La Sortie des Usines Lumière” (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory). They screened it privately.

Then, on December 28, 1895, it became the first film to be exhibited publicly. First Film Poster  at Institut Lumiere The Lumières ran the silent black and white footage in Paris at the Salon Indien du Grand Café. (To the right, see photo of film poster – the first – for the event.)

“Sortie” was the first of a parade of ten films (38” to 49” each) hand cranked through the Cinematograph. The films included a comic sequence of their gardener directed by Alice Guy – “Arroseur Arrosé” (“The Sprinkler Sprinkled”) – shown here with sound which was of course added much later.

Other everyday sequences sported titles that told the tale: “Baby’s Breakfast,” “Horse Trick Riders,” and “Blacksmiths.”

Thierry Frémaux, director of the Institut Lumière and the Cannes Film Festival believes, “Lumière invented the movie theater. Of course, you can watch films on watches, on iPhones, great. But the movie theater is incomparable.”

But wait! The Lumière brothers invented other film machines and devices and much more. Part 2 of The Lumière Brothers and their Fantastic Film Machines will illuminate these.

History/research, Technical & process