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68mm: Mutoscope and Biograph

The films of the Mutoscope and Biograph are the oldest films in our vaults. The collection of Mutoscope and Biograph films consists of 200 films of approximately one minute each. The films are quite rare, only the British Film Institute has a similar smaller collection.

The Prinsengracht in 1899
Still from Prinsengracht (1899), Emile Lauste.

De Filmschatten van Eye

For the 2020 edition of the National Museum Week, three films were restored: Bloemencorso Haarlem (1899), Na afloop der kindervoorstelling in den Circus O. Carré (1899) and Stealing a Dinner (1898). We projected these films onto our building:

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De Filmschatten van Eye

With financial support from the European Commission, fifty of these unique films from the Eye and BFI collection have been digitally restored to high image quality (8K). This autumn, Eye will premiere The Brilliant Biograph: Earliest Moving Images of Europe (1897-1902), a compilation of images from the Mutoscope collection. You can then let yourself be taken to the Venice, Berlin and Amsterdam of over 120 years ago.
For now, a wide selection of films from before the restoration can be found at the bottom of this page.

Special material

The films were shot on a very large format that was quickly outdated, but which yielded spectacularly beautiful images: 68mm. Apart from the format, the material is unusual because it doesn't have sprocket holes, so the image fills the entire width of the film strip. This produces an image quality that is comparable to IMAX - 8 to 16K in digital terminology.
Most 68mm films contain rare images from various locations in Europe, with an image quality that after 120 years is still one of the best that film can transmit.

Mutoscope & Biograph

The collection owes its name to The Mutoscope and Biograph Company. The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company was founded in 1895 by William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson, a former employee of Thomas Edison. Dickson, originally an Englishman, wanted to expand his business in Europe and several subsiduaries of the Mutoscope and Biograph Company were established in different countries. Dickson filmed special events in France, Britain, Italy ... and the Netherlands.

Still from Les Parisiennes (1897, director unknown).
Still from Les Parisiennes (1897, director unknown).

Meet the Archive

This restoration project was presented during Meet the Archive, Eye's annual collection day.

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Physical condition and restoration

Eye has owned this collection since the 1980s. However, while the physical condition of the films is excellent, the unusual features of the 68mm format mean that digitization of the material is not without its challenges.68mm is quite a rare format and because it also has no perforation like normal analogue film, this material is very difficult to either transport or steady in a scanner using conventional equipment. Additionally, because of the size of the frames, scanning should happen at 8K resolution. After scanning, the image can be restored to get as close as possible to the original properties of the film.

Previous restorations

In the 90s, the Nederlands Filmmuseum preserved a selection of Mutoscope films through photochemical reproduction to 35mm reduction prints. Although inevitably a lot of image quality was lost, the 35mm format had the advantage of being a standard film format, which made projection possible for the first time in decades. These earlier preservations have already been digitized. You can view them here:

Playlist Mutoscope & Biograph on YouTube

The films on this page have their own playlist.

Watch them on YouTube