The Lumière Cinématographe

The Cinémathèque française

September 1894: The Edison Kinetoscope was presented in Paris. This caught the interest of brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière, manufacturers of photographic equipment based in Lyon, as well as their father, Antoine.

The Lumières wanted to take the films outside of Edison's box and show them to a wider audience. The brothers set to work at the end of 1894.

It was Louis who invented a new "chronophotographic" camera at the the beginning of the following year, which was patented under this name on February 13, 1895. It was eventually renamed the Cinématographe in May, a name which means "the writing of movement" in Greek. This name had already been used in 1892 by Léon Bouly, in a patent for a film-camera design.

The Cinématographe was a film camera that also functioned as a photo developer and projector: The lenses and magazines needed to be changed to in order to switch between the three functions. The film used was the same width as Edison's—35 mm—but the perforations were different: a round hole on each side of the image. The films were no more than 20 m long.

On December 28, 1895, the public could pay to attend a screening that had been organised in the Salon Indien of the Grand Café, located in Paris at 14 Boulevard des Capucines.

But it was a German, Max Skladanowski, who had given the first paid-for screening in Europe, with his Bioskop (November 1, Berlin). The two-strip Bioskop was, however, complicated: two 54-mm films, whose perforations were reinforced by metal eyelets, were fed through at the same time, but the images projected alternated between one strip and the other.

In the Cinématographe mechanism, an eccentric cam turned inside a frame that had two claws. The frame had an alternating movement, stopping at each end of the route. The claws slid backwards and forwards with the help of a winding ramp. The entire mechanism was connected to a circular shutter with an adjustable aperture. This system took inspiration from sewing machines and essays on kinematics, notably Reuleaux's essay published in 1877.

In the Cinématographe mechanism, an eccentric cam turned inside a frame that had two claws. The frame had an alternating movement, stopping at each end of the route. The claws slid backwards and forwards with the help of a winding ramp. The entire mechanism was connected to a circular shutter with an adjustable aperture.

This system took inspiration from sewing machines and essays on kinematics, notably Reuleaux's essay published in 1877.

The mechanism was perfect for filming but not as good for projecting films, and in 1897 Louis Lumière designed equipment specifically for use as a projector.

The Lumières sent dozens of camera operators to shoot and show films around the world and to create a catalog of some 1,400 films that they would sell. The competition was tough in the United States because of Edison, who had finally come to understand the importance of film projection.

In February 1897, the Lumières commercialized the Cinématographe. At first it came with a lens with automatic focus for subjects that were situated more than 6 m away. Later on, more sophisticated Zeiss lenses (50 or 54 mm focus) were offered. 425 examples of the Cinématographe were built by the engineer Jules Carpentier, at 20 Rue Delambre in Paris. Having decided, for his part, not to develop his own camera, Carpentier is considered by many to have been important to the final design of the camera.

By 1897, Edison's 35-mm film had become the standard, so Louis Lumière began to produce cameras and projectors that were capable of using the American film. In 1904, unable to keep up with developments in the industry, the Lumières withdrew from motion-picture production.

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