Thursday, March 15, 2012

Étienne-Jules Marey's 3-D Motion Picture

Without hesitation, one of my favorite people from the past was a 19th-century French scientist named Étienne Jules-Marey (1830-1904). The number and complexity of the things that he invented are almost beyond belief. He began to study animal movement in the late 1860s, then used photography and a photographic gun to record successive stages in the movements of a wide range of animals and of humans. By far, my favorite invention of his (shown here) was very likely the first 3-D motion picture device. Using a spinning drum-like motion picture toy called a zoetrope, he arranged inside of it (on upright wires) a series of tiny wax sculptures of ten stages in the flight of a seagull. By spinning the drum, while bending down and looking through the slits in its side, one could see the breathtaking illusion of a tiny three-dimensional bird, flying through the air. I wonder if this still exists, or if it could be rebuilt. More>>>