Last week, the world quietly saw the 150th anniversary of the birth of French filmmaker and illusionist pioneer George Méliès. A short list of the techniques he either personally pioneered or for which he was an early adopter:

  • Stop trick / substitution
  • Multiple exposures
  • Time lapse photography
  • Dissolves
  • Hand coloring
  • Forced perspective

Sadly, because of the hand-coloring technique used and the 16 fps film rate, too few of us get to know the way the works really looked. Poor copies of copies are run at the wrong speed (25 fps), producing a jerky, comical fast-forward effect the filmmaker never intended, and without the lush, painterly color palette they deserve. (That means the YouTube videos here should be viewed as reference, not a real indication of the work.)

But make no mistake: by introducing many of these techniques, Méliès is to many modern filmmakers a profound figure, and what was once seemingly dated or quaint is now increasingly inspirational in an age again comfortable with exploring fantasy and imaging technique.

He could, without any real hyperbola, be called the father of sci-fi/fantasy cinema, or more broadly, cinematic special effects. A master of in-camera effects, his imaginative, baroque style has a mirror in the modern experimentation with tech like Kinect and 3D, with hackers and visualists and VJs who again embrace the evocative illusion and sensational sensory effect.

Via @scifilondon on Twitter. Happy (belated) birthday.