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Eyes of Science, The

00:00 Introduction by Gordon Nelson, Digital Archivist, Moving Image Department, George Eastman Museum
03:09 The Eyes of Science [The Eyes of Science, A Film About the Scientific Optical Instrument; The Behavior of Light]

The Eyes of Science [The Eyes of Science, A Film About the Scientific Optical Instrument; The Behavior of Light] (US 1930)
Directors: J. S. Watson Jr., Melville Webber
Cinematographer: J. S. Watson Jr.
Production Company: Bausch & Lomb Opt. Co.

Production Date: 1930
Sound: variable area
Color: b/w
Original length (in feet): 3,000 ft.

Original length (in reels): 3
Surviving length (in feet): 1,054 ft.
Surviving length (in reels): 2
Running time: 11 min., 43 sec.
Frame rate: 24 fps

Generous support for the video introduction provided by Art Bridges.

Funded by the National Film Preservation Foundation
Preserved at Film Technology
Digitized by Eastman Museum Film Preservation Services
This film has been made accessible to the public in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: NEH CARES. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this video, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Eyes of Science, “a film about the scientific optical instrument” was made by the formidable team of J. S. Watson and Melville Webber and can be considered a forerunner and companion piece to Watson’s Highlights and Shadows (1938). The optical company Bausch & Lomb of Rochester, New York, contracted Watson and Webber to create this corporate industrial film to showcase the company’s extensive catalog of lenses and other optical instruments, displaying their practical applications in industry and everyday life. Bausch & Lomb helped to revolutionize the manufacture of high-quality glass lenses. Working closely with corporate Hollywood partners, the company played a significant role in the development of widescreen image technology: it was Bausch & Lomb that developed the first Cinemascope lenses for film cameras. 

The Eyes of Science easily straddles the fields of avant-garde and industrial filmmaking, making both a fascinating object of form and style, as well as a highly educational, entertaining, and informative piece of film and industrial history. The film bears a resemblance to the Kodak industrial film Highlights and Shadows inasmuch as it is filtered through the “lenses” of Watson and Webber’s elegant and eclectic signature avant-garde style, demonstrated two years earlier in The Fall of the House of Usher. Eyes of Science anchored Watson and Webber’s reputation as the most professional among all American amateur filmmakers—particularly with respect to Watson’s cinematography. “The film was shown at a meeting of the American Society of Cinematographers, and when the last scene was finished these master artists of cinematography burst into applause that would have delighted the soul of any professional. A real tribute to a real amateur,” stated American Cinematographer (July 1931).

The film was originally silent and ran almost 45 minutes. The version preserved by the Eastman Museum is a later release, significantly abridged and with an added soundtrack. It was distributed by Kodak Educational films under the title The Behavior of Light.