From Muybridge to The Matrix

Professor Anil Kokaram

I’ve previously mentioned Muybridge’s TimeSlice or Bullet Time sequences, now there’s a short video explaining the 20th and 21st century developments of creating extra frames when using this technique for movie making. These extra frames are necessary because it’s difficult to position a sufficient number of bulky cameras in the necessary circle to photograph the required number of positions to give a smooth result on the screen. Having developed this ‘artificial inbetweening’ method, Professor Anil Kokaram of Trinity College, Dublin (whose previous work has involved image restoration of old films), explains how it can also be used to produce artificial inbetweens for any movie sequence, making it possible to produce slow-motion movie sequences in post-production, from footage shot at normal speed.

Professor Kokaram states that Muybridge used engineers from the University of Pennsylvania (1884-85) to produce the necessary “kit” (exposure devices), but in fact Muybridge’s experiments in “Bullet Time” started before his involvement with the University. An article in the New York Times in 1881 (February 19) entitled ‘Instant photography; results of the California experiments’ described an earlier 5-camera ”Bullet Time” session (1878 or 1879).

“Mr. Muybridge, once in the studio of Mr. Perry, watched with interest the artist endeavoring to outline the picture of a California coach and four. He had Mr Muybridge’s pictures as a guide. But these were broadside views, and he wanted a quartering view. Mr Muybridge hastened back to Palo Alto, arranged five cameras in a semicircle and concentrating upon one point, galloped a horse over the point where the electric current was completed, and produced a perfect picture of a horse at fullest speed, as seen from five different points of view, all at the same instant of time and while, of course, the horse was in one and the same position. Now, an artist with these pictures as guides can draw a horse in any position desired.”

To go back to the video – Anil Kokaram’s explanation of Muybridge’s contribution is incomplete. He emphasizes the familiar motion sequences of a horse – “it’s pretty complicated – it’s got wires and stuff” –  and mentions multiple camera positions (used in many of Muybridge’s sequences) but the video doesn’t make it too clear that his subjects shot with a semi-circle of cameras – and with just one instantaneous, simultaneous moment when all shutters were released – produced a sequence showing a single frozen moment in time, unlike the majority of his sequences which recorded a progressive movement.

Sequence from Plate 524

This was a deliberate experiment in multi-position capture of a single moment in time – exactly the same as the TimeSlice and Bullet Time camera technique used in the past two or three decades. This can be seen in the plate shown by Kokaram, Plate 524 from Animal Locomotion (Throwing water from a bucket, Descending a step, Ascending a step, and Playing lawn tennis) and other plates, including 527 (Spanking a child, from three positions), 528 (Carrying a child, Walking with a child in hand, Running with a child in hand), and Plate 522 (Jumping, Handspring, Somersault, Springing over a man’s back). Each of these uses five or six cameras set in a semi-circle and fired simultaneously. As my previous post explains, Tim Macmillan, originator of TimeSlice (predecessor to Bullet Time) was unaware that Muybridge had taken such simultaneous views.

Sequence from Plate 528

It would be interesting to see these specific Muybridge sequences given the ingenious treatment developed by Professor Kokaram and his colleagues – which would enable us to see Muybridge’s original experiments with “Bullet Time” improved by creating interpolated inbetweens, to give a smooth sequence, rather than the jerky result created by the limitations of using only five or six cameras.

Two sequences from Plate 522


Anil Kokaram won an Academy Award in 2007 for his development of visual effects software for the film industry.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Setting Time in Motion

Now here’s a treat – a preview of the short video made by Chocolate Films, for the Muybridge Revolutions exhibition at Kingston Museum.

“Chocolate Films is an award-winning video production company specialising in documentaries. We produce high quality films for cinema, television, commercial and community clients. Founded as a not-for-profit enterprise, we combine our commercial work with courses and projects, which enable children, young people and community groups to make films.”

Check out the video on their new website.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

For Your Diary September-October 2010

from a lantern slide, Kingston Museum

Lots happening Muybridge-wise in the UK over the next few months. Here are some of the events taking place during September and October. More details as they emerge.

Eadweard Muybridge at Tate Britain
8 Sept – 16 Jan
Tate Britain, Millbank
First major UK retrospective of Muybridge’s entire career.
Tickets £10/£8.50 from htpp://

Muybridge in Kingston Launch Day
Sat 18 Sept 12.30-7pm
Kingston Museum & Stanley Picker Gallery
Public launch of the Muybridge in Kingston exhibitions with special events for all the family, including a magic lantern show from Professor Heard, shadow puppetry from Zannie Fraser and an evening launch lecture on Muybridge’s links to the history of the moving and projected image by Muybridge expert Stephen Herbert.
All welcome – no booking required.

