From National Post: Eadweard J. Muybridge — born 182 years ago today — invented the motion picture while trying to settle an argument about trotting horses.
He did this with the help of California governor and race-horse owner Leland Stanford, who had taken it upon himself to prove that there was a moment of suspension during a trot — a point where all four hooves were off the ground.
It seems like a trivial exercise, but the moment passes too quickly to spot with the human eye and 19th-century cameras weren’t nearly fast enough to capture it. It was an unsolvable puzzle.
After nearly a decade of work and engineering, Stanford finally got his answer when Muybridge was able to build a camera that was up to the job — a dozen of them, actually. Muybridge lined all 12 cameras alongside the track. The horse kicked strings as it passed, which activated the shutters one at a time and in sequence.
Among the resulting images was Stanford’s answer: Yes, all four hooves leave the ground, briefly, during a trot.
Muybridge later repeated the exercise with 24 cameras to capture a horse galloping. To display the images, Muybridge used the Zoopraxiscope — what could be considered the first movie projector.
The photos were copied onto a disc, which, when spun and projected, gave the appearance of a moving scene: a black-and-white horse galloping in 24 frames.
It was the first step in a series of increasingly impressive photographic feats Muybridge achieved with his inventions, many of which led to technology that’s still developing today.
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