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When was motion picture invented?

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January 28, 2012 10:48PM

The first machine patented in the United States that showed animated pictures or movies was a device called the "wheel of life" or "zoopraxiscope". Patented in 1867 by William Lincoln, moving drawings or photographs were watched through a slit in the zoopraxiscope. However, this was a far cry from motion pictures as we know them today. Modern motion picture making began with the invention of the motion picture camera.

The Frenchman Louis Lumiere is often credited as inventing the first motion picture camera in 1895. But in truth, several others had made similar inventions around the same time as Lumiere. What Lumiere invented was a portable motion-picture camera, film processing unit and projector called the Cinematographe, three functions covered in one invention. The Cinematographe made motion pictures very popular, and it could be better said that Lumiere's invention was a part of the beginning of the motion picture era. In 1895, Lumiere and his brother projected, moving, photographic, pictures to a paying audience of more that one person.

The Lumiere brothers were not the first to project film. In 1891, the Edison company successfully demonstrated the Kinetoscope, which enabled one person at a time to view moving pictures by looking into the contraption. Later in 1896, Edison used the Vitascope projector for public showings, where the image was displayed for many people to see at the same time. It was the first commercially successful projector in the U.S.

The Vitascope however, was not the invention of Edison, even though he put his name on it. It was actually the invention of Charles Francis Jenkins and Thomas Armat, whom modified an earlier design of Jenkins alone. Jenkins' various projectors were called Phantoscopes. Before his brief partnership with Armat, Jenkins had projected a filmed motion picture to an audience in June, 1894. This is the earliest documented projection of a motion picture before an audience.(Richmond (Indiana) Telegram, New York Herald Tribune. Indianapolis News.) Jenkins projected onto a sheet hung on a wall, in front of an audience of friends, family and newsmen, a performance of a vaudeville dancer which Jenkins had filmed.

Edwin S. Porter, later to become Edison's most famous filmmaker, was hired in November 1900. He was made chief camera operator for the new studio and soon started filming narrative stories such as Jack and the Beanstalk (1902) and The Life of an American Fireman (1902).

Other films made during this period consisted of vaudeville acts, comedies, and actualities. A special series of films was made in 1901 of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, and of events surrounding President McKinley's assassination which occurred there, and the subsequent funeral ceremonies.

The Great Train Robbery, one of the Edison Company's most famous films, was produced in 1903. It was very successful and soon remade by motion picture manufacturer Sigmund Lubin who released his version in June 1904. The film included a famous close-up shot of Justus D. Barnes in the role of the outlaw, shooting straight at the camera, a scene that could be shown at the beginning or end of the film. The film cast also included G. M. Anderson, who later became better known as the first Western star, Bronco Billy.

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