We modern movie-goers are so accustomed to visual effects in films that it’s almost difficult to imagine the awe people felt when they first witnessed such things as traveling shots and fade-outs. But, just as soon as moving pictures became a new form of entertainment at the start of the 20th century, some creative individuals began pushing it to new levels. One was Percy Smith, a London native who found his career as an educator boring and unfulfilling. He turned to the medium of film by going to work for Charles Urban, another cinematic pioneer, before creating his own films. Smith began experimenting with a variety of innovative techniques. Among them was time-lapse.
In 1910 Smith shot the world’s first time-lapse film, Birth of a Flower, which showed an array of different flowers blossoming. It became an international sensation. Smith’s name may have been lost to movie history, but his desire to stretch filmmaking into unknown regions helped transform a novelty into an art form.