ROUNDHAY GARDEN SCENE
(Louis Aime Augustin Le Prince, 1888)
A screenshot of Roundhay Garden Scene by the French Louis Le Prince. The world's first film, shot on 14 October 1888 at Oakwood Grange in Roundhay, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. The home of Joseph and Sarah Whitley, the in-laws of Louis Le Prince. Note that Sarah (shown second from right) died on 24 October 1888, only 10 days after being filmed in the movie.
Run time 2 seconds
Producer Louis Le Prince
Audio/Visual silent, b/w
Roundhay Garden Scene is an 1888 short silent film recorded by French inventor Louis Le Prince. Shot at Oakwood Grange in Roundhay, Leeds in the north of England, it is believed to be the oldest surviving film in existence, as noted by the Guinness Book of Records.
According to Le Prince's son, Adolphe, the film was made at Oakwood Grange, the home of Joseph and Sarah Whitley, in Roundhay, Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, England on October 14, 1888.
It features Adolphe Le Prince, Sarah Whitley (née Robinson, 1816 – 24 October 1888), Joseph Whitley (1817 – 12 January 1891) and Annie Hartley in the garden, walking around. Note that Sarah is walking backwards as she turns around, and that Joseph's coat tails are flying as he also is turning. Joseph and Sarah Whitley were Louis Le Prince's parents-in-law, being the parents of his wife Elizabeth, and Annie Hartley is believed to be a friend of Le Prince and his wife. Sarah Whitley died ten days after the scene was taken. She was the earliest born person ever to appear in a film; her husband Joseph was the second earliest born person and the earliest born male person. Sarah Whitley was also the first person who had appeared in a film to die.
In 1930 the National Science Museum (NSM), London, produced photographic copies of surviving parts from the 1888 filmstrip. This sequence was recorded on an 1885 Eastman Kodak paper base photographic film through Le Prince's single-lens combi camera-projector. Le Prince's son, Adolphe, stated that the Roundhay Garden movie was shot at 12 frames/s (and a second movie, Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge, at 20 frames/s), however the later digital remastered version of Roundhay Garden produced by the National Media Museum, Bradford, which contains 52 frames, runs at 24.64 frames/s, a modern cinematographic frame rate, so it plays in only 2.11 seconds. The National Science Museum copy has 20 frames; at 12 frames/s, this produces a run time of 1.66 seconds.
The Mystery Of Louis Le Prince, The Father Of Cinematography
One of the great mysteries of cinema history doesn’t take place on the big screen, but rather, somewhat sensationally, occurs off camera at the very beginning of the story of the moving image.
The tale of Louis Le Prince, the man regarded as the father of cinematography, ends in rather peculiar circumstances which have yet to be resolved, but for movie lovers everywhere, it’s his achievements in the last few years of his life which have granted him a place in the history books.
Whilst Thomas Edison and the Lumière brothers dominated the headlines for inventing the equipment which made the moving image possible, Louis Le Prince preceded them by a number of years with a working model which captured motion outside his home in Roundhay, Leeds.
However, his achievements were not widely recognised, because not long before a scheduled public performance of his technology, Le Prince went missing with no clues as to his whereabouts.
Many people have since speculated on his fate (with theories ranging from suicide to murder by rival cinematographers), but the one undisputed fact is that Le Prince was the first past the post with his pioneering work in the medium which would ultimately become film.
Le Prince was born in Metz, France in 1841 and had the fortune during his youth of regularly visiting a studio belonging to a friend of his father – the photographic inventor Jacques Daguerre.
After studying chemistry and physics at University, Le Prince moved to England at the invitation of John Whitley, before establishing the Leeds Technical School of Art where he specialised in tinting and firing of photographic images.
During the 1880s, however, Le Prince became fascinated with the early cinematic technologies which were being developed. In 1886 he created a 16-lens camera and applied for an American patent on 2nd November of the same year, receiving this at the beginning of 1888; on 16th November 1888, he received a British patent for his invention.
The Le Prince Single-lens Cine Camera, currently on display in our animation gallery, and believed to be the equipment used to film the famous Roundhay Garden and Leeds Bridge scenes, proved to be one of the most ground-breaking inventions of early cinema.
Whilst the contraption may appear primitive by today’s standards, utilising paper-backed stripping film, evidence that the equipment was successful in projecting moving images means that Le Prince’s movies pre-date those of Edison and the Lumieres by over half a decade. In a cruel twist of fate, however, his disappearance meant that the world’s first movie maker never got the chance to accept the plaudits that came with such an achievement during his lifetime, but he’s since been posthumously rewarded his rightful status as the Father of Cinematography.
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