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A modern replica of a Victorian zoetrope

A zoetrope is a device that produces an illusion of action from a rapid succession of static pictures. The term zoetrope is from the Greek words ζωή - zoe, "life" and τρόπος - tropos, "turn". It may be taken to mean "wheel of life".

It consists of a cylinder with slits cut vertically in the sides. Beneath the slits on the inner surface of the cylinder is a band which has either individual frames from a video/film or images from a set of sequenced drawings or photographs. As the cylinder spins the user looks through the slits at the pictures on the opposite side of the cylinder's interior. The scanning of the slits keeps the pictures from simply blurring together so that the user sees a rapid succession of images producing the illusion of motion, the equivalent of a motion picture. Cylindrical zoetropes have the property of causing the images to appear thinner than their actual sizes when viewed in motion through the slits.

Contents

Invention

The earliest elementary zoetrope was created in China around 180 AD by the inventor Ting Huan (丁緩). Driven by convection Ting Huan's device hung over a lamp and was called "The Pipe Which Makes Fantasies Appear".[1] The rising air turned vanes at the top from which were hung translucent paper or mica panels. Pictures painted on the panels would appear to move if the device is spun at the right speed.[2][3][4][5]

The modern zoetrope was invented in 1833 by British mathematician William George Horner. He called it the 'Daedalum' popularly translated as 'the wheel of the devil' though there is no evidence of this etymology. More likely it is a reference the to Greek myth of Daedalus. It didn't become popular until the 1860s, when it was patented by makers in both England and America. The American developer, William F. Lincoln, named his toy the 'zoetrope', which means 'wheel of life.'

Almost simultaneously similar inventions were made independently in Belgium by Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau (Phenakistoscope) and Austria by Simon von Stampfer (Stroboscope).

The zoetrope worked on the same principles as the phenakistiscope, but the pictures were drawn on a strip which could be set around the bottom third of a metal drum, with the slits now cut in the upper section of the drum. The drum was mounted on a spindle so that it could be spun, and viewers looking through the slits would see the cartoon strip form a moving image. The faster the drum is spun, the smoother the image that is produced.

Modern times

William F Lincoln promoted Horner's device in the United States as a "zoetrope".

The praxinoscope was an improvement on the zoetrope that became popular toward the end of the nineteenth century.

The earliest projected moving images were displayed by using a magic lantern zoetrope. This crude projection of moving images occurred as early as the 1860s. A magic lantern praxinoscope was demonstrated in the 1880s.

Zoetrope development continues into the twenty-first century, primarily with the "Linear zoetrope." A linear zoetrope consists of an opaque linear screen with thin vertical slits in it. Behind each slit is an image, often illuminated. One views the motion-picture by moving past the display.

Linear zoetropes have several differences compared to cylindrical zoetropes that derive from their different geometries. They can have arbitrarily long animations. They also cause images to appear wider than their actual sizes when viewed in motion through the slits.

In September 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. After falling into a state of disrepair, the "Masstransiscope" was restored in late 2008.[6]

Joshua Spodek, as an astrophysics graduate student, conceived of and led the development of a class of linear zoetropes that saw the first commercial success of a zoetrope in over a century. A display of his design debuted in September 2001 in a tunnel of the Atlanta subway system and showed an advertisement to riders moving past. That display is internally lit and nearly 300 meters long. Its motion-picture was about twenty seconds long.

His design soon appeared in subway systems elsewhere in North America, Asia, and Europe. Joshua has also participated in a renaissance in zoetrope related art and other noncommercial expression.

A Zoetrope was used in the filming of a music video entitled "My Last Serenade by Killswitch Engage. It features a woman looking through the slits on a Zoetrope while it moves, and as she looks closer, the camera moves through the slits into the Zoetrope where the band is playing the song.

In April 2006, the Washington Metro installed advertising using the zoetrope system between the Metro Center and Gallery Place subway stations.[7] A similar advertisement was installed on the PATH train in New Jersey, between the World Trade Center and Exchange Place stations.

A similar zoetrope-type advertisement appeared at about the same time on the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system between the Embarcadero and Montgomery stations, which could be viewed by commuters travelling in either direction. The BART ads are still visible at the present time, however the ads are infrequently changed and oftentimes a particular ad may remain up for several months before being replaced.

The Ghibli Museum hosts a zoetrope using 3D figures on a rotating disk. Rather than slits or mirrors, a strobing LED is used. The animation on this zoetrope is inspired by My Neighbour Totoro.

Pixar created a zoetrope inspired by Ghibli's for its 20th anniversary celebration at the Museum of Modern Art, featuring characters from Toy Story. The exhibit is currently on display at Disney's California Adventure, sister park to Disneyland, and was (April-September 2008) shown at the Seoul Arts Center in Seoul, South Korea.

In 2007 an image of a zoetrope, where a futuristic city with flying cars was viewed through the shape of a number two, was unveiled as one of BBC Two's new idents.

In 2009 the E4 drama program Skins released silent preview clips of Series 4 to coincide with their Mash Up competition. One of the clips featured the character Emily Fitch, looking into a zoetrope.

Blue Man Group uses a zoetrope at the Las Vegas show as well as at the Sharp Aquos Theater at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL.

In November 2009, Timothy Adam Abad, and his family (1) created the "Weebatron", the first center perspective 3D zoetrope. The "Weebatron" was unveiled at the "Weebleworld -music and arts festival" in Pomona, California. (1)Joseph Abad Jr, Joseph Abad Sr, Barbara Abad, Jonathan Abad, Mara Abad, Nathan Abad, Kenneth Abad, Christine Abad. [8] [9]

World record

The BRAVIA-drome at Venaria, in Northern Italy

In 2008 Sony built a 10 meter wide, 10 tonne zoetrope, called the BRAVIA-drome, to promote their motion interpolation technology. Sixty-four images of the Brazilian footballer Kaká were used to demonstrate that with increased frame rate (rotation rate of the zoetrope), there is increased smoothness of motion.[10] This has been declared the largest zoetrope in the world by Guinness World Records.[11][12]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Article". http://books.google.com/books?id=oJ9nayZZ2oEC&pg=PA123&lpg=PA123&dq=%22the+Pipe+Which+Makes+Fantasies+Appear%22&source=bl&ots=9ctq4sCv4a&sig=2wSWw8GK5ZDUqskl1LJdM-p7dmU&hl=en&ei=mcGaS9GtMYfUsgPd_vB9&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22the%20Pipe%20Which%20Makes%20Fantasies%20Appear%22&f=false. 
  2. ^ Ronan, Colin A; Joseph Needham (1985). The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 2. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-31536-0. 
  3. ^ Dulac, Nicolas; André Gaudreault (2004). "Heads or Tails: The Emergence of a New Cultural Series, from the Phenakisticope to the Cinematograph". Invisible Culture: A Journal for Visual Culture. The University of Rochester. http://www.rochester.edu/in_visible_culture/Issue_8/dulac_gaudreault.html#1. Retrieved 2006-05-13. 
  4. ^ History of Media, University of Minnesota, accessed May 13 2006
  5. ^ "Zoetrope". Laura Hayes and John Howard Wileman Exhibit of Optical Toys. The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. 2005. http://courses.ncssm.edu/GALLERY/collections/toys/html/exhibit10.htm. Retrieved 2006-05-13. 
  6. ^ Artist's Website, Masstransiscope page: http://www.bboptics.com/masstransiscope.html
  7. ^ Metro begins testing new tunnel ads, NBC4, April 4, 2006
  8. ^ http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewPicture&friendID=4219741&albumId=2779659
  9. ^ http://weebatron.com/
  10. ^ www.motionflow.eu
  11. ^ Murph, Darren (2008-12-21). "Sony sets Guinness World Record with BRAVIA-drome". Engadgethd.com. http://www.engadgethd.com/2008/12/21/sony-sets-guinness-world-record-with-bravia-drome. Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  12. ^ "Sony Creates World’s Largest Zoetrope". PopSci.com.au. 2009-02-18. http://www.popsci.com.au/entertainment-amp-gaming/article/2009-02/sony-creates-world%E2%80%99s-largest-zoetrope. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 

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