Raoul Grimoin-Sanson

French inventor

Born at Elbeuf (Seine-Maritime), Raoul Sanson (the Grimoin was added later) was fascinated early on by conjuring and photography. At first he worked on photoengraving and in 1892 made (in Belgium) some anthropometric plates. Returning to France, he came into contact with E-J. Marey, Georges Demenÿ and Albert Londe. In 1895, interested in moving pictures, Grimoin-Sanson bought a pirated 'Edison' Kinetoscope manufactured by Robert Paul. He wanted, like many others, to project Edison films onto a screen. His camera/projector, the Phototachygraphe, was demonstrated in February 1896 to a journalist from L'Intransigeant, and he patented the fairly crude mechanism the following month, and later an improved model, the Multiplex. In 1897, he offered to several retailers a new machine with a four-arm Maltese cross. He then conceived a panoramic projection process, Cinécosmorama or 'Cineorama', patented on 27 November 1897. A limited company was created, which financed the building of ten cameras and ten projectors. The cameras were arranged in a circle and filmed simultaneously, by means of a single central drive - ten films which, when projected, created a gigantic panoramic moving scene. He produced several films around Europe, and in Paris placed his ten cameras in the basket of a balloon to take aerial views.

Cinéorama was installed at the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris, the ten projectors arranged in a circle in a cabin so that the films all joined together on the circular screen. But the ten arc lamps created such a heat that this installation never functioned, despite the inventor's later claims. The Cinéorama company went bankrupt and all its equipment was sold in 1901. Grimoin-Sanson gave up cinema and entered the cork industry. In 1920 he financed a film, Le Comte de Griolet, whose originality consisted of superimposing, at the bottom of the picture, a conductor's baton, intended to guide the choir and musicians. Like the film itself, which was hurried and badly acted, this simplistic innovation met with no success. In 1926, he claimed to have been the first to use the Maltese cross in a film projector - Jules Carpentier and René Bunzli were in fact its true propagators - and his pretensions to priority featured in a 1927 film L'Histoire du cinéma par le cinéma, where he presented himself as an equal of Marey and Lumière, raising a controversy which led to unending arguments on the history of the invention of cinema. While the work of many pioneers needs further research, that of Grimoin-Sanson, glorified and exaggerated unceasingly by himself, needs relatively less.

Laurent Mannoni