Eugene Augustine Lauste: From freeze frame to motion pictures

Our world is visually more vibrant and diverse than anyone of us could possibly have imagined, and some of us have been blessed with the gift of vision, but it is not what one sees, but what one perceives that he can understand, for the rest is all just a trick, too fast for us to realise. The human eye retains an image for one about 1/10th of a second in our brain, anything that happens faster than that is just a continuous motion, but its discrete nature is oblivious to our naked eye. The motion picture during its inception did nothing but fool our perception by displaying discrete images at a frame rate faster than that our eyes can catch. A silent film would show slides of images through a projector at 16 frames per second, and a movie with an audio strip attached at the rate of 24 frames per second. And much of what we now of our modern day cinema own a lot to this man, who is known as Eugene Augustine Lauste.

Eugene Augustine Lauste was born on January 17, 1857 in Montmartre in France and emigrated to US in 1886. He was a keen inventor and by the time he was 23 years old, he held 53 French patents. When he moved to US, he worked as an assistant to William Kennedy Laurie Dickson at the Edison Laboratories. He stayed there until 1892 and contributed to the development of the predecessor of the motion picture projector, the Kinetoscope.

He also worked in the development of a combustible gasoline engine for a brief period, but later said that it wouldn’t be commercially viable because it was noisy. He then worked for Major Woodwill Latham and engineered the Eidoloscope and assisted with the design of the Latham loop, for which Dickinson would later credit Lauste for its invention.

In 1895, Lauste demonstrated the films of the Griffo-Barnett prize fight taken from the terrace of the Madison Square Garden in a lower Broadway store. Thanks to Lathom’s loop the entire fight was captured in a single reel of the camera. In 1896, after working with Jean LeRoy, he joined the American Biograph Company and remained there for four years before he moved to Brixton, England.

According to the Historian Gordon Hendricks, Lauste was the third most significant person for the invention of motion pictures in the USA, after Dickson and Muybridge. He was always fascinated by the idea of the possibilities of sound recording on a celluloid film, and began designing parts of the system in the 1900. His complete apparatus was very crude but he was encouraged, and he applied for a patent on 11 August 1906, for ‘A new and improved method of and means for simultaneously recording and reproducing movements and sounds.’  He then began with his work of optical recording of sound and by 1910 he had success with a vibrating wire between two magnetic poles, and just about that time he had started his association with German Experimenter Ernst Ruhmer, who had some success with recording sound optically with the “Photographone”.

His development to make Sound recording on film to be made commercial was not successful as it was hindered by the First World War, his son however after the war, following his father’s line became a cameraman.  And at the age of seventy Eugene Lauste was still working for the Bell Laboratories.

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