Rolling shutters, the 'new' thing

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Alan Roberts
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Joined: May 3 1999

All tghis talk of rolling shutters in video cameras has rung a bell in my head, I knew I'd seen some old examples, and I found one today.

The Guardian is publishing a shirt series of supplements on Saturdays, 100 years of press photography. On page 8 of today's issue, is a glorious shot taken by Jacques-Henri Lartigue, in 1912. It's of a racing car passing spectators. The car's going left-right, and the spectators are leaning 30 degrees to the left. Not only that, but the back wheel of the car, departing from the right of the frame is leaning 40 degrees to the right (it's elliptical). The driver and bodywork of the car is sharp. The only way this photograph could occur is if the camera has a focal plane shutter, with blinds moving downwards. That makes the spectators lean left. The right-leaning car wheel happens because the camera pan speed is less than that of the car, which means that the whole of the car is shown leaning to the right, although it doesn't look like it. But I'd be happy to bet quite a lot that if we were to see the actual car stationary, it wouldn't look like it does in the shot, the spare wheels on the back would be vertical, not leaning, and the occupants would be leaning back about 35 degrees.

Curiously, the caption piece with this shot, by Tom Jenkins, a talented Guardian sports photographer, says that he doesn't understand how Lartigue got this effect. Clearly he doesn't know about moving blinds and the way that they constitute a rolling shutter. Maybe I have to write to the Guardian to tell him :D

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