Introduction: Cyclotrope Cinema - Live!

Cyclotrope Cinema - Live! uses basic technology (webcam, laptop and projector), mounted on a bike frame as a fun way to learn and exhibit simple animation loops. This project is inspired by the film work of Katie Beveridge ( and Tim Wheatley ( and supported by the Rocket Grants program of Charlotte Street Foundation and the Spencer Museum.

Step 1: Technical Overview

If you place an animation sequence along a bare wheel or cylinder and then give it a spin, it will appear blurred to your naked eye.  Early animators solved this perception challenge with a variety of devices using materials such as mirrors and slotted cards.  For the live version of the Cyclotrope the image is picked up through a webcam, then a laptop with software that slows the frame-rate finally producing a perceivable animation projection.

Find the software here:

This can work on nearly any computer, webcam and projector.  We used a PS3 Eye camera connected through a small Acer laptop via USB and then connected to a Dell projector via VGA cable.

Step 2: Platform

A platform made from 2x6 lumber is the base for our Cyclotrope.  A stripped down bike frame is suspended over two threaded pipes screwed into the platform with flanges.  The pipes have a small enough diameter to fit within the bike frame tubes.

Step 3: Projector Mount

The projector mount is a thin piece of plywood.  The projector is held in place with old bicycle tubes cut to length, run through holes drilled in the plywood, and knotted at the ends.  The platform has a flange screwed on at the center which allows it to screw on to the threaded pipe that slides through the front of the frame tube in the previous step.

Step 4: Camera Mount

The webcam is mounted to a square dowel with a zip tie.  The other end of the dowel is loosely bolted to the corner of the projector platform so that the camera can be zoomed in and out by swinging the dowel.

Step 5: Animation Wheel

The animation disc is laser cut out of 1/8" masonite/hardboard with holes for connecting to spokes with zip ties.  This disc has 16 - 2.5 x 3" card slots and is sized for a 26" bike wheel.  A piece of sticky-back velcro on each card slot allows for different animation sequences to be loaded.  The animations are hand-drawn on the cards (halves of 3x5" notecards) and then felt is glued to the backs so they stick to the velcro.

Step 6: Laptop Box

To streamline the visual impact, the laptop is concealed in a box based on a design for a bicycle picnic box.  A used bicycle tube pulled taut and stapled functions to hold in the laptop and cables.  This will only work for small computers ( and tablets.  If you have a choice of bicycle frames, be sure to consider whether or not your computer can fit.

Step 7: Draw and Spin!

Now comes the real challenge; deciding what to draw!