Research: Early animation devices

Joseph Plateau is a Belgian physicist, and was one of the first people to demonstrate the illusion of moving image with his device called the Phenakistoscope in 1832. It consists of two disks, one where the viewer could look through, and another containing a sequence of images. When rotated at the correct speed, the synchronisation of the windows and the images create an animated effect, therefore developing film.

This video clip demonstrates the excitement of discovering continuous movement for the first time. The images have minimal differences, therefore contributing to a smoother effect, which means I should try to move my character as little as possible during the stop-motion workshop.

A Zootrope was created shortly after, and it is a cylinder with slits cut in the sides. There are sequenced pictures inside, and the viewer looks through the slits at the images. The spinning of the slits and animated strip both work together producing the illusion of motion. It’s somewhat hypnotising, never-ending and you cannot help but admire the intelligence behind it, and it’s capability of tricking our eyes.

Image result for three early animation devices

By taking the “drum” design of the Zootrope, Frenchman Emile Reynaud created a Praxinoscope in 1877. The images viewed were reflected in a prism of mirrors, and the final outcome is a perfect animation. There is no loss of brightness which was experienced with the Zootrope. Reynaud wanted to develop this further by projecting the animation. Transparent materials worked best as they reflected most light, so he hand painted series of pictures on small glass plates, then projected them onto a screen. However, it was jerky and slow. The long, hard labour also meant that Reynaud’s films could not easily be reproduced.

From this research, I gathered that design is all about trial and error, and however brilliant the outcome could be, there are always steps to improve on it, even if it may take years to discover. Reynaud’s willingness to not even draw, but to hand-paint frames demonstrates the willingness to persist on a theory or proposal you are confident in, which is something I must do too, especially within the competitive field of design.



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