Billy Bitzer

From Academic Kids

Georg William "Billy" Bitzer (April 21, 1872April 29, 1944) was a cinematographer notable for his close association with D. W. Griffith, working with him on some of his most important films and contributing significantly to cinematic innovations attributed to Griffith.

Prior to his career as a cameraman, Bitzer developed early cinematic technologies for the American Mutoscope Company, eventually to become Biograph Studios. By 1896 Bitzer's career had shifted focus, and from then until 1908 he was employed by Biograph as a newsreel photographer. During this time he pioneered the field of matte photography and made use of innovative lighting techniques.

In 1908 Bitzer entered into his first collaboration with Griffith, A Calamitous Elopement. The two would work together for the rest of Bitzer's career, leaving Biograph in 1912 for the Mutual Film Corporation where Bitzer continued to innovate, perfecting existing technologies and inventing new ones.

The apex of Bitzer and Griffith's collaboration came with The Birth of a Nation, a film funded in part by Bitzer's life savings. Techniques such as the dissolve, fade, and close-up can trace their creation to Bitzer and the production of Birth, which remains the second highest-grossing silent film of all time.

For all his innovation, Bitzer did not survive the industry's transition to sound, and in 1944 he suffered a heart attack and died in relative obscurity.

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