Modern Zoetropes


CREDIT: Still from Katy Beveridge’s bicycle zoetrope video



The zoetrope, meaning wheel of life, is a piece of pre-cinema technology that produces the illusion of movement by presenting static images in quick succession (see the image below). The zoetrope was a Victorian invention, but the basic principle, known as the persistence of vision, is the same as in cinema.



CREDIT: Wikipedia. Modern replica of Victoria zoetrope.



London-based graphic designer Katy Beveridge is the most recent person to have created a version of the zoetrope, attaching paper cutouts to the wheels of bicycles. The wheels were filmed spinning then later slowed down to around twenty-four frames per second (the wheels spinning in real time would have been a blur). The rotating snow-flake designs produce the magical visual effect of bobbing gears, puffs of smokes and other abstract forms.



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Beveridge is not the first to make a bicycle zoetrope. On her YouTube video she credits Tim Wheatley and his Cyclotrope as an inspiration.



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Decidedly more elaborate, when Pixar wanted to show the public how animation works they built an enormous three-dimension zoetrope. Eighteen sculptures of Woody from Toy Story (and eighteen of Buzz, eighteen of Jesse and so on), each slightly different than the last, are rotated on a plate under strobe lighting to create the illusion of movement.



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The modern zoetrope shares with these lo-fi techniques the same endearing human touch.



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