A Zoetrope is an early animation device that originated in the 19th century! In a nutshell, it is a set of pictures aligned in a motion sequence that can be spun and simultaneously viewed through a cylinder with narrow slits, to give the illusion of motion.
For this instructable, a 3D zoetrope will be created. This is the same concept as the original zoetrope, just with 3D models rather than photos, a strobe light (or a Smart Phone with a strobe light app), and a turntable. When the figures are sequenced correctly and the speed of the strobe light and turntable frequency are right, the illusion of motion can be reached (See the second video with a beautiful 3D Zoetrope by Kevin Holmes). A drum with evenly spaced, narrow slits, which can be seen in the first video, can also be created for viewing your 3D zoetrope on the turntable.
Here is what you will need:
- Computer to 3D design your figures in Tinkercad
- 3D Printing software (i.e. Cura)
- Figures (For this demonstration, a 3D printer will be used to create the figures [20 in total] but modeling clay can also be used)
- Paint and a paintbrush
- Hot glue gun
- Strobe light
- Dark card stock paper and scissors (This can be used to create a cylindrical drum like the original zoetrope seen in first the video above. For this method of viewing the strobe light will not be needed)
Step 1: Make Sketches
First, sketch out ideas for your models. These sketches will help you develop your motion sequence and also be a useful reference when you begin constructing your models.
Start with one basic shape and add gradual changes that will, upon completing and viewing the zoetrope, give the illusion of motion. When you are planning your motion sequence, do not make the changes between each object too drastic - your objects will not animate properly if the changes are too large. Between 12-20 models is a good amount to plan for.
Step 2: Design Your Models in Tinkercad
For this project, the 3D modeling software Tinkercad will be used to create the models. However, any modeling software that will work with the particular 3D printer you are using will do. If you do not have access to a 3D printer, modeling clay can also work.
To create your models, take the basic shapes found at the right side of the Tinkercad work-space and combine them through stacking or cutting (this is called the "hole" option). After this first model is complete, group the entire object together by selecting all of the individual pieces and hitting "group" so that all of the pieces remain connected in case they are moved around.
After the first model is complete, begin the rest of your models in your motion sequence. Make sure that your motion sequence loops or winds up at the start point (the first object) again - your motion sequence will flow better this way. A loop can be easily made by copying and pasting your sequence and reversing it - For example, in the below images, the cake turns into a donut, and then from a donut into a cake again.
Remember, anywhere from 12 to 20 models is good - Just make sure that the models are small enough and could fit lined up along the edge of a standard record. The standard record has a diameter of around 12 inches.
Step 3: 3D Print Your Designs
Now that you have your designs ready, it is time to 3D print them! Using your 3D print software, click "Export" in Tinkercad and then save your file as an .OBJ or .STL - depending on what is preferred for the particular 3D printer you are using.
Next, open up the computer software linked directly to your 3D printer (i.e. Cura). Then, set up your file to 3D print according to the preferences for your specific printer. You can adjust your heat plate setting, speed, and more. You can also choose a specific filament color. For this particular project, white filament was used so that it would be easier to paint the models later.
Generally, also make sure that all of your models fit onto your printer's plate and that they are centered on the plate if possible. It is good to center your models in the middle of the plate, as the outer edges of the plate will not get as much heat, which could potentially alter your models.
Step 4: Paint Your Models (optional)
While this step is optional, adding color to your models can be a nice touch! Using acrylic paint and a paint brush, you can paint directly onto the models. Keep in mind that each model is part of one larger sequence in your zoetrope, so making all the models uniform in color can help give a better illusion of motion.
Step 5: Make a Platform & Attach Your Models
Your 3D Zoetrope needs a platform for your models to sit on. A record you do not use or one from the dollar bin at your local music store is a perfect platform.
You can attach your models directly to the record by using a hot glue gun or you can apply paint or patterned paper first to add a cool touch!
After you are satisfied with your platform, attach your models. Make sure that they are evenly spread out and are equal distance from the edge of your platform. If you made two sets of models, make sure both sets align with each other.
Step 6: Complete Your Zoetrope & See the Illusion of Motion!
Place the platform with your mounted objects on the record player. Start the turntable and adjust your RPM and strobe light (through an app or with an actual strobe light) till the illusion of motion is visible. An RPM of 45 worked well for the zoetrope we created.
You can also create a cylindrical drum using dark card stock paper that is the same diameter as your record. Then, cut slits within the drum similar to those in the video and the photo. These slits will act as a shutter and prevent the objects from blurring when spun. If you use the drum, a strobe light is not needed. The attached video is the the zoetrope we made viewed through a drum.