Park Nights at Serpentine Gallery Pavilion
Becky Beasley & Chris Sharp
Fri 24 Sept 8pm
Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens
13 pieces, 17 feet is a monologue in thirteen parts that finds its point of departure in Muybridge’s extraordinary 1878 San Francisco panorama.
Tickets £5/£4 from

Late at Tate: Eadweard Muybridge
Fri 1 Oct 6pm-10pm
Tate Britain, Millbank
An evening of Muybridge-inspired events.
Visit htpp:// for further details.

In Conversation: Trevor Appleson
Wed 6 October 7pm
Stanley Picker Gallery
Exploring Muybridge’s influence on contemporary arts practitioners.
Limited seating – to reserve a FREE place please call 020 8417 4074

Muybridge & Moving Image History
Thurs 14 Oct, 28 Oct & 11 Nov 7pm
Kingston Museum
Evening lecture series offering unique insights into the relationship between Muybridge’s work and the history of visuality, film and animation.
Limited seating – to reserve a FREE place please call 020 8547 6460

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Muybridge: Patents listed

I was tempted to follow the journalistic tradition and title this post ‘Patently Obvious’ but I resisted.

Now Patents aren’t everyone’s favourite reading material, but they do of course contain important information pertinent to the work of inventors, and can also lead to clues as to what they were doing with their lives at a particular time.

Following on from the possible ‘French Connection’ of my previous post, comes news of a previously undiscovered (perhaps) French patent, most likely for Muybridge’s – or rather Muygridge’s – printing invention (which I haven’t yet got to grips with). It’s listed in the Index volume of the Bulletin des Lois (Bulletin of Laws) for 1865, which apparently includes material dated up to the end of December 1863. The patent was most likely granted in 1862 – but this is not yet confirmed.

There’s also another French patent that I haven’t seen listed, 121743 of 21 December 1877; also in the Bulletin, 1879 edition. Most likely this was for his clock synchronizing system.

I’m gradually putting together this patent information on a new webpage at The Compleat Muybridge. If technical jargon is your thing, enjoy.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Muybridge and the Science of Biomechanics

An illustration of the Glass Cage, from Charles Ducroquet’s Walking and Limping: A Study of Normal and Pathological Walking (JB Lipincott Co. 1965)

Biomechanics has taken many long strides since Muybridge’s pioneering photography, which does not always receive the scientific credit that it deserves.

The important scientific nature of Muybridge’s work is often misrepresented and sometimes totally dismissed. Although the scientific aspects were to some degree supervised at the University of Pennyslvania, his work for Stanford at Palo Alto (despite the later involvement of Dr. Stillman) was not. And it was here that Muybridge’s first significant scientific work was undertaken and successfully achieved.

Much has been made in recent writings about the grids used at Pennsylvania, dismissing them as ‘unscientific’ – and unsupportable statements made that his use of multiple cameras was ‘unscientific’ compared with the use of a single-lens camera by Marey, today’s writers making statements apparently based on the subjective writings and comments of Muybridge’s contemporaries. We shall be examining these subjects in later blog postings.

In the meantime, it’s good to see that the Helios exhibition in Washington has attracted some attention from modern practitioners of biomedical science, such as the following, extracted from the blog of prominent sports podiatrist Stephen Pribut.

Muybridge: Art, Motion and Biomechanics
by pribut on August 3, 2010

“An exhibition titled ‘Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change’  at the Corcoran displaying Muybridge’s groundbreaking photography and motion studies has just concluded. I had the joy of spending a few hours at the exhibit in close study…

Artists and scientists have long had an interest in human anatomy and motion. Over the last 50 years, movement and gait have been analyzed using gait plates, computer force distribution systems, electromyogram (EMG) and video. When, where and how did modern analytic methods develop? What was their antecedent? Most textbooks and articles are skimpy at best about much of the early history of the study of locomotion and movement.

The science of  biomechanics has forgotten about the 19th century developments that made for rapid progress in the last 100 years. The historical memories of biomechanics seem to start in the 20th century with Morton’s observations, and Elftman, Inman and Mann’s theories. [1] Artists, however, remember Muybridge,  and going further back, it is clear that Michelangelo was deeply interested in anatomy and Leonardo (performed dissections and) wanted to know how everything worked. Along the way to the present, many other artists and scientists studied and observed animal and human movement. But until the late 19th century there was no technology available to capture data and information of movement.

