The photo’s of Eadweard Muybridge

        Category: # 8 Spring 1984 | Article posted on: January 12, 2010

Ever heard of the Ricochet being applied as a term in animal motion? Well, it is the word used to describe the progress of a kangaroo (boooing!)

At first sight, the book says, it appears that no rules can be drawn about an animal leaping, but there are general tendencies which are illustrated.

Something which caught my attention was that Muybridge suggests that the movement of an upright man is the same as that of a four legged animal, the swing of the arms following the original pattern of four legged locomotion. I haven’t drawn many animals yet, but I have drawn people and have been interested by the swing of the arms.

Not only were these photographs used in book form, they represent early attempts to animate with photography – the fore-runner of cinematography.

“Each of the (still) cameras used had two lenses, and made stereo¬scopic pictures. Selecting from these stereographs a suitable number of phases to reconstitute a full stride, he (Muybridge) placed the appropriate halves of each, respectively, in one of the scientific toys called the zoetrope, or wheel of life – an instrument originated by the Belgian physicist Plateau, to demonstrate persistency of vision. These two Zoetropes were geared, and caused to revolve at the same rate of speed; the respective halves of the stereo-graphs were made simultaneously visible by means of mirrors – arranged on the principle of reflecting stereo scope – successively and intermittently, through perforations in the cylinders of the instrument, with the result of a very satisfactory reproduction of an apparently solid miniature horse trotting and of another galloping”.
(Animals in Motion, Muybridge)

Not only motion but a 3D image! And they say we have come a long way since the 19th Century!
Using apparatus called a Zoopraxiscope Muybridge was able to project an image, a moving image. Muybridge saw the possible further development of his apparatus:
“The combination of such an instrument with the phonograph has not, at the time of writing, been satisfactorily accomplished; there can, however be but little doubt that in the
perhaps not far distant – future, instruments will be constructed that will not only reproduce visible actions simultaneously with audible words, but an entire opera, with the gestures, facial expressions and songs of performers, with all the accompanying music, will be recorded by apparatus; combining the principles of the Zoopraxiscope and the phonograph for the instruction or entertainment of an audience long after the original participants shall have passed away; and if the photographs should have been made stereoscopically… . a perfect realistic imitation of the original performance will be seen… by use of properly constructed binocular glasses.
(Animals in Motion, Muybridge)

It is interesting that even today the last part of Muybridge’s prediction has not been realised as a widely used technique – stereo vision is still a novelty.

I can recommend these books to people interested in human and animal motion. The works are extensive and the book on animals is drawn from the work which first showed how four legged animals really moved.

What is surprising is that these works have not been superseded, and that they still remain in a position of authority as a published work available to the public.

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Originally printed in Animator’s newsletter Issue 8 (Spring 1984)