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Part IV   BLACK & WHITE:    THE PROJECTION OF WHITE SHADOWS IN DARKNESS
OR THE PROJECTION OF "OMBRE BLANCHE" WITH THE AID OF THE FANTASCOPE

IMPORTANT NEWS
The Moisse Fantascope and slides found a new permanent home and resides in the International Media Museum / IMM - QMA Qatar.

The museum is scheduled to open in a few years.

 

One of the major fantasmagoria effects, the experience of a ghost assaulting his spectators, is easily obtained by the white shadow, or “Ombre Blanche”, technique. Of course, a simple demonstration of this technique does not require a Fantascope nor Megascope!

A dark room, a white shadow “plate”, and a candle light (point light source) suffice. We are all familiar with engravings and lithographs illustrating this very basic, admirable, and most effective technique as seen in the 3 book illustrations underneath. This shadow projection technique is the opposite of the better known shadowplays. In the discussed technique, the image is shaped by light but the well known shadowplay 'conjure-up' images by blocking off the available light in an illuminated room.

 

Les découpages

La silhouette

Duivelskop

The Fantascope / Megascope however is also designed to perform White Shadow projections and this has the advantage of avoiding superfluous light when the ghosts appear in the air. For the projection of a white shadow or “Ombre Blanche” with the aid of the fantascope an extra wooden board with a 16-centimetre circular opening completes the set of lenses found with the fantascope.
This board is used as an adapter for white shadows and is mounted in front of the fantascope / Megascope lantern. The latter arrangement allows light leaving the lantern housing to pass through ONLY the cut-out parts of the “Ombre Blanche.”
 

 

The Fantascope is currently on display at the Cinémathèque Française in the permanent exhibition 'Passion Cinema'.

The
Fantascope & accessories was on display in Lanterne Magique et Film Peint a temporally exhibition organized by the Cinémathèque Française and Museo Nazionale Del Cinema.

 

To realise the effect of an assaulting (white shadow) ghost it is necessary to prevent any superfluous light from passing around the sides of the “Ombre Blanche” sheet, because this will illuminate the darkened room. To make the ghost appear in total darkness the white shadow is mounted in front of a box (eg. the lantern house of the fantascope).

Any box would do because, with due respect, a fantascope is nothing more than a box on a wheeled carrier. The more I play with the curiously shaped fantascope, the more I understand the nickname given to it by the previous owners: “The Battering-ram”!

The wooden plate or
white shadow adapter, mentioned in the introduction, is mounted in front of this box (fantascope or any other crate). A white shadow is fixed in front of the opening in the box. All visible light in the darkened room is channelled through the cut-out parts of the “Ombre Blanche”. See image right.

To obtain an image in focus, a
point light is placed inside the box. The size of the point light works on the same principle as an aperture or peephole: the smaller the light source the sharper the image.

For this reason no lenses are used or needed to project these images. In fact we are watching a
camera obscura in action, but one wich is working in the opposite direction, bringing the inside image out. Click image to see more fantascope prints

 

 

 

 

 

Because the projected image of a white shadow is formed by contrast (between light and dark), we do not need a strong illuminant.

Even a birthday candle flame is able to produce a wonderful image in a totally darkened living room.

This
lensless projection technique has several surprising advantages over apparatus using optics. Because no lens is used, no focusing is either necessary or possible.

While bringing the point light towards the “Ombre Blanche” the image increases in size without loosing any acceptable sharpness. In doing so the
approaching effect of the ghost is very easily obtained.

Click here to see and read about military use of the Phantasmagoria during the tumultuous days of the French Revolution

Even in a very limited space it is possible to produce a gigantic image!
Furthermore, because no lens is used, the light source does not need to be centralised with the projection accessory.
Any place in the box is suitable. Each movement of the light from left to right results in a ghost floating in the opposite direction.
A downward movement creates an upward-floating ghost.

Such effects are much more difficult to produce with the projection of slides or opaque objects because it is necessary to use complicated mechanical constructions. But, of course, as explained earlier, it is possible to achieve them with success. With white shadows, however, we are not limited to orchestrated effects of cumbersome mechanisms.

The maximum effect of a white shadow is obtained by using two, three, or more point lights in order to project the same shadow
simultaneously in different quantities, sizes and animations, all originating from the same “Ombre Blanche”. The spectators will never realise -unless familiar with the technique!- that all the independent floating ghosts have one figurative “father”. The use of colour filters mounted in the cut-out parts of the white shadows will produce red devils, green witches, blue angels, etc. Coloured light sources will increase the amount of effects obtainable.

See other Phantasmagoria techniques      

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Find a book on Phantasmagoria Projection techniques

 

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