Thursday, December 8, 2011

Louis Le Prince

If you want to really appreciate film, and how far it has come in just over 100 years, it’s important to go back to the beginning.

Shot in 1888, “Roundhay Garden Scene” depicts just that — a scene in the Roundhay Garden. It is only two seconds long, but it remains the oldest surviving film in history.

It was shot by Louis Le Prince, using a single-lens camera. The film depicts Le Prince’s family and in-laws in their garden.

Yes, the quality leaves much to be desired, but given its age, the film is remarkably clear. The four members of Le Prince’s family can be seen clearly, even though the film lasts less than five seconds.

With “Roundhay Garden Scene,” Le Prince beat Thomas Edison and the Lumiere brothers in creating the first motion picture. He followed that accomplishment with a second motion picture, “Traffic Crossing Leeds” or “Leeds Bridge,” also created in 1888. As its title suggests, it depicts people and vehicles crossing the Leeds bridge. The film was shot on the bridge primarily because of the opportunity it afforded to shoot real action. “Leeds” also lasts only two seconds, but has not suffered as much damage as its predecessor.

Unfortunately, Le Prince mysteriously disappeared just two years later, leaving the field wide open for the Lumieres and Edison to lay claim to the world of motion pictures and cinema.

You can view frames of Le Prince’s films here.