Charles-Emile Reynaud

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Charles-Emile Reynaud

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  • Reynaud, Charles-Emile

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Charle-Emile Reynaud is a French engraver and filmmaker. In 1876, he devised the Praxinoscope, patented on 21 December 1877, a cylinder with a band of coloured images set inside. This was an improvement on the Phenakistiscope and Zoetrope. There was a central drum of mirrors, which were equidistant between the axis and the picture strip, so that as the toy revolved the reflection of each picture seen in the mirror-drum appeared stationary. The images blended to give a clear, bright, undistorted moving picture without flicker. He received an Honourable Mention in the Paris Exposition of 1878 for the device.

The following year he added a Patent Supplement for an improvement - the Praxinoscope Théâtre. The mirror-drum and cylinder were set in a wooden box in which there was a glass-covered viewing aperture, reflecting a card printed with a background. The moving subjects - a juggler, clowns, a steeple-chase - were printed on a black band, and thus appeared superimposed on a suitable scene. A further development was the Projection Praxinoscope which used a series of transparent pictures on glass; an oil lamp illuminated the images and the mirror reflections passed through a lens onto a screen. In December 1888 Reynaud patented his Théâtre Optique, a large-scale Praxinoscope intended for public projection. By using spools to feed and take-up the extended picture band, sequences were no longer limited to short cyclic movements. The images were painted on gelatine squares and fastened between leather bands, with holes in metal strips between the pictures engaging in pins on the revolving wheel, so that each picture was aligned with a facet of the mirror drum. This was the first commercial use of the perforations that were to be so important for successful cinematography.

Reynaud experimented unsuccessfully with an oscillating-mirror projector in an attempt to update his presentation technique, but the battle with the competition of the Cinématographe and its imitators, with their constantly-changing programmes, was finally lost, and the last show took place on 28 February 1900. From 1903 to 1907 Reynaud worked on a device for viewing short stereoscopic sequences of movement, the Stereo-cinema, resembling a double praxinoscope arranged vertically, but it was not financially viable. Before his death in January 1918, in a fit of depression, he smashed the surviving Théâtre Optique mechanism and threw all but two of his picture bands into the Seine. Reproductions of the two bands - Pauvre Pierrot and Autour d'une cabine - are today still being shown, as the only surviving examples of his public screen motion picture work.


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