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Time Machine: Beauty and the Interval Between

Motion pictures are really a form of compressing time. A shutter opens and closes capturing still images. We are complicit in this magical deceit extrapolating what happened in the interval between. This brief hand colored black and white Edison film in which Annabelle Whitford Moore dances a la trilby or barefoot is my favorite moving image in the library's collection; it is both mechanical and handmade. In this simple embellishment of a magical invention the changing colors hover amorphously over their intended areas attempting to define the serpentine movements of Annabelle's costume as she dances. The imprecise coloring nudges the film toward a beautiful abstraction.

Annabelle performed variations of the serpentine dance for Thomas Alva Edison at his Black Maria studio in West Orange, NJ from 1894 through 1897. Edison's 1897 copyright is embedded in the middle of this film and only visible as a still frame—you must freeze time to see it. Annabelle is well represented in moving images on the internet for a Victorian woman, but I have only observed a fragment of our Annabelle in my searches. It appears as part of a Serpentine montage and the coloring is different.

Our Annabelle (Annabella *MGZIDVD 5-3574) has gone though a number of iterations, illustrating the evolution of moving image access in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries that she has traveled through. The Library's original copy is a 16mm Ektachrome print purchased from the distributor Historical Films in Hollywood, California, in 1969. In anticipation of the new Millennium and a new era of digital access, Annabelle was transferred to BetacamSP in 1999 and transcoded into Real Media and MPEG-1 files for an early streaming project briefly accessible via a link in the Library's online catalog. Currently Annabelle can be viewed as a DVD and is destined for the Library's digital repository as a 10 bit uncompressed file with multiple resolution H264 files available for streaming.

Annabelle will most likely outlive film and continue her travels as a high resolution 2K scan. The Moving Image Labs of the Barbara Goldsmith Preservation Division are charged with preserving and facilitating access to the Library's time based media collections. In future posts we will visit our efforts to aid our travelers and construct sturdy vessels for their future travels.


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This blog series is amazing.

This blog series is amazing. Keep it up!

Thank you for protecting this

Thank you for protecting this marvelous film.

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