Sunday, January 10, 2021

Birt Acres Demonstrates the Kineopticon -- January 10, 2021


Hopwood's Living Pictures by Henry Hopwood and RB Foster, 1915

125 years ago today, on 10-January-1896, soon after the Lumière Brothers made the first commercial presentation of their Cinematograph (, English-American Birt Acres presented his own device, which went through several names, to the Lyonsdown Photographic Society. Acres had developed a camera with Robert Paul, but Paul left the partnership when Acres patented the device in his own name. 

While Messrs. Lumiere were triumphing over their difficulties in France, the problem was also being attacked on this side of the Channel, It is certain that Mr. Birt Acres was working concurrently with Messrs. Lumiere, for he photographed the University Boat-race with his Kinetic Camera on March 30, 1895, only a few days after Messrs. Lumiere filed their French patent, and before the deposit of their English one. In fact, Mr. Acres appears to have been beaten all through the race by a few days; his English patent is dated about five weeks after Lumiere's, and he does not appear to have given a public exhibition until the early days of 1896. But this point is of little importance, for his apparatus was constructed on distinctly different lines to those adopted in the Cinematographic. Fig. 97 shows the Kinetic Camera at the commencement of an exposure. The film is firmly held by the shaded clamping-frame F, pressed home by the black cam C. While exposure is proceeding the upper sprocket-roller is feeding out an exact picture-length that is to say, it moves four teeth forward. So soon as the shutter cuts the light off the clamping-frame is loosened, and the roller R, which has been bearing against the film, is thrown into its shaded position by the action of a spring, thus drawing down the slack which has accumulated above the clamp and substituting a fresh sensitive surface, which is at once firmly held in position. A fresh exposure now commences, during which the bottom sprocket-roller takes up the looped film and so gradually forces the roller R back into its original position, ready to act again when the clamp is taken off. This apparatus has undergone several christenings. Brought out in January, 1896, as the Kinetic Lantern, this term was abandoned the following March in favour of the name of "Kineopticon." Being called to give an entertainment before the Prince of Wales in July, the inventor found, to his surprise, that the programmes issued under Royal auspices referred to his invention as the "Cinematoscope." What could a loyal photographer do except follow the same course as Mr. Acres actually did? Cinematoscope it was by Royal dictum, and Cinematoscope it remains to this day. But as "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," so did the Cinematoscope retain its good qualities under all its varied nomenclature.

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