The Magic of Zoetropes

This is going to be a fun post, all about zoetropes. What, you are not familliar with this concept? Well you are in the right place then! But first, watch this 57 second-long video:

This art piece is called Feral Front by Gregory Barsamian. This is a zoetrope, a device that uses still pictures or sculptures to create the illusion of motion. When the zoetrope is moving, you see nothing but a blur, but when a specially timed light shines on it, your eye is” tricked” into seeing movement, and the images come alive. This is how movies work as well, by the way; combining thousands of still images to create the illusion of movement.


Pixar did a zoetrope, and in their usual style, it is fantastic. The director of Pixar’s Up explains how animation works, and introduces the incredible Pixar zoetrope filled with Pixar characters:


Here’s a better animation of Pixar’s zoetrope:

…and a video of it shot by a visitor:

This is a really good clip of a Simpsons-themed zoetrope:

Zoetropes can be traced back to an early Chinese inventor in 180 AD named Ding Huan, but the first modern zoetrope was invented in 1834 by William George Horner, who used pictures drawn on a strip of paper and when rotated in a drum with slots in the side, the illusion of motion was created. The faster the drum span, the smoother the motion appeared.
Here is a video someone shot of an early zoetrope in action:
One interesting variation of zoetropes were kits you could purchase that would allow you to watch zoetropes on your record player. That’s right, your record player. You would put the disc on the turntable, and on top of that the drum, and when the turntable rotated, you would get the effect. Here is a video of this product in action:


Subway Zoetropes
Zoetropes have even been put in subways and are beginning to be used for advertising. In 1980, independent film-maker Bill Brand installed a type of linear zoetrope he called the “Masstransiscope” in an unused subway platform at Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. It consisted of a linear wall with 228 slits in the face. Behind each slit was a hand-painted panel. Riders in subways moving past the display saw a motion-picture within. Check it out:


Cake maker Alexandre Dubosc created this fantastic Tim Burton-themed zoetrope cake and a video to demonstrate it. C’est magnifique!


And finally, Sony created the largest zoetrope in the world in 2008 to promote their motion interpolation technology:


Read more about zoetropes HERE. Hope you enjoyed this post!
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