Eadweard Muybridge  (1830-1904) was the first to systematically develop equipment and techniques to photograph the movement of quadripedal and bipedal gait along with a variety of other movements, motions, and human athletic activities…. both the methodical study of movement and a film industry had their beginnings with the work of Muybridge.

Muybridge’s work has often been discounted as merely “art”, but it was an important qualitative look at movement. Diagrams in modern texts detailing varieties of normal and abnormal gait look like they were sketched from his plates or photographed using methods similar to his… Clearly there is inspiration, emotion, and art in his work, but using the scientific analysis and invention he was at the forefront in creating techniques that were later used to quantify motion and gait analysis. Look for more details on Muybridge on my main website in the near future.”

[1. The following note, brief details of some of the work of the researchers mentioned by Dr. Pribut, has been added by Stephen Herbert]

Herbert Elftman, Department of Anatomy, Columbia University, New York, N. Y. – ‘Body Dynamics and Dynamic Anthropometry’, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Volume 63 Issue Dynamic Anthropometry, Pages 553 – 558 (1955). Published Online: 15 Dec 2006

Verne Thompson Inman, Human Walking. (Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore: London 1981). Inman, VT, Ralston, HJ, and Todd, Frank .

Roger A. Mann, M.D. and John Hagy, O.R.E.
‘Biomechanics of walking, running, and sprinting’, American Journal of Sports Medicine, September 1980 vol. 8 no. 5 345-350

Sports Podiatrist, Stephen Pribut, D.P.M. hosts one of the first sports medicine injury websites, which has been online since 1995. The site focuses primarily on Running Injuries. Dr. Pribut is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery and faculty member of the George Washington University Medical School. Dr. Pribut’s sports podiatric medicine practice is located in Washington, DC. He is a past president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine.

Stephen Pribut was the Chief Internet Engineer of the American Podiatric Medical Association and responsible for all aspects of the APMA’s Internet undertakings including online continuing medical education, web design, usability, information architecture, streaming media, and server installation and maintenance on multiple platforms. His early interest in the Internet for communication, information transfer, and knowledge based services continues with both the traditional web and Web 2.0 Social Media. Dr. Pribut has written and lectured on a variety of articles on athletic injuries, and biomechanics, and lectures both locally and nationally. He has published extensively on both medical and Internet related topics.

Professional memberships include the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

A note on the illustration used at the top of this blog post:

Charles Ducroquet, a Paris physician, spent the better part of his life studying limping. He took films in the open air, processing them himself, while the patient waited. Later, he inspired his sons to continue the work, culminating in the book Walking and Limping: A study of Normal and Pathological Walking (JB Lipincott Co. 1965).

See also: The Science of Walking and Running

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Lankester: The Problem of the Galloping Horse

Ray Lankester by Leslie Ward, Vanity Fair, 1905

One of Muybridge’s fellow speakers on the lecturing circuit in the late 1880s was zoologist E. Ray Lankester (1847-1929), at that time Jodrell Professor of Zoology at University College London. Influential as a teacher and writer on biological theories, comparative anatomy, and evolution, he would be knighted in 1907.

In 1889, Lankester had written a review of Animal Locomotion in Nature. Ray Lankester was an important writer of popular science, his weekly newspaper columns over many years being assembled and reprinted in a series of books entitled Science from an Easy Chair (first series, 1910; second series, 1912). With such attention-grabbing page headers as “Drowning in a Dead Whale’s Heart” the books were aimed at a general popular readership, but Lankester was a well-educated scientist and the contents respectably reliable.

One of these articles (2nd series) was entitled ‘The Problem of the Galloping Horse’, and originally appeared in the Daily Telegraph (date unknown, but some time between 1907 and 1912.) Writers have usually dealt with the subject using a phrase such as “before Muybridge’s photographs, artists had depicted the galloping horse in a ‘rocking horse’ pose, with all four legs widely spread…” but Lankester’s detailed account shows that the story is not that simple.

The “flying gallop”
Lankester writes of Muybridge’s experiments in sequence photography of moving animals: “I have some of these pictures before me now. They show what has been drawn by artists and called the “flying gallop,” in which the legs are fully extended and all feet are off the ground, with the hind hoofs turned upwards, never occurs at all in the galloping horse, nor anything in the least like it.” He reveals that a model showing the “actual instantaneous attitude of the galloping horse has recently been placed in the Natural History Museum.” Until 1907 Lankester was Director of the Museum, so quite likely he was instrumental in that display. Ironically, in the 21st century some museums are still creating displays in which the legs of animals in motion are incorrectly shown.

The story that French academic painter Meissonier adapted his representations of a horse in motion when re-painting one of his pictures after seeing Muybridge’s photographs is well known (and comes from Muybridge himself). The story was reported in May 1887. However, Muybridge’s biographer Hendricks points out that the differences in the two versions of the painting, in terms of the gait of the horses, is very minor. Lankester focuses his attention on a painting by another artist, produced the previous year.

Rezonville (copy, after Morot)

An epoch-making picture
“As early as 1886 a French painter, M. Aimé Morot, availed himself of the information afforded by the then quite novel instantaneous photographs of the galloping horse, and exhibited a picture of the cavalry fight at Rezonville between the French and Germans, in which the old flying gallop does not appear, but the attitudes of the horses are those revealed in the new photographs. The picture is an epoch-making one, whether justifiable or not, and is now in the gallery of the Luxembourg.”

Morot, cover of L’Illustration, 1905

Aimé Morot (1850-1913) was a French painter born in Nancy, where he studied under a drawing master named Thierry. He later attended the atelier of Alexandre Cabanel in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, but left after only two weeks to continue his studies independently. During this period he spent much of his time studying animals in the Jardin des plantes, and was later to become famous for his paintings of horses, lions and bulls.

Muybridge included slides of several Morot paintings – including one titled Rezonville and another of the Battle of Reischoffen – in at least one of his lecture scripts, and the slides are today in the Kingston Museum Collection. These are 1880s paintings (the latter 1887) so would have been included in Muybridge’s later lectures – and one of them was shown to accompany his comment: “It is gratifying to ascertain that our labors are beginning to reap their reward, and that some artists are prepared to acknowledge that impression before knowledge and impression after knowledge are two entirely different things. In this picture by Aimé Morot we have an evidence of the soul[‘]s awakening.” [3] Morot’s early rendition of the correct attitude of the horse in gallop is mentioned in art history books, but I don’t remember reading about it in books or articles about Muybridge’s work.

Two questions
From his easy chair, Lankester continues: “Two very interesting questions arise in connection with the discovery of instantaneous photography of the actual positions successively taken up by the legs of a galloping horse.

The first is one of historical and psychological importance, viz. why and when did artists adopt the false but generally accepted attitude of the “flying gallop”?

The second is psychological and also physiological, viz. if we admit that the true instantaneous phases of the horse’s gallop (or of any other rapid movement of anything) can not be seen separately by the human eye, but can only be separated by instantaneous photography, ought an artist introduce into a picture, which is not intended to serve merely as a scientific diagram, an appearance which has no actual existence so far as his or other human eyes are concerned….? And further, if he ought not to do this, what ought he to do…?

Lankester notes that the first question has been answered by French writer Solomon Reinach, who shows that – “in Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, medieval, and modern art up to the end of the 18th century ‘the flying gallop’ does not appear at all!” [2]

English: “Baronet, 1794” oil on Canvas, location: Yale Center for British Art, Hartford, Connecticut, USA.

The first ‘modern’ example of “the flying gallop”
He suggests that the first ‘modern’ example is an engraving by Stubbs in 1794 of a horse called Baronet.

“The essential points about ‘the flying gallop’ are that the fore-limbs are fully stretched forward, the hind limbs fully stretched backward, and that the flat surfaces of the hinder hoofs are facing upwards.” [my italics]

Derby d’Epsom (detail)

Derby D’Epsom
Lankester then states that following Stubbs’ example this attitude was generally adopted in English art, and the French painter Gericault introduced it into France in 1821 with “Derby D’Epsom” which is now in the Louvre.

Science from an Easy Chair (2nd series)

Three types of pose
Lankester outlines three types of poses for the running horse in art, used for centuries previous to the “flying gallop”. He continues:

“The reader will perhaps now suppose that we must attribute the ‘flying gallop’ to the original, if inaccurate, genius of an eighteenth-century English horse painter. That, however, is not the case. M. Reinach has shown that it has a much more extraordinary history. It is neither more nor less than the fact that in the pre-Homeric art of Greece – that which is called ‘Mycenaean’ …the figures of animals, horses, deer, bulls,…dogs, lions and griffins, in the exact conventional pose of “The flying gallop,” are quite abundant!”

The break in tradition
Lankester notes that 37 centuries passed between the original use of the “flying gallop” and its re-introduction in the late 18th-century, and then asks:

“How did the Mycaeneans come to invent, or at any rate adopt, the convention of ‘the flying gallop’, seeing that it does not truly represent either the fact or the appearance of a galloping horse?”

Figure 5 is from a Muybridge photograph

The galloping dog easier to see
“The ‘flying gallop’, with all four legs stretched, and the under surface of the hind feet turned, is really seen by us all every day in the dog, and is recorded in instantaneous photographs of that animal at full speed. … It is easy to see the ‘flying gallop’ in the case of the dog, since the dog does not travel so fast as the galloping horse… It is probable that the dog’s gallop was transferred, so to speak, to the horse by artists… But it is a totally different thing from the gallop of the horse…”

The big question
Lankester then goes on to ask the other big question, “How then… ought an artist to represent a galloping horse?” – and deals with that contentious question at some length. He concludes that “The painter … would be wrong to select any one of the dozen or more poses of the galloping horse published by Muybridge, each limited to the fortieth of a second, since no human eye can fix (as the camera can) separate pictures….”

This contribution by Sir Ray Lankester, and his acknowledgements to Solomon Reinach, don’t seem to have attracted much attention by Muybridge’s biographers or more recent writers on the subject. Historians of photography are not perhaps inclined to seek out popular science books to study their subject.

The “flying gallop” – just one of several gaits that artists have represented differently through the ages, and all dealt with by Muybridge – is perhaps less interesting to us than it was to artists in Muybridge’s time, as we are more attracted to the questions of the influence of such photography on the futurists, and later artists including those working today, than in the reaction of 19th-century academic painters to the revelations of chronophotography. However, it seems to me that the full, detailed story of how Eadweard Muybridge’s important scientific work in establishing the true nature of animal movement was received by the art world is still to be written, and would be an important contribution to Muybridge studies. [4]

1. Nature, May 23rd -which I have not yet read.

2. ‘La Representation du Galop dans l’art ancien et moderne,” Revue Archeologique, Vol. xxxvi et seq, 1900.
(This was subsequent to the work of others, including Emile Duhousset and Muybridge himself, in tracing these artistic developments throughout history.)

3. ‘Lecture by Eadweard Muybridge’, Typescript, National Museum of American History, Washington DC.

4. Extracts by Lankester are from: Science from an Easy Chair. A Second Series (London: Methuen, 1915 second edition)

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

The Strobotop: another winner from Rufus at Eye Think Inc.

I’ve been very pleased in recent years to see the success of products designed and produced by Rufus Butler Seder, whose whole life has revolved around animated optical wizardry. His enthusiasm and knowledge have paid off with the amazing sales of the Gallop! Swing! and Waddle! books – top of the New York Times children’s book bestseller lists, and now available in many languages.

I’ve included this toy on my “exclusively Muybridge” blog because galloping horses and other Muybridge-type sequences have been a feature of many of Rufus’s artworks and products, and the Strobotop is no exception.

A few years ago I wrote an extensive biography of this ingenious and meticulous inventor of moving image devices and techniques, The Optically Animated Artwork of Rufus Butler Seder, which can be downloaded here: Seder Biog

Strobotop LighhtPhase Animator
Rufus brings the wonder of 19th-century philosophical toys into the 21st century. His latest RetroTech product, which I’ve now been able to test, is the Strobotop LightPhase Animator. It’s a phenakistiscope with a difference – no slots, instead a pulsating led-illuminator to make the pictures appear to move. There has been at least one other attempt to produce a similar toy, but it was flawed and not a success. With its smart design, modern attractive packaging, and quality manufacturing, the Strobotop is sure to be a sales hit. Once again, Rufus has got it right.

Booster Pack with 18 extra discs

The Strobotop™ is similar to the zoetrope, praxinoscope, and phenakistiscope in that it uses a spinning disk with a series of images arrange in a circle around it. But to see the images come to life, instead of viewing them through slots or in mirrors, the Strobotop’s handheld LightPhase Animator enables you to “freeze” each image with rapidly-flickering short pulses of light, like a flashbulb taking a crystal clear picture of each image as it speeds by, one right after the other. As you adjust the dial, the rate of light flicker changes. When the rate of flicker matches the rate of the images spinning by on the disk, the succession of images, delivered to your eye in rapid succession, creates the illusion of motion.

Eye Think, Inc.
39 Emerson Road
Waltham, MA 02451

Mesmerizing Fun!

Spin the Strobotop™, aim your LightPhaser at it, and adjust the dial. Suddenly, the blurring images snap into focus and spring to life before your eyes! Animals leap and gallop. Children run and play. Kaleidoscopic patterns move and change. Swap out Strobodisks™ at will: each is more amazing than the last!

The heavy plastic ‘platter’ spins for around a minute, plenty of time to experiment with different settings on the LightPhaser. The various picture discs available range from geometric designs reminiscent of the old phenakistiscope of the 1830s, to modern cartoons, and animated animals.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert