If you’ve ever wondered what Budapest must have looked like in the end of the 19th century, you need to see the newly digitized recording by the Lumière brothers.
The first original camera negatives of the Lumière brothers’ footage shot in Budapest have arrived in Hungary from the Lumière Institute in Lyon, thanks to years of preparatory work by the National Film Institute – Film Archive Directorate. Based on the original Lumière reels, the footage is now being digitized using a hyper-super digitizing-scanning machine costing hundreds of millions of forints, of which there are only a few in Europe.
Thanks to the Lumière brothers, who held their first public screening in Paris on December 28, 1895, in the cinema that has existed for 125 years. This is a fixed point, an immovable date, and we consider it the beginning of cinema. Only, five months after the big day, in May 1896, the employees of the Lumière family, by then established in business, arrived in Budapest to present their new invention to the people of our capital.
They had two technicians, or should we call them cameramen, Charles Moisson and a gentleman called Dupont, who, once in this bustling metropolis, took pictures. We have known about these recordings since 1963, based on some very worn nitro copies when they were found in the estate of a traveling motorcycle, and you can imagine the quality of the footage.
However, the French Film Archives in Paris have the original camera negatives, which were mounted in the Lumière brothers’ camera when the 1896 Budapest shots were taken. Now the National Film Institute – Film Archives Directorate, after years of negotiations showing not only the Budapest of the time, the Chain Bridge, or a vehicle carrying an Odol advertisement, but also the gentlemen with their walking sticks and Girardi hats walking briskly across the bridge, the vehicles grunting with little disturbance to the traffic rules of the time. It’s a great word that certain faces can be identified by technology.
At the institute, we saw for ourselves the original camera negative reel, stored in an explosion- and fire-proof cooler set at 11 degrees Celsius, and the German-made scanning machine that digitizes it in 4K resolution, saving hundreds of man-hours of technicians and restorers.
“The quality and completeness of the material produced by this method are beyond anything we have ever seen before,” says György Ráduly, director of the institute, adding that it was a shocking experience for the researchers to be able to extract such a high-resolution image from the contemporary negative, which revealed a wealth of new details compared to what was previously known. Once the digitization is complete, the original rolls will be returned to Paris, where the complete Lumière legacy will be preserved.
From July 28th, the digitized Lumière reels, which are a film history sensation, will be on display at the Ludwig Museum‘s Great Viewing Angle. 120 Years of Hungarian Film.
The National Film Institute – Film Archive Directorate is planning to digitize a total of 120 films from the 30-year heyday of silent films, covering the years from 1896 to 1930.