Dickson Greeting

Dickson Greeting ( Dickson’s Salvation) is anAmerican filmdirected byWilliam Kennedy Laurie Dicksonreleased in1891. It is considered by somehistoriansas the firstfilmin thehistory of cinemaand by others as still part ofprecinema.


Ceremonially, a character passes his hat from one hand to another to greet an imaginary audience before him.

Note: Today only about two seconds remain on this film, the film having undergone numerous mutilations due to prints made from the negative, as was common in the early days of the film. cinema. The intermittent drive system of the film used by Edison is also more “violent” than the claw system, more “flexible”, that will develop in 1895 Louis Lumière and his mechanic Charles Moisson .

The American newspaper The New York Sun recounts the first public presentation of this film, in front of a crowd of feminist activists and informs us carefully about the missing content: “On the upper face of the box, was a hole, 1 inch in diameter about. And as they bent over to look, they saw the image of a man. It was a very beautiful picture. He bowed, smiling and waving his hand, then took off his hat gracefully and naturally. Every movement was perfect 1 ” .

Technical sheet

  • Original title: Dickson Greeting
  • French title: Le Salut de Dickson
  • Director and screenplay: William Kennedy Laurie Dickson
  • Photography: William Heise
  • Duration: 2 seconds preserved (about ten)
  • Genre: try
  • Format: this film is one of the tests of the first horizontally scrolling film camera, the Kinetic, 19 mm wide, with six rounded rectangular perforations at the bottom of each photogram (this format is replaced since 1893 by the 35 mm ) – size of images: they are circular, half an inch in diameter – black and white – mute
  • Country: United States
  • Release date: in 1891 .


  • William Kennedy Laurie Dickson : the ceremonial man


Dickson’s Salvation is the first public appearance of moving photographs on a cellulose nitrate support (celluloid), a supple and thin support invented in 1887 by John Carbutt and commercialized in 1888 by the industrialist George Eastman in the form of a ribbon 70 mm wide and whose length is in principle limitless, ending the short cycle of the optical toy .

The date of 1888 can be considered as the end of precinema and the beginning of cinema .

According to sketches by Thomas Edison , Laurie Dickson, helped by William Heise, invents and manufactures the Kinetic , a heavy and bulky camera, requiring an electrical connection to activate its engine, but has the merit of working well. The film feeds intermittently, driven by a toothed debtor associated with a ratchet wheel . It marks a very short stopping time in the optical axis of the lens, while a rotating shutter, closed during the movement of the film, opens during its immobilization, ensuring the shooting . The impressed film is then rewound.

Dickson and Heise cut the Eastman ribbon 70 mm wide, 3 ribbons 19 mm wide ( 1 inch ), coated with a photosensitive emulsion. In the kinetograph, the film scrolls horizontally, driven by a single row of rounded rectangular perforations, arranged at the bottom of the photograms, at the rate of 6 perforations per image. The image is circular, three-quarters of an inch in diameter (about 12 mm ), the last formal link with optical toys. According to a statement signed by Laurie Dickson, the English word film , to designate a work of cinema, was adopted by Thomas Edison, who, first, used it in this direction 2. Later, Louis Lumière will name his “animated photographic views”.

Meanwhile, Dickson is developing a device to see future movies. Indeed, it is not enough to file patents, or even to record animated images, yet it is necessary to show them to the public, to invent a couple recording / restitution. The inventor Louis Aimé Augustin The Prince is developing a camera, the Mk2, with which he recorded from 1888 animated photographic images, which makes him a forerunner of the cinema, but he is in the incapacity view them, by any means whatsoever, and witnesses of alleged projections Prince belong exclusively to the family and do not confirm that these projections by magic lantern reproduced motion 3. Even disappointment for Leon Bouly , who manufactures in 1893 an apparatus that he baptizes Cinematograph, perhaps records animated photographic images (there is still no trace of it), maintains that his camera is “reversible” – in other words that he can project – but no witness, public or scientific, has ever attested the veracity of his assertions. Finally, Léon Bouly forfeits and it is the Lumière brothers who baptize their own invention, called at the beginning Kinétographe or Kinétoscope Lumière, then Domitor, of the word Cinématographe , fallen into disuse. According to Edison’s instructions, Dickson invents the Kinetoscope, a wooden furniture on which the viewer leans and can individually watch a film that runs continuously, driven by two cylinders with teeth (toothed debtors) moved an electric motor in front of a light box. The user observes the images through a peephole and a set of magnifying magnifying glasses. The movement is restored by the passage of a movable disk shutter , synchronized with the film drive through the perforations, which reveals the photograms one after the other, at the rate of 18 units per second.

