Birt Acres invented the first British 35 mm moving picture camera, the first daylight loading home movie camera and projector, Birtac, was the first travelling newsreel reporter in international film history and the first European film maker who had his films shown in the United States in public performances. He contributed much to the introduction and development of cinematography in all its aspects, from the construction of cameras, projectors, film viewers, coating- and slitting machines and the manufacture of highly sensitized 35 mm raw film stock, to mobile newsreel reporting and the public projections of moving pictures.
In 1894 he worked with Robert W. Paul on the camera with Acres providing the initial designs. When they had constructed the camera, Acres used it to make the first successful film in Britain – Incident at Clovelly Cottage outside his London home in Barnet in March 1895. Paul broke the partnership as Acres had patented his Kinetic camera – almost identical to the one they had developed together – in his own name.
Acres travelled to Germany with his Kinetic camera and filmed the opening of the Kiel canal and made a film of the Kaiser in June 1895. On his return to Britain Acres began work on a projector to accompany his Kinetic camera – the resulting projector became known as the Kinetic Lantern, Kineopticon and the Cinematoscope. Acres gave the first public performance of his projector at the Royal Photographic Society, where Acres was a fellow, in London in 1896. Acres’ film manufacture and processing became the primary focus of his activities and proved highly successful as the British Film Industry began to get established. However his inventive nature was still prominent and in 1898 he unveiled the Birtac – a piece of apparatus he hoped would popularise cinematography. The Birtac was the first ‘sub-standard gauge’ cine camera and projector, instead of normal 35mm film the camera used narrower width film – typically 17.5 mm. He wasn’t much successful commercially. Regardless of this, Birt Acres can still be creditted as inventing the first amateur cine camera.