Monday, October 6, 2014

Edison's Kinetograph -- October 6, 2014

The image is from "The Kineto-Phonograph," an article in the 29-June-1894 edition of The Electrical Review.  The article is from the June, 1891 Manufacturer and Builder. 

Edison's Kinetograph

From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 23, Issue 6, June 1891

The latest invention of Mr. Edison, which the newspapers of late have been dicusing is sufficiently ingenious to be worthy of the fame of the "wizard". As presented originally in the form of an interview with a reporter of the New York Sun, the subject was dished up with a garnishing of sensational comment evidently designed to make the most of the opportunity from the standpoint of newspaper enterprise. Of this nature is the introduction to the article in question, wherein is a prediction of Mr. Edison that he would produce a machine that would record and reproduce motion as the phonograph records and reproduces sound -- once declared by would-be wizards to be ridiculous; whereat the real wizard gets mad and registers a vow, etc.,etc.  What Mr. Edison has in mind to accomplish, may best be stated in his own words, as reported in the aforesaid interview.  Recently he (Mr. Edison) went to Chicago. While there, some one who was interested in the World's Fair asked him if he was going to get up some electric novelty to place on exhibition at the big exposition. "I have a machine projected", replied Edison, "but the details are not perfected yet. My intention is to have such a happy combination of electricity and photography that a man can sit in his own parlor and see reproduced on a screen the forms of the players in an opera produced on a distant stnge, and, as he sees their movements, he will hear the sound of their voices as they talk or sing or laugh. When the machine is perfected, which it will be long before it can be exhibited at the fair, each little muscle of the singer's face will be seen to work, his facial expression with its every change will be exactly reproduced, and the stride and positions will be natural, and will vary as do those of the person himself. That is only one part of what the machine will do. To the sporting fraternity, I can say that before long it will be possible to apply this system to prize fights and boxing exhibitions. The whole scene, with the comments of the spectators, the talk of the seconds, the noise of the blows, and so on, will be faithfully transferred."  It appears that Mr. Edison has been at work seeking to perfect the mechanical details of this ingenious idea, and that he has made considerable progress. What must be accomplished in order to make a practically operative invention, is to to combine and actuate the two elements of the combination, that they shall work together in perfect synchronism -- that is to say, the phonograph that emits the sounds must be made to operate simultaneously with the photographic apparatus, so that sounds that shall be emitted to the ear will be fitted exactly to the pictures that are to be projected upon a large screen. Furthermore, it must be borne in mind that the pictures are not of the immovable kind that we are familiar with in stereopticon exhibitions. They are taken in such rapid succession (146 to the second), that, when caused to move rapidily in front of the lens of a projecting lantern, they will faithfully reproduce on the screen the appearance of being in motion. The zeotope (zoetrope? - JT), an ingenious optical toy with which all of our readers will be familiar, gives this illusion very well, and many who have had the opportunity of witnessing the admirable projection pictures of animals in motion made from the instantaneous pictures of E. Muybridge, need not be told that this part of Mr. Edisons scheme has already been worked out practically to perfection. Reference to this point is made in the Sun's article, and Mr. Edison is made to say that the trouble with all attempts heretofore made to reproduce action and motion by photographs, was that the photographs could not be taken in series with sufficient rapidity to catch accurately the motion it was desired to reproduce. If Mr. Edison is correctly reported, he exhilbits in this statement an unaccountable ignorance of Mr. Muybridge's wonderful work in this direction, with which the entire scientific world is quite familiar. The adaptation of Mr. Muybridge's series of pictures to the projecting lantern have been shown in nearly every large city in this country as well as in Europe, and so admirably reproduce the movements of men and animals, executing all sorts ("of" omitted - JT) actions, that they appear to be perfectly lifelike.  Mr. Edison's idea of combining the sound record with that of the photograph, so as to reproduce a scene at the theater, the lecture hall, or the arena, to eye as well as to ear, is worthy of his best efforts, and will demand an amount of mechanical ingenuity to overcome its practical difficulties that can hardly be overestimated. It will be apparent, however, to those who have read this summary of the siubject intelligently, that the problem he is seeking to solve is simply a mechanical one -- that it involves no original discovery. We say this with no design to depreciate Mr. Edison's efforts, but simply to state the truth of the case, which has been greatly distorted by the extravagant utterances of a newspaper scribe.

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