3D Zoetrope




Introduction: 3D Zoetrope

About: Tinkerer, dreamer, nerd. Professionally, I write code for robots (the hardware kind).

A zoetrope is a device that produces the illusion of motion from a rapid succession of static pictures (Wikipedia) 
And a 3D zoetrope is the same except it uses static sculptures and models instead of pictures. Here's a simple zoetrope I made that can be run on a turntable.

Cardboard (the size of the turntable)
Pipe cleaners 
Paper maché
Stiff wire
Black (or any dark colored) paper
Strobe light

Step 1: Chalk Out the Steps of the Motion

The most important part is to divide the final motion of the zoetrope into a series of still figures such that the difference between two adjacent stills is not drastic. Keep in mind that this applies to the last and first stills as well, since they're in a loop.
I decided to simulate an ice-skater's toe loop jump since it starts and ends on the same leg; so if I play it in a loop it'll look like the skater's doing continuous jumps. I referred quite a few step-by-step tutorials for the jump and drew the above rough sketch

I have divided the final motion into 16 steps after noting that some successful zoetrope constructions had the same.

Note that this is not an accurate description of a toe loop. It's modified to get a continuous motion using pipe-cleaner models

Step 2: Make the Skeleton

Cut the cardboard to the size of the turntable, divide it into 16 parts and mount the "backbones" of the skater. The wires are fixed into paper maché balls for support. 
(I made a sample skater model first to determine the size that would fit along the arc length of one division)

Using a wire backbone gives us the flexibility to adjust the height and position of the skater; it also helps increase the distance between 2 adjacent figures by making it bend outwards.  

Paint the cardboard and the support balls black to prevent them from reflecting the light.

Step 3: Make the Skater Models

Build a cylindrical screen out of black paper so that you don't see the models on the backside.

Referring the sketch, make skater models for each step using the pipe cleaners. Start with the heads(paper maché) and proceed to make the hands and legs. I used hot glue to glue them all up. Be sure to use only bright colors for the models as they stand out in the dark. Adjust the height of each model to show the jump sequence. 

I added a small pony tail to highlight the movement of the skater. 

Step 4: Watch It Move!

Put it on a turntable, make the room dark, turn on your strobe light and watch it move!

(Adjust the strobe frequency to give you a smooth motion.)

Congratulations! Enjoy the satisfaction of seeing your static models (which took you so much time to build) do a 2 second, elegant jump ;) 

P.S: I renamed the skaters as ballerinas since they don't really look like skaters. No skates! It was tough to accommodate skates in that tiny space. You can plan better to have a bigger circumference/ smaller models to do that. Also, I am lousy at building models I guess. 

P.P.S.: You can adjust the speed of the turntable to make it look like the skater's moving backwards/ forward while jumping
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    10 years ago on Introduction

    This is pretty cool! I am impartial to zoetropes myself having built a few. But I have to say - I would never have had such patience to build the figures from the chenille sticks - hats off to you for that! This makes every animation unique and truly one-of-a-kind.

    I went with a more technology-aided approach and cut the figures out of craft foam with a DIY laser diode cutter (pictures below and more at my blog here, including the turntable and the stroboscope instructions) but still, properly selecting the figure positions for each step was the biggest challenge, especially for the one with the dancing girl. I tried to use a video as a guide and just remove unused frames but it's not as straightforward as it sounds - some of the video frames are really fuzzy and, although we don't notice it watching the film, it makes working with those frames difficult. So, some of the frames were used out-of step and I started off with a rumba and ended up with a samba :) LOL, I don't even know how to call the finished animation, I just hope it still looks close enough to a rhythmical dance.

    Anyhow, sorry for the long-winded comment, I was just wondering if you used an actual video of a skater as a guide or did it completely free-form (in which case double hats-off to you since it's a pretty convincing movement)

    By the way, there's a software out there called Stykz for creating stick-figure animations, I think you will find it helpful because it allows for keeping track of all the limbs and their interconnections between the steps - this is how I did my stick figure zoetrope disk and it was extremely helpful - I have no idea how I would have done it if I had to do free form.

    Once again, great job, enjoyed your skater/balerina!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks a lot! That's a nice project you've made! Now I feel like making a whole assembly of my own using the junk DVD player I have at home.. :D

    As to my process of designing the stick figures..there's quite a few things involved that I think made the movement vivid:
    1. I am an amateur artistic skater. So, I'm quite familiar with the body positions while doing the jump.
    2. I watched a video of that jump in slo-mo several times during the design process (although I did not use freeze frame). There was also a step-by-step pictorial guide of the jump that I referred.
    3. Finally, for the overall construction, I observed a lot of successful and unsuccessful 
    zoetropes to conclude the following things:
    - Use bright colors 
    - Include "in-between" positions of the motion. e.g, if the figure is lifting it's hand, have atleast 1 position where the hand is in between the first and last position . 
    - Add a highlighting feature that acts as a reference for the body's position from the previous frame- which here is the ponytail.

    So, I guess familiarizing myself to both zoetropes and the jump motion helped me a lot. I just started with the construction keeping in mind the things I'm supposed to & not supposed to do.
    Hope that helps



    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    sanni-t, I thought you have an actual real world experience with the movements, and it shows, once again, nice work! I think you would make a great stick figure animation artist, too :)

    I am totally with you on the important factors you've highlighted - all true. Bright colors do help, and the figures are often made simply white - but I do like a touch of color, something I could not do in my project because of the limitations of the cutter. The material had to be black else it would not be able to cut it. I think in the future versions I will cut black figures but then spray-paint them into something brighter.

    By the way, if you end up making a DVD-based zoetrope, come visit my blog and leave me a message there. I'm actually making improvements to the project, perhaps you could make use of those. I came to this project with more of the motor control in mind but ended up liking the actual process of creating the zoetrope animations even more. Still, the motor control in that project leaves a lot to be desired, so that's what the improvements are going to be. Also, I'm going to try 16 figures (I used 12 before) - since it's on a 120mm diameter CD, 16 can be very tight but if the rotation speed is controlled tightly, maybe I can pull it off, we'll see.



    10 years ago on Introduction

    Cool. They move like skaters, I'd call them that regardless of whether they are wearing skates.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    At first glance I thought this was some kind of weird top hat. Then I read the title and I'm like, "no, it's a zoetrope".

    But that got me thinking... wouldn't it be cool if it actually was a top hat? All you'd have to do is figure out how to make the hat brim spin.

    But if somebody does it, I want to see! B)