IV BLACK & WHITE: THE
PROJECTION OF WHITE SHADOWS IN DARKNESS
OR THE PROJECTION
OF "OMBRE BLANCHE" WITH THE AID OF THE FANTASCOPE
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!
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.
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
is currently on display at the
in the permanent exhibition
Fantascope & accessories
was on display in
Magique et Film Peint
a temporally exhibition organized
by the Cinémathèque
Nazionale Del Cinema.
the effect of an assaulting (white shadow) ghost it is
necessary to prevent any
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
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
To obtain an image in focus, a
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.
this reason no lenses are used or needed to project
these images. In fact we are watching a
in action, but one wich is working in the opposite
direction, bringing the inside image out.
Click image to see more fantascope
Because the projected image of a white shadow is formed by
contrast (between light and dark), we do not need a strong
Even a birthday candle flame is able to produce a wonderful
image in a totally darkened living room.
projection technique has several surprising advantages
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
effect of the ghost is very easily obtained.
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
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
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
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
mounted in the cut-out parts of the white shadows will
produce red devils, green witches, blue angels, etc.
sources will increase the amount of effects obtainable.