Antoine Lumière, the father of Auguste and Louis, saw a demonstration of Edison's Kinetoscope invention in Paris. When he came home he described the impressive device to his sons and told them that he thought they could do even better. Thus, the two brothers began work on their own camera device and proved their father correct. The Lumiere brothers' device was mobile, unlike Edison's Kinetoscope. Thus it could be moved about to make films of real life in progress. Their camera produced less jitter in the resulting films, thus allowing the brothers to experiment with different film techniques. In 1895 they began putting their invention to work filming employees passing through the front gate of the family business. In these early day, the Lumières as well as Edison, were likely to film what we would describe today as "home movies" since the idea of the feature film really hadn't even been born yet. For the next two years the brothers continued experimenting with their device, and filmed over 1500 "actualities". This collection contains 85 of those short films, each 50 seconds long.
The narrator of this set is Bertrand Tavernier, and he knows the Lumières work specifically the way Robert Osborne knows cinema in general. Thus he is able to add all kind of insightful comments. According to Tavernier, the Lumières weren't just carrying their camera out to interesting locales and shooting films. They were also looking for interesting ways to present images on film. Since Louis was an experienced photographer before the brothers built and began experimentng with their own device, he was able to incorporate his talent into their work with the motion picture. For example, "Train arrival in the station of La Ciotat" is more than just a documentation of passengers embarking and disembarking a train. There is also a sense of perspective and depth that makes the little "actuality" special and artistic. In "Carnaux: Taking out of the coke oven" there are factory workers on different levels and at different depths all going about their separate tasks that makes the image very interesting to behold. The Lumieres use a similar technique in ""Washerwomen on the river". Besides doing an excellent job of documenting everyday life while demonstrating interesting motion picture techniques, the Lumieres were also capable of producing very amusing little comedies. In "Mechanical delicatessen trade" a pig is shown being loaded into one end of a box. After the workers turn a large wheel attached to the box, they open the other side and remove sausages. This still proves amusing over a hundred years later to almost everyone except vegetarians.
I highly recommend this DVD set as a way to familiarize yourself with Edison's French contemporaries and fellow pioneers in the art of cinema. You have to be interested in the art and history of film to really appreciate it, though.