1. Money
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

The Kinetoscope

New celluloid films changed the format of the Kinetoscope and Kinetograph.

By

The Kinetoscope

Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope Closed -The viewer would look through the lens at the top of the machine to watch a film.

The initial experiments on the Kinetograph (the camera used to create film for the Kinetoscope) were based on Edison's conception of the phonograph cylinder. Tiny photographic images were affixed in sequence to a cylinder, with the idea that when the cylinder was rotated the illusion of motion would be reproduced via reflected light. This ultimately proved to be impractical.

Development of Celluloid Film

The work of others in the field soon prompted Edison and his staff to move in a different direction. In Europe Edison had met French physiologist Étienne-Jules Marey who used a continuous roll of film in his Chronophotographe to produce a sequence of still images, but the lack of film rolls of sufficient length and durability for use in a motion picture device delayed the inventive process. This dilemma was aided when John Carbutt developed emulsion-coated celluloid film sheets, which began to be used in the Edison experiments. The Eastman Company later produced its own celluloid film which Dickson soon bought in large quantities. By 1890, Dickson was joined by a new assistant, William Heise, and the two began to develop a machine that exposed a strip of film in a horizontal-feed mechanism.

Prototype Kinetoscope Demonstrated

A prototype for the Kinetoscope was finally shown to a convention of the National Federation of Women's Clubs on May 20, 1891. The device was both a camera and a peep-hole viewer, and the film used was 18mm wide. According to David Robinson who describes the Kinetoscope in his book, From Peep Show to Palace: The Birth of American Film, the film "ran horizontally between two spools, at continuous speed. A rapidly moving shutter gave intermittent exposures when the apparatus was used as a camera, and intermittent glimpses of the positive print when it was used as a viewer, when the spectator looked through the same aperture that housed the camera lens."

Patents For Kinetograph and Kinetoscope

A patent for the Kinetograph (the camera) and the Kinetoscope (the viewer) was filed on August 24, 1891. In this patent, the width of the film was specified as 35mm, and allowance was made for the possible use of a cylinder.

Kinetoscope Completed

The Kinetoscope was apparently completed by 1892. David Robinson writes: It consisted of an upright wooden cabinet, 18 in. x 27 in. x 4 ft. high, with a peephole with magnifying lenses in the top...Inside the box the film, in a continuous band of approximately 50 feet, was arranged around a series of spools. A large, electrically driven sprocket wheel at the top of the box engaged corresponding sprocket holes punched in the edges of the film, which was thus drawn under the lens at a continuous rate. Beneath the film was an electric lamp, and between the lamp and the film a revolving shutter with a narrow slit. As each frame passed under the lens, the shutter permitted a flash of light so brief that the frame appeared to be frozen. This rapid series of apparently still frames appeared, thanks to the persistence of vision phenomenon, as a moving image.

At this point, the horizontal-feed system had been changed to one in which the film was fed vertically. The viewer would look into a peep-hole at the top of the cabinet in order to see the image move. The first public demonstration of the Kinetoscope was held at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences on May 9, 1893.

  1. About.com
  2. Money
  3. Inventors
  4. Famous Inventions
  5. Invention History Databases
  6. Inventions A to Z Listings
  7. K Start Inventions
  8. The History of the Kinetograph - How the Kinetograph was Invented

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.