Harry Potter and the History of Moving Pictures


You know how technologies in Sci-Fi stories sometimes eventually become reality? It’s a really neat thing when it happens and people don’t often realize that it was a writer and not a scientist who initially had the idea. Eventually, technology catches up and someone thinks, ‘Hey. I wonder if we could actually do that now?’ There’s one instance of this in the world that I have been turning around in my head for a long time and it involves the genius and creativity behind Harry Potter.

Just for context, do you remember reading about blood transfusions in Bram Stoker’s Dracula? At the time, they were pure science fiction, impossible and extraordinarily intimate. Today, they are an everyday thing, a part of our scientific and emergency medicine lexicon and toolkit. I wonder what Stoker would say today if he saw how blasé we are about the whole thing. It’s not sexy—I don’t even think Dracula would think it was sexy if he were real—but someone did when this was written.

J.K. Rowling may not be responsible for blood transfusion, but she is responsible for the “Live Photos” sensation that has been building. I don’t have specific documents to prove this. Instead, I offer a series of events, my own experience watching the world and a few dates that may or may not align. There could be other important events or inventions that I don’t know of, but enough with the disclaimers…But from my perspective, I think she is the one who should be credited with inventing this concept.

Live Photos on their own make sense as the next wave in the social media monster. From stagnant and silent to moving and loud, it follows the progression of the original technologies as they were created. It’s a cool idea and it’s really popular right now, popping up everywhere in our lives. I personally haven’t indulged beyond the stagnant selfie because I’m not comfortable with video, but maybe one of these days I will branch out. As far as Live Photos go on their own, I don’t recall reading or seeing anything like this before Harry Potter brought it to life in Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone. Straight from her imagination to the world of technology.

When Harry Potter came out in 1997, you got to experience these great descriptions of wizard collector’s cards that worked almost like a hologram, except better. It’s one of the first things you learn about the wizarding world as Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley become friends. The figures in the cards would move..blinking, waving, smiling things of that nature. And then sometimes when you’d look at the card, the figure wouldn’t be there at all. It’s sort of like a VINE video. VINE came out in June of 2012.  That’s a fast turnaround for technology.

Then, the NFL picked up the concept. When you watched a game on TV and they would introduce the starting offensive and defensive teams, the photos weren’t just photos. They were short videos of the players crossing their arms over their chests and doing other things of that nature. I don’t have a year for when this started to happen. But I certainly noticed it while watching Sunday night games a few years ago and my first thought was HARRY POTTER.

And then social media picked it up. You had VINE videos, as I mention above. But now you have live photos that you can use in your Facebook profile photo. And on Twitter too, I believe.

Most recently, mobile phones have gotten in on the trend because anything that helps you share things on social media is a viable product in the marketplace. In the newest phones, you have the ability to record live pictures now, which is somewhat different then just recording a video. I don’t have a phone like this yet because I haven’t upgraded recently. But I’m interested to check it out when I phase out my iPhone 5S this fall (Not sure if I’m going to go back to Android, or stick with Apple at this point). Check out this article about the new live photos feature on the iPhone 6S. This writer apparently agrees with me about the live photos feature being very Harry Potter.

I credit J.K. Rowling with all of this, but it is also likely that she was inspired by something else that already existed in the world. It’s quite possible that she was influenced by GIFs and the concepts seem similar. According to mashable.com, GIFs came out in 1987 (or perhaps 1985. There was a patent controversy in there too) and you had them on MySpace and early web pages. Check out their article titled The History of GIFS. Maybe J.K. Rowling was inspired by GIFs when she was creating the world of Harry Potter. That’d be pretty cool.

Some people may point back to the hologram technology that you see in the original Star Wars films. And yes, I could see this as also being a source of inspiration or being a predecessor to the live photos concept. But personally, I see a stronger connection to Harry Potter. But that’s just me.

Usually when you hear about literature influencing science, it’s science fiction, so it’s pretty neat that a fantasy story could have played a part in inspiring the development of this technology. Yea literature!

Featured image photo credit: Warner Bros. Studios, J.K. Rowling.

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