Birt Acres

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Birt Acres
Born (1854-07-23)23 July 1854
Richmond, Virginia, U.S.
Died 27 December 1918(1918-12-27) (aged 64)
Whitechapel, London, England, UK

Birt Acres (23 July 1854 – 27 December 1918) was an American and British photographer and film pioneer. Among his contributions to the early film industry are the first working 35 mm camera in Britain (Wales), and Birtac, the first daylight loading home movie camera and projector. He also directed a number of early silent films.

Early life[edit]

Born in Richmond, Virginia, to English parents in 1854, he became an orphan at the age of 14, during the American Civil War and was raised by an aunt


Acres invented the first British 35 mm moving picture camera, the first daylight loading home movie camera and projector, Birtac, was the first travelling newsreel reporter in international film history and the first European film maker who had his films shown in the United States in public performances. He contributed much to the introduction and development of cinematography in all its aspects, from the construction of cameras, projectors, film viewers, coating- and slitting machines and the manufacture of highly sensitized 35 mm raw film stock, to mobile newsreel reporting and the public projections of moving pictures.[citation needed]

With his partner Robert W. Paul, he was the first person to build and run a working 35 mm camera in Britain. The pair fell out after Acres patented their design in his own name on 27 May 1895. He made some very early silent films during the Victorian era including in 1895: a film of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, The Arrest of a Pickpocket, The Comic Shoeblack, The Boxing Kangaroo and Performing Bears.

Acres was a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. On 14 January 1896, he demonstrated his Kineopticon system to members and wives of the Society, at the Queen's Hall in London. This was the first public film show to an audience in the United Kingdom.[1] Robert Paul's first solo theatrical programme was at the Alhambra Theatre on 25 March 1896.


Acres is buried in Walthamstow, London.[2]

Most important achievements[edit]

  • 1889 Apparatus for washing prints (patented).
  • 1891 Printing process for stereoscopic photographs (for continuously contact print making) (patented).
  • 1893 Hopper feed installation for rapidly projecting slides in a biunial (two-in-one) lantern to create the illusion of movement (patented).
  • 1895 Kinetic Camera with appliance for loop forming (patented).
  • 1895/96 Electroscope, apparatus for continuous viewing by more than one spectator of 35mm film.
  • 1896 Installation for wholesale production of raw stock 35 mm film.
  • 1896 Kineopticon, improved apparatus for projecting 35 mm film (patented).
  • 1897 Cine camera with 2 lenses to resolve flicker problems and to enhance brightness.
  • 1898 Birtac, home movie camera for daylight loading of 17,5 mm film (patented).


Date Title Role Notes
1895 The Arrest of a Pickpocket Director
1895 Charge of the Uhlans Director, Producer
1895 Crude Set Drama Director, Producer
1895 The Derby Director, Cinematographer, Producer
1895 The German Emperor Reviewing His Troops Director aka Kaiser Wilhelm Reviewing His Troops (USA)
1895 Opening of the Kiel Canal Director, Cinematographer, Producer aka Inauguration of the Kiel Canal by Kaiser Wilhelm II (UK)
1895 The Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race Director, Cinematographer, Producer
1895 Performing Animals; or, Skipping Dogs Director, Cinematographer, Producer
1895 Rough Sea at Dover Director, Cinematographer, Producer
1895 Shoeblack at Work in a London Street Director
1895 Smith and Machinery at Work Director, Cinematographer, Producer
1895 Tom Merry, Lightning Cartoonist Director, Cinematographer, Producer aka Tom Merry, Lightning Cartoonist, Sketching Kaiser Wilhelm II (four films were made of Tom Merry drawing notable figures, the others were Lord Salisbury (1896), William Ewart Gladstone (1896) and Bismarck (1895))
1896 The Boxing Kangaroo Director
1896 Boxing Match; or, Glove Contest Director
1896 Dancing Girls Director
1896 Golfing Extraordinary, Five Gentl Director
1896 Landing at Low Tide Director
1896 Pierrot and Pierrette Director
1896 A Surrey Garden Director
1896 Yarmouth Fishing Boats Leaving Harbour Director
1897 Henley Regatta Director
1897 An Unfriendly Call Director
1900 Briton vs. Boer Producer


External links[edit]