In 1891 , Dickson made several attempts with the 19 mm film . He is responsible for directing the shots and is thus the first director of the story. For one of the films, his assistant William Heise records it, greeting the future spectators with a hat trick. This is normally the first feature film, The Hi Dickson ( Dickson Greeting ), which lasts less than ten seconds, he remains two seconds. “Dickson’s tapes are, strictly speaking, the first films 4 . ” His public appearance (unlike other tests that will never be shown) of May 20In 1891 , before an audience of one hundred fifty activists of the Federation of Women’s Clubs 5 .

Success is waiting for you, the spectators, individually or in pairs, crowded around the kinetoscopes and look several times each the Hi Dickson , expressing their astonishment and satisfaction first public performance of a film 6 . The desired cycle of the recording of the movement and its restitution is finally acquired, the date is certified by this public presentation, the first films of the cinema are indeed those of Edison and Dickson-Heise. In 2005 , these films, as well as all films produced by Edison, were digitized and are part of a DVD set distributed by King Video and MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art in New York), to whom Edison bequeathed all his filmed production.

But at the option of researchers grouped around Edison, the tests are unfortunately not satisfactory enough, accusing including a lack of definition viewing. Edison and Dickson decide to cut the Eastman ribbon 70 mm wide in two ribbons of the exact half, 35 mm wide. It equips the film on one edge of a set of 4 rectangular perforations for the mechanical drive of the film (8 perforations per photogram). This time, the film runs vertically, with an image size wider than it is tall. It is this format of 35 mm wide which becomes in 1906the international standard format of cinema film, after the abandonment of underperforming competing formats (such as 35 mm in two round perforations per frame, manufactured by the Lumière brothers , or 60 mm without perforations used by Léon Gaumont ) 7 .


Comments: This experimental film is one of the first films and is one of the first films made on celluloid film with Men Boxing and Newark Athlete (with Indian Clubs) ; there are only a few seconds left of these films for a presumed initial duration of about ten seconds.

Aesthetic Analysis

  • Laurie Dickson chose to be framed in what will later be called an American plan (character cut mid-thighs). But, remember, the recorded image is circular 8 .

Notes and references

  1. ↑ (in) Patrick Robertson, Film Facts , New York, Billboards Books, 2001 ( ISBN  0-8230-7943-0 )
  2. ↑ ( in ) William Kennedy Laurie Dickson and Antonia Dickson ( pref. Thomas Edison), History of the Kinetograph, Kinetoscope and Kineto-Phonograph (facsimile), New York, The Museum of Modern Art ,, 55 p. ( ISBN  0-87070-038-3 ) , p.  53
  3. ↑ Pfend Jacques: Louis Aimé Augustin Leprince, pioneer of the moving picture, and his family , Sarreguemines, 2009 ( ISBN  9782954244198 )
  4. ↑ Georges Sadoul , history of world cinema from its origins to today , Paris, Flammarion ,, 719 p. p.  16
  5. ↑ ( in ) Charles Musser , History of the American Cinema, Volume 1, The Emergence of Cinema, The American Screen to 1907 , Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, Macmillan Necklace Canada, Toronto, Maxwell Macmillan International, New York, Oxford, Singapore , Sydney,, 613 p. ( ISBN  0-684-18413-3 ) , p.  68
  6. ↑ Marie-France Briselance and Jean-Claude Morin , film grammar , Paris, New World ,, 588 p. ( ISBN  978-2-84736-458-3 ) , p.  20
  7. ↑ Briselance and Morin 2010 , p.  32-34
  8. ↑ Musser 1990 , p.  71

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