Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Muybridge jumping horse: look what I did!

This was an experiment in Muybridge animation, which is certainly not a new idea. Most of the Muybridge photos display all the frames consecutively, which is (I think) the way most people would view them. Putting them together into a sort of primitive motion picture came much later.

Well, this is my attempt, and a pretty good one I think, at taking one of these sheets of tiny photos - this one, to be specific:

. . . cropping the little square photos into - little square photos, and putting it all together with Makeagif, which will take any sequence of photos (who knows how many) and make a teeny-tiny slide show out of it.

The motion here is actually not too bad. The square photos made the cropping less tedious than you'd think (considering I had to do it 12 times).

But there are some strange things about this little photographic cartoon from the 1880s. The fact that the rider appears to be nude isn't so unusual, nor is the fact that he's not using a saddle. Muybridge liked his models (male or female) to show lots of skin, not for prurient reasons but to display natural skeletal and muscular movement without impediment.

No, it's that jump. The horse seems to jump over it before it appears. Something strange going on here. People often accused Muybridge of "fiddling", tweaking his images somehow to impress the public, and he really wasn't a scientist or an inventor - not at the start, anyway. But then, neither was Edison.

Maybe it's just the way I'm seeing it. Maybe it's the way I cropped the photos (but since they were all perfectly square, that part of it was relatively easy).

Anyway, I was all set to go watch TV or go on Facebook or do some other moronic thing, when I looked at the Muybridge images again and noticed how many exotic animals he had forced to walk through all those elaborate tripwires. Including. . . one of my favorite animals of all time, the capybara!

Yes, the Muybridge capybara. This is what I found:

This is what the photos looked like, copied and cropped apart 4" x 3":

. . . and here is the finished gif, spliced together by my magic Makeagif program:

He's a little drunken, a little wobbly, but then he's about 130 years old, and photographed with the most primitive equipment imagineable. And it's really not bad, for only nine frames a second.

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