Percy Smith’s Micro Cinematography

To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly
R: F. Percy Smith. P: Kineto. UK 1909

Percy Smith believed that he could cure people of their fear of spiders by showing them blown up images of their eight legged foes on the cinema screen. This short film uses an animated model spider to show how the spider ‘throws’ its silken threads to make a web. The little fellow is quite comical and is the first of several animated creatures to appear in Smith’s films.
A spider is shown standing on a piece of rock. A thread is produced until sufficient to bear the spider’s weight. In a humorous fashion, the spider lifts all eight legs off the craggy outcrop and is pulled into the air, sailing off into the unknown. In the next sequence we see how the spider uses its legs to manipulate the web, turning on its back then gathering in the thread with its feet. The film ends with a live action shot of a spider in its lair, scrabbling around looking for tasty morsels.”
Jenny Hammerton
BFI Screenonline

“As soon as pictures could move, naturalists were desperate to capture on film the subjects of their obsession – birds, bees, flowers, animals and plants of all kinds. Pioneers such as Oliver Pike, Percy Smith, F. Martin Duncan and J.C. Bee-Mason invented the genre, invented their own equipment and methodology, developed techniques and braved the elements to capture images that still fascinate us today. (…) The first British film featuring animals in a deliberate set up was made by William K. Dickson for his Biograph Company in London in December 1899, and featured a fight between a tarantula and a scorpion – although arguably this was an opportunistic film of an existing animal act. The first deliberate attempt to portray wildlife on film was Charles Urban‘s 1903 Unseen World series, drawing mainly on the talents of sequence photographer and lecturer F. Martin Duncan. (…) Urban’s personal mission to use film for education was an important factor in his fostering the careers of wildlife filmmakers such as Percy Smith, and in 1907 he developed the Kineto brand specifically to promote scientific and travel subjects. Oliver Pike, an unusually ‘driven’ nature photographer with technical flair, made his own film In Birdland (1907), which played at the Palace Theatre in London for six weeks and sold an impressive 100 prints.”
Bryony Dixon
BFI Screenonline

The Acrobatic Fly
R: F. Percy Smith. P: Charles Urban Trading Company. UK 1910

“Smith was a true pioneer, inventing original (and bizarre) methods for time lapse and micro cinematography, involving all kinds of home-made devices, including alarms all over his home to wake him up in the middle of the night if the film in the camera needed changing. With endless patience, he could spend up to two and a half years to complete a film. He also had the popular touch, with the happy knack (as he put it himself) of being able to feed his audience ‘the powder of instruction in the jam of entertainment’.”
Bryony Dixon
BFI Screenonline

>>> Oliver Pike’s St. Kilda, Its People and Birds

>>> Percy Smith’s The Birth of a Flower

>>> Nature / Science