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Newark Athlete (1891)

 -  Documentary | Short
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An athlete swings Indian clubs.

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Title: Newark Athlete (1891)

Newark Athlete (1891) on IMDb 4.9/10

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A young man stands before the camera holding a club in each hand, horizontal to the ground. He raises the heads of the two clubs in unison, by rotating the clubs without lifting his arms. The film then shows the same footage over again, at different speeds. Written by Snow Leopard

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Documentary | Short


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Newark Athlete (with Indian Clubs)  »

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Between the years of 1888 and 1889, American inventor Thomas Alva Edison became very interested in developing a device able to show "motion pictures". It was known that a french inventor named Louis Le Prince had made a movie in Leeds, England, in 1888; and Edison wanted to know how to make his own. Soon the idea came to him and he began working on his devise, however, he lost interest in it as he couldn't see any potential in the invention. Fortunately, one of his collaborators, Scottish inventor William K.L. Dickson decided to take the project and in 1890 he developed what would later be known as the Kinetoscope, a devise that showed short movies through the window of a cabinet. However, the movies Dickson made wasn't of a good quality, so he spent the following years trying to make something as good (or better) than what Le Prince had achieved. Many experiments were done, and by 1891, Dickson and his team were almost there.

After the moderate success of his "Monkeyshines" experiments, Dickson knew he was able to capture images and reproduce them in his Kinetoscope, now all he had to do was to improve the quality of his movies. 1891 would be a year of constant experimenting, in hopes of showing the invention at the Chicago's World Fair. And among the films that Dickson was able to make during those years was this experimental movie codenamed "Newark Athlete". This movie depicted a man, apparently an athlete (although he could had been one of Edison's workers) as does some exercises swinging the clubs he has in each of his hands. The man raises the heads of clubs and keeps moving them for as long as the movie lasts, obviously hoping that his movements were being captured by the camera.

Like most of Dickson's experiments, there was no plot or theme in the film, as this movies weren't meant to be shown to the public. The main purpose of the film is to check if the camera was able to capture the movements of the athlete, and to measure elements such as lighting, the quality of the lenses, the film and the recording speed. When compared to the "Monkeyshines" films, this movie shows a notorious improvement in the quality of the film, as the image not only moves at a fluid speed, it's almost as clear as Dickson intended. It wouldn't take him too long before he was able to make short films the way he wanted, and soon in that year he would make the first Kinetoscope movie shown to an audience: "Dickson Greeting", where he was welcoming us to the era of Kinetoscope. 6/10

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