At 125 years old, “Roundhay Garden Scene” is the world’s first and oldest surviving motion picture.
“Roundhay Garden Scene” was filmed by Frenchman Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince at Oakwood Grange, which was where his in-laws Joseph and Sarah Whitley lived in Roundhay, Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, United Kingdom. Unlike the films that were produced not even more than 30 years later, Le Prince’s work neither had plot nor sound nor even color, and only featured Le Prince’s son Adolphe, the Whitley couple, and Harriet Hartley walking around in circles. The 2.11-second long film, according to Adolphe, was recorded at 12 frames per second.
Le Prince was said to have filmed “Roundhay Garden Scene” using a single-lens combi camera-projector that he built and patented, and Eastman Kodak’s paper film. It was later digitally-remastered by the National Media Museum in Bradford, with this version comprising of 52 frames and running at 24.64 frames per second.
Before this, Le Prince shot a sequence called Man Walking Around a Corner in Paris, presumably using his 16-lens camera. After his first two films came a couple more, Leeds Bridge and Accordion Player, which Le Prince shot using the same camera he used to film “Roundhay Garden Scene.” Aside from creating the first known films, Le Prince is also being credited as the inventor of the first patented film camera in 1888.
Unfortunately, Le Prince mysteriously disappeared in September 1890, en route to the UK from visiting friends and family in France to patent his new camera and then to New York to hold a public exhibition. As a result, his invaluable contributions to filmmaking almost faded into obscurity in favor of those by more popular inventors and filmmakers like Auguste and Louis Lumiére and Thomas Edison. But eventually, in 1930, historians finally started to credit Le Prince as the “Father of Cinematography.”
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