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That Horse in Motion


“Sallie Gardner at a gallop”, started as an experiment conducted by Eadweard Muybridge to answer the question - “can all four feet of a horse stay in air for a moment?” Muybridge, a famous photographer, conducted the experiment by using a multi camera set-up, placed in a line attached with strings. These strings were hit by the horse to capture still images - like 24 cameras for 24 pictures. Then with his “Zoopraxiscope”, Muybridge created motion with the pictures he had taken. And thus, in 1878, the world got its first motion picture.

In the early days of his career, after leaving England, Muybridge captured the world through his brilliant photography. He was known for his landscapes that depicted the loneliness and alienation in society. He often replaced the sky in his landscapes, because at that time it was technically impossible to get an optimum exposure of the sky and the ground simultaneously. In 1878, he wanted to capture the fast motion of a horse, so he invented the technique of ‘fast shutter’. He also used white sheets in the background to control the amount of light falling and getting reflected back, because fast shutter speeds need a relatively large amount of light.

Inspired by the first motion picture, a certain gentleman went on to later work on his own camera. This gentleman was Thomas Edison.

After his successful experiment, Muybridge started to study daily life and moving objects. Believe it or not, but there was a time when people found it exciting to study how the body moves in fast motion. Muybridge studied “A man jumping”, “Women’s movement”, “Bird flying”, and “Cat running”.

For the 1878 experiment, “The Horse in Motion”, he placed 24 cameras in a straight line but later changed the arrangement to a semicircular one for capturing the motion better. This particular idea of placing cameras in a semicircle later led to “Slice Photograph”, which was used in the 1999 Movie - Matrix.

Muybridge's revolutionary experiment not only gave us the first motion picture but also many filmmaking techniques that we use even today